You'll find intimations of the New Millennium in the winning entries of the National Association of Store Fixture Manufacturers' 30th annual Retail Design Awards.

Judges for this year's competition represent some of North America's most respected retailers, retail designers and industry publications. They included: Judith Bell, corporate manager of visual merchandising, Target; Barbara Fabing, vice president, group design director, Frankel Brand Environments; Dennis Gerdeman, principal, Chute Gerdeman Group; Anthony J. Mancini, vice president, Global Retail Store Development, Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts; Michael Saubert, category creative manager, Hardware/Paint/Seasonal/Sporting Goods, Sears, Roebuck & Co.; RoxAnna Sway, editor, Display & Design Ideas; Marianne Wilson, senior editor, Chain Store Age; and Carole Winters, associate publisher, VM+SD Magazine.

After examining some of the best retail designs debuted in 2000, the panel of judges identified five trends.

  1. Integrated technology

    The use of high-tech design in stores increased in recent years. However, today there is new emphasis on integrating technology even more into the overall design concept. For example: Skechers USA, Universal City Walk, Universal City, Calif.

    Judges awarded this concept one of its highest special awards, “Fixture of the Year” for a “Futuristic Display” that effectively brought together shelving, branding, product presentation and technology in the presentation of its lifestyle footwear. Designed by ME Productions Inc., Marina del Rey, Calif., the fixture was manufactured by Premier Displays and Exhibits, Cypress, Calif.

    Geared to appeal to kids and teens, the high-tech fixture faces both into the store and out through the storefront window, glowing brilliantly.

  2. Luminescence

    Shimmery, mirrored, stainless, and brushed steels are popular with consumers and designers alike. Specialty lighting, used in conjunction with unusual materials, adds a mesmerizing iridescence to many new spaces, such as: Bergdorf Goodman's Fine Jewelry Department, Fifth Avenue, New York.

    In addition to presenting fine jewelry in a high-end setting, the retailer needed a fixture incorporating a built-in hydraulic safe capable of descendeing into the base of the casing. The result, a beautiful antique mirror jewelry showcase. It received a special merit “Outstanding Fixture” award. Designed by Toronto-based Yabu Pushelburg, the fixture was manufactured by Unique Store Fixtures Ltd., Concord, Ontario.

  3. Flexibility

    Not new, but always important. As customer interests change, so will product lines. Fixtures will need to accommodate them. New solutions to this age-old challenge include another special merit winner “Outstanding Store Fixture,” to The SUE Store, The Field Museum of Chicago, Chicago.

    In conjunction with the launch of an exhibit of the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton ever discovered (named “Sue”), the Field Museum envisioned a unique setting for a variety of dinosaur-influenced and Sue-branded merchandise.

    Inspired by the materials and techniques used in an archaeological dig, Westchester, Ill.-based Charles Sparks & Co. designed a structural framing system holding merchandising panels shelved or hung on the exterior walls of the small store. The fixture was manufactured by MFI, in Winterset, Iowa.

  4. Authentic naturalism

    The lures of authenticity and naturalism continue to attract whether in gourmet markets, themed restaurants, or electronics. If you're trying to create (or recreate) a particular time or place, the more authentic the materials and details in the space, the better. For example, Canyon Ranch Living Essentials, Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, Las Vegas.

    When this operator of health resorts opened its first stand-alone boutique, the desert southwest inspired design. The display tower was named a special merit “Outstanding Fixture” and is one example of the level of attention to detail. The fixture, with five pull-out trays, is fabricated with dark stained walnut using Japanese joinery techniques. When the trays are extended on all sides of the fixture, the play among levels is reminiscent of the varied plateaus of the desert mesas. The fixture was designed by MOVK, New York, and manufactured by Collings Inc., Las Vegas.

  5. Fixtures on stage

    As store interiors become more colorful, fixtures are doing more than just holding merchandise. They're conveying brands and themes, often for frequently changing merchandise promotions. Fixtures continue to hold and present merchandise, of course, but subtly they're also communicating image. A good example is a watch fixture in BVG, Walt Disney Contemporary Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

This special merit “Outstanding Fixture” presents Disney watches in an open-sell environment where guests can try them on. At the same time, the oversized fixture supports and continues the artistic design of the space. Designed by Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, the fixtures in the store were designed by Bay Area Display, San Francisco; Creative Arts Unlimited, Pinellas Park, Fla.; Crystolon Inc., Commerce, Calif.; Fetzers Inc., Salt Lake City; Seven Continents, Toronto; and Sun Works Plastics Inc., Clearwater, Fla.

NASFM is an international, not-for-profit association representing the store fixture manufacturing industry since 1956. The association's membership includes 450 regular member companies operating over 750 plants and employing more than 75,000 people worldwide; 200 industry suppliers are associate members. NASFM members manufacture an estimated 85% of all store fixtures produced in North America, and the 100 largest North American store fixture manufacturers are NASFM members. The typical NASFM member employs 85 people, and generates revenues in excess of $10 million per year. For photos and descriptions of all 147 winning projects, including the “Store of the Year,” visit www.nasfm.org and click on the retailfix.com icon.