04 February 2021

Retail Free Standing Display Units, or FSDUs for short are a very popular type of in-store display and are used widely by brands and retailers all over the UK.

Designed and positioned around retail stores to encourage impulse purchases, FSDUs can display pretty much anything from consumer electronics, confectionery, grocery, clothing and homeware products.  FSDUs are particularly common in sports and bargain stores and are used in a ‘dump bin’ style to promote a wide range of products such as toiletries socks and footballs.

The cost of a freestanding retail display depends on a number of factors including materials used, footprint, overall size, functional requirements, life expectancy and ultimately the quantity required.

Let’s explore factors that affect the price of a freestanding retail display unit….

Materials vs Life Expectancy

The materials used to manufacture an FSDU are usually directly related to the life expectancy in-store that is needed.

By their very nature countertop retail displays are positioned in high shopper traffic areas and typically there for shoppers to shop from themselves, so it is important to make sure the right materials are selected to make sure your display lives out its life successfully in-store.

For a short-term promotion and typically what you will see in retail stores around seasonal promotions, cardboard is often a popular choice. Where display needs to last for a longer period of time, alternative materials such as reboard, Foamex, acrylic, dibond and metal could be the ideal choice.

For freestanding displays that are only required for a couple of months or so, then cardboard is probably the preferred choice. Ideal for short-term, temporary displays, cardboard is considerably cheaper than the likes of Foamex, acrylic, wood and metal.

If you need your FSDU to last a little longer, there are higher-spec cardboards available, but these will come at a higher cost. You can also add an extra element of robustness/strength to a cardboard retail display by applying a layer of gloss to provide extra protection, however this will impact on overall cost and also ultimately impact other factors such as sustainability and recyclability of the display at end of life.

Foamex is widely used when creating FSDUs as it is versatile and strong but at the same time relatively lightweight and cost effective. As the natural next step up from cardboard, an FSDU made from Foamex will have a longer life expectancy however depending on its design, can be prone to damage from shopper traffic, particularly trolleys!

Acrylic is typically used for component parts of an FSDU rather than the entire display. This is because when used in larger pieces, its overall strength can deteriorate.

Typically used in FSDUs for its eye-catching and design qualities, acrylic is available in a wide range of colours and styles. The most popular, edge-lit, can be used to create standout design features such as headers and shelf fronts. If you have budget to consider some funky design options for your FSDU, then the use of edge-lit acrylic is certainly worth exploring with your retail designer.

Dibond is a composite aluminium sheet which is specially optimised for long-term temporary display purposes as its light weight, robust and offers perfectly flat surfaces ideal for print and promotional graphics. Dibond is also a popular choice as it is fully recyclable.

Despite being much stronger than Foamex, a dibond FSDU is a similar cost to a Foamex unit.

For long-term freestanding displays, metal is probably the strongest material that you could manufacture an FSDU from as it can stay in very good condition for many years.

Compared to the other materials mentioned in this article, metal could be considered to be the costliest material of them all. However due to how metal components are fabricated, in sufficient quantities metal can be more cost effective than the likes of acrylic, due to the amount of manual handling work involved with the manufacturing of an acrylic display.

Sustainability and Freestanding Retail Display Units
The hot topic of sustainability has resulted in many brands and retailers reconsidering how they offer their products in-store.

Whereas traditionally they would look at using several temporary cardboard FSDUs throughout the year for product updates and launches, many are now producing FSDUs with a longer life expectancy that can be updated easily by replacing the graphics every time there is a new promotion.

When designed with longevity in mind, a metal FSDU can provide several years of use and allow for many different display configurations throughout that time, including reposition-able and adjustable shelves, use of hooks and display mechanisms, updatable headers and side panels and even allow for use of media screen in the header if required.

Size matters…

The footprint of a freestanding retail display is the physical space that it takes up, in this case the space on the floor.

The gem that all brands and retailers aim for, is to create a well-designed, eye-catching, easy-to-shop freestanding retail display, only using a small footprint. But this is a fine art, or the pièce de resistance if you will.

Typically, the larger the display, the more materials you will need to make it and therefore the cost increases, so it is very important to consider all factors about what you want your FSDU to offer customers before you start the design process.

Design considerations & enhancing your FSDU retail display

There are a number of additional features that you can add to an FSDU that will affect the overall cost of your display, but in turn make it more attractive to shoppers in-store.

Adding lights to a retail display will make it much more visible to shoppers, as the use of light will cut above other in-store messages and stand out. There are many different ways to illuminate a retail display and the right solution will depend on the design, materials used in manufacturing and the power source required.

