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Publication numberUS20060076306 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/221,586
Publication dateApr 13, 2006
Filing dateSep 8, 2005
Priority dateNov 17, 2003
Publication number11221586, 221586, US 2006/0076306 A1, US 2006/076306 A1, US 20060076306 A1, US 20060076306A1, US 2006076306 A1, US 2006076306A1, US-A1-20060076306, US-A1-2006076306, US2006/0076306A1, US2006/076306A1, US20060076306 A1, US20060076306A1, US2006076306 A1, US2006076306A1
InventorsRichard Bothun, Dan Swedberg, Michael Jines, Gregg Nelson, Todd Hanson
Original AssigneeBothun Richard A, Dan Swedberg, Jines Michael D, Nelson Gregg S, Todd Hanson
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Modular storage system for retail merchandising units
US 20060076306 A1
Abstract
A modular retail system includes a track positioned on a floor and a plurality of retail units. Each retail unit includes a base having generally opposed ends, the base and ends generally defining an interior for contents that is accessible through a front margin defined between the generally opposed ends. Each retail unit further includes a plurality of wheel assemblies coupled to and extending below the base to provide a rolling surface adapted to roll on the floor. Each retail unit includes at least one track follower mechanism coupled to the base and having at least a portion of which is engageable with the track, such that the plurality of units can be stored in a generally abutting side-by-side position and movable in a direction generally parallel the track when the at least a portion of the track follower mechanism is selectively engaged with the track.
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Claims(23)
1. A modular retail system, comprising:
a track positioned on a floor; and
a plurality of retail units, each retail unit comprising:
a base having generally opposed ends, the base and ends generally defining an interior for contents that is accessible through a front margin defined between the generally opposed ends;
a plurality of wheel assemblies operably coupled to and extending below the base to provide a rolling surface adapted to roll on the floor; and
at least one track follower mechanism operably coupled to the base and having at least a portion of which is selectively engageable with the track, such that the plurality of retail units are configured to be stored in a generally abutting side-by-side position and movable in a direction generally parallel the track when the at least a portion of the track follower mechanism is selectively engaged with the track.
2. The modular retail unit system of claim 1, wherein the units are movable in a relative direction generally perpendicular to the track when the at least a portion of the track follower mechanism is selectively disengaged with the track.
3. The modular retail unit system of claim 1, further comprising:
a top generally opposed the base and further defining the interior; and
a canopy operably coupled to the unit proximate the top, the canopy being movable between an open position providing access to the interior and a closed position at least partially enclosing the front margin.
4. The modular retail unit system of claim 3, wherein the canopy is hingedly coupled to the unit.
5. The modular retail unit system of claim 3, wherein the unit further comprises a prop rod, such that the canopy can be retained in the open position by the prop rod.
6. The modular retail unit system of claim 3, wherein the unit further comprises a lock mechanism, such that the canopy can be securely retained in the closed position by the lock mechanism.
7. The modular retail unit system of claim 1, further comprising:
an end panel operably coupled to one of the generally opposed ends, the end panel being movable between an open position and a closed position.
8. The modular retail unit system of claim 7, further comprising:
a plurality of grooves defined on a surface of the end panel configured to dispose contents thereon.
9. The modular retail unit system of claim 7, wherein the unit further comprises a lock mechanism, such that the end panel can be retained in the closed position by the lock mechanism.
10. The modular retail unit system of claim 1, further comprising:
a storage structure disposed in the interior, the storage structure comprising a plurality of storage spaces configured to store at least some of the contents.
11. The modular retail unit system of claim 10, wherein the plurality of storage spaces comprises at least one drawer.
12. The modular retail unit system of claim 10, wherein the plurality of storage spaces comprises at least one storage door.
13. A method of managing merchandise comprising:
positioning a track on a floor;
providing a plurality of retail units, each retail unit comprising a base having generally opposed ends, the base and ends defining an interior for merchandise that is accessible through a front margin defined between the ends;
providing wheel assemblies on the base to provide a rolling surface adapted to roll on the floor and providing at least one track follower mechanism on the base,
selectively engaging at least one track follower mechanism with the track, such that the plurality of retail units are stored in a generally abutting side-by-side position and movable in a direction generally parallel the track when the track follower mechanism is selectively engaged with the track.
14. The method of claim 13, further comprising:
selectively disengaging the track follower mechanism from the track;
effecting movement of the unit in a relative direction generally perpendicular the track; and
effecting movement the unit on the rolling surface to a selected location.
15. The method of claim 14, further comprising displaying the merchandise and completing a sales transaction of the merchandise.
16. The method of claim 14, further comprising effecting movement the unit on the rolling surface to the track and selectively engaging the track follower mechanism with the track.
17. The method of claim 13, further comprising:
providing a top on the unit generally opposed the base, the top further defining the interior;
providing a canopy to the unit proximate the top, such that the canopy is movable between an open position providing access to the interior and a closed position at least partially enclosing the interior; and
effecting movement of the canopy to the open position when at the selected location.
18. The method of claim 13, further comprising providing a rod and operably retaining the canopy in an open position with the rod.
19. The method of claim 13, further comprising:
providing a storage structure disposed in the interior, the storage structure having a plurality of storage spaces defined therein configured to store at least some of the merchandise; and
disposing at least some of the merchandise in the storage structure.
20. A modular retail system, comprising:
a track positioned on a floor;
a plurality of units, each