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Originally published May 2, 2014 at 8:02 PM | Page modified May 3, 2014 at 8:46 AM

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Mannequins evolving into dependable salespeople

Researchers report that 42 percent of customers said mannequins influenced their purchasing decision, ranking just behind friends and family. And now they’re more creative than ever.


The Orange County Register

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SANTA ANA, Calif. — May Jaramilla, store manager for 2b bebe in the Westfield Culver City mall, loves the new mannequins that arrived in February.

Just about everything is better: the translucent, pale pink forms are lighter, adjustable at every magnetic joint, and possess ears and toes that can be accessorized with jewelry, sunglasses and sandals. They also make Jaramilla’s job easier.

“They’re cute,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know how to put an outfit together, and men shopping for their girlfriends will point to a mannequin and say, ‘Get me this exact outfit.’ ”

The maker of 2b’s upgraded mannequins is Buena Park, Calif.-based CNL, a global manufacturer. Virtually all work is custom, but the price of CNL’s fiberglass mannequins is a steal at $400, on par with the average retail price for the mass-produced variety.

CNL regularly rolls out mannequin armies numbering in the tens of thousands, and boasts a client portfolio that includes big-name retailers such as Uniqlo, Hermès, Quiksilver, Reebok and JC Penney.

If you’re wondering why all the fuss, it’s because mannequins are known among those in the retail industry as “silent salesmen,” and are playing a bigger role than ever in attracting brick-and-mortar customers.

The NPD Group, for instance, reported that 42 percent of customers said mannequins influenced their purchasing decision, ranking just behind friends and family.

“Online shopping has gotten so popular, stores have to find new ways to create a more interesting ambience and user experience to get people to come in. Mannequins are visually enticing, and retailers are stylizing mannequins as extensions of their brand,” said Judi Henderson Townsend, owner of Oakland, Calif.-based Mannequin Madness, one of the country’s largest recyclers and resellers of mannequins, which are sold at up to 80 percent off original prices.

Townsend works with individuals as well as brands such as Gap and Nike to recycle thousands of mannequins a year.

“Mannequins never really go out of style, but there are times they’re bigger. They’re critical to sales now,” she said.

To change it up, some retailers have gone plus-sized and curvier, and others feature more athletic and toned mannequins. Others are trying different facial features, eco-friendly materials and even digital components.

“We are not a manufacturer. We are a design house. We try to see what’s next in the retail climate and try to interpret it into mannequins,” said Tasha Kusama, CNL’s creative director.



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