Glass Door Merchandisers And You
We’ve all been there. I didn’t actually want that coke. Or the sandwich. Or the ice cream bar for dessert. But you know what? I was hungry, and they were sitting in the fridge right there in the checkout line, beckoning me with their siren songs of gastronomic fulfillment. So, with no regrets, I bought my lunch in the checkout line.
For people like me, out of sight is out of mind. When you’re trying to grab your customer’s attention for grab-and-go purchases, you need to make product as visually appealing as possible. For packaged foods that can sit on a shelf, this isn’t a problem. However you can run into difficulties with items that need to stay cold. That’s where glass door merchandisers come in.
What Is A Glass Door Merchandiser?
Unlike a traditional reach-in refrigerator, a glass door merchandiser is designed to be used in the front of the house. This primarily means that the merchandiser must look good and function well. Merchandisers are designed to display product and convince customers like me to buy it. As a result, merchandisers often feature bigger glass on the doors, better lighting, eye-catching signs, and more shelves than other refrigerators. Also, to keep with the flow of your store, glass door merchandisers come in both swing door and sliding door models. However, since the sliding doors are less efficient, no companies that I know of make freezers with sliding doors—only swing doors. Finally, since front-of-the-house fixtures don’t usually have to move, merchandisers do not come standard with casters like back-of-the-house reach-ins.
Glass Door Merchandiser Brands
There are a number of companies that manufacture reliable glass door merchandisers nowadays. True Manufacturing, Turbo Air, Westwind, and Master-Bilt are four of the biggest.
True Manufacturing. True manufactures the GDM series of merchandisers. The GDM's selling points are similar to those of any True Manufacturing unit: they’re made in the USA and have an oversized compressor, 3 years parts and labor warranty (with an extra 2 years on the compressor), and an incredible service network if anything goes wrong. True offers a huge line with lots of sizes—something like 80 different units—which makes it easy to find a merchandiser that will fit your space. Finally, True also offers a number of signs for the top of your merchandiser and will even do custom graphics and finishes if needed.
Turbo Air. The TGM and TGF series make up Turbo Air’s glass door merchandiser offerings. On most units, their warranty is the same as True’s—3 years parts and labor with an additional 2 years on the compressor. However, on a few models it’s only a 2-year warranty (still 5 years on the compressor). Turbo Air units come standard with some bells and whistles that really make them shine. First, they have a self-cleaning condenser unit, which automates one of the most important maintenance tasks that most people ignore. Second, an alarm sounds when the unit's door is not sealed shut or is held open too long. This feature in particular can help prevent food spoilage. Third, Turbo Air units have a “Turbo Cool” or “Turbo Freeze” function that rapidly chills your product. It basically turns everything on full blast until the unit reaches temperature.
Westwind. Westwind is a newer brand that is proving its place in the market. Westwind units are economically priced, yet are well-built and reliable. Price is the main selling point—at the time this article was written, a WGR49 cost about 40% less than a comparable True unit. Westwind merchandisers also boast a warranty that covers residential and non-commercial installations. While most people won’t want a merchandiser in their house, this could prove important for unconventional shops like farmstands and home businesses.
Master-Bilt. Typically Master-Bilt does not make it into our comparison guides; they’re not a brand many of our customers request. However, I felt obligated to include them for one key reason—I see a lot of Master-Bilt coolers in shops that sell packaged ice cream. When you’re in my line of work, you pay attention to the merchandisers that you run into in the wild, and a lot of chains that specialize in frozen treats will have Master-Bilt in their lobbies. I’m thinking specifically of the Dairy Queen and Culver’s that I frequent. When ice-cream stores trust Master-Bilt, it says a lot about their freezers. The BLG Plus line has one feature in particular that stands out—instead of having a lit sign on its top, the glass doors go all the way up. This allows products to advertise themselves instead of depending on graphics.
What Are the Other Options?
There are other options for front-of-the-house display as well. I’m not going to dive into details, but I want to let you know what’s out there.
Glass Door Refrigerators. These are standard reach-in refrigerators, but with an upgraded glass door instead of solid stainless steel. They’re not optimized for displaying a lot of product, but they still can have a sleek look. Since they’re reach-ins and not merchandisers, they do have casters. One thing to look out for on a glass door refrigerator is the temperature control. Each manufacturer is different, but a merchandiser's temperature control is usually blocked or locked since you don’t want customers to have access to it. Since glass door refrigerators are designed for the back of the house, their temperature controls are usually pretty accessible to customers when these fridges are used for display.
Walls of Doors. When you go into a convenience store or the dairy section of your grocery store, you might see a row of glass doors with soda or milk behind them. These are not individual glass door merchandisers; rather, they are one wall of a built-in walk-in cooler. If you have the space and budget, a built-in walk-in cooler is a great idea. It makes it so you don't have to buy multiple individual coolers. However, this really needs to be planned into the building and can’t be an afterthought. Also, the price tag is a bit higher than the glass door merchandiser solution.
Open-Air Merchandisers. Open-air merchandisers are sometimes called “air curtains.” They’re the display units that have no doors to open, so customers can just reach in and grab whatever they want to buy. They come in both horizontal and vertical layouts, depending on what is needed. Open-air merchandisers make buying convenient for your customers—they can literally grab and go. A common statistic thrown around in the industry is that switching from a glass door merchandiser to an open-air merchandiser can increase sales by about 30%. A door can act as one more barrier that keeps customers from the product. That being said, I don't know much about the study or how they got that number, so take it for what it’s worth. As for cons, open-air merchandisers are certainly less energy efficient than models with doors and can be a bit temperamental. If you have an open-air merchandiser in direct sunlight or have any sort of fan blowing on them, they will not hold temperature.
While that soda you’re selling may be an impulse buy, the merchandiser it’s sitting in certainly is not. If you still have questions about which merchandiser will work best in your shop, give us a call. We’ll be sure to work with you to figure out what will best fit your needs and to make sure your products look attractive to your customers.