Printed Point of Sale Media
Most retail displays will be designed with space for branding or promotional message. After all, if you’re spending money getting a FSDU in-store, you’ll want to ensure you’re communicating the offer to customers.

The cost of printed graphics for your retail display will depend on the following factors: available space on the display for branding/promotional messaging, whether you need the artwork designed for you or whether you can do this in-house and then finally the print and application of graphics to the display.

Depending on the material you chose for your FSDU, there are different methods of producing graphics for your display, such as direct to substrate printing or vinyl wrapping.

Remember… By introducing elements like lighting and media the FSDU will require access to power and unless power is readily and safely available this will decrease the number of possible locations that the FSDU can be used.

Edge-Lit Acrylic
There are many standard or stock colours of acrylic available, however for a bit of extra cost, around 10% to 15% over stock colours, edge-lit acrylic can really make the difference in producing a stand-out FSDU.

Edge-lit acrylic is available in a select few colours such as Acid Green, Helios Yellow, Mars Red and Neptune Blue. As the name suggests when edge-lit acrylic is cut the edges appear to be illuminated and really do catch the eye. You will often see edge-lit acrylic used on FSDUs, CTUs and also on plinths when individual products are being presented such as footwear or handbags. Used correctly edge-lit acrylic can be stunning, to the point where brands/retailers and shoppers alike ask where the FSDU gets the power from to light the display!

Quantity: How many do you need…

What might seem obvious is that the more you need, the higher the cost will be. In reality, there’s a lot more that happens behind the scenes to calculate the overall cost of your displays.

Below is a guide as to how the price of a countertop retail display is calculated, including sourcing raw materials, manufacturing component parts, assembly, packaging and finally delivery.

Raw materials

The cost of raw materials will differ depending on the materials chosen to create your retail display. For example, if you are making a display from acrylic, then a minimum quantity order for that particular colour/style of acrylic will apply. Or if your display is to be made from a particular colour metal, a brand colour maybe, then there would be a cost to buy the paint to create your unique powder-coated metal.


The cost of manufacturing will typically be included in the overall price. This usually includes technical drawings, machinery setup costs and the time, use of machinery and manpower used during production.


Often, it is possible to see a prototype of your countertop retail display before going into full production. In fact, any reputable manufacturer will give you this option.

Prototypes can cost more than the unit cost you have been quoted for your complete retail display order. This is because prototypes are often produced before committing to purchasing materials, so quantities of scale do not apply to raw materials and setup costs still apply as explored the manufacturing section above.

You can find out more about Prototypes in our articles: What is a prototype and why do I need one? and Why do prototypes cost more than the unit price for larger quantities?


The cost to assembly your retail display will ultimately depend on its design and complexity. 

For high production quantities, it is very common for an assembly line to be used, where individuals are responsible for assembling certain parts of each display unit, such as shelves, promotional messaging and merchandising.

Dependent on the design and materials used, an FSDU arrive to store flat-packed for simple assembly by staff. An FSDU made from cardboard is very often delivered flat-packed, where as a display unit made from more permanent materials like metal, will arrive either part or fully assembled.


As most retail displays are bespoke solutions, packaging them also needs to be uniquely designed to ensure their safely secured and protected during transit.

The good news is, the materials used to package your retail displays are none too different than what you would expect, such as bubble-wrap, polystyrene and cardboard which are all not too expensive.

It’s also important to remember that your manufacturer should have the in-house capability to create a unique packaging for your display – they’re the experts after all!


The final part of the process is delivery, which might be to a central warehouse or individual store locations. No prizes to which is more cost-effective.

You got it! The cost of delivering to one location will prove to be significantly more cost-effective than to multiple locations, but this really depends on whether you have your own distribution network or speed required to get the retail display into stores.

A top tip when considering how best to get your display delivered is to think about the journey it will go through via different courier methods. For example, sending via a direct same day delivery service rather than an overnight for delivery next day means that it will be handled by less people and reduce the risk of loss or breakages – even though the initial cost of an overnight delivery is cheaper.  

Some freestanding display unit cost examples…

The above examples give you an indication of costs based on 5 very different scenarios with regards to materials used, unitary requirements and quantities.


In summary, there are a number of factors to consider when costing a freestanding retail display unit. All of which your chosen display partner should help you to understand when designing and planning your next campaign.

We’d be happy to help! Our retail design specialists are ready to help you create an in-store display that delivers to your objectives and remains within budget.

Three Point are the experts in specialist retail solutions.

Want to see what we can do? Take a look at our portfolio

Please contact our sales team on 01530 839777 or email info@threepd.co.uk

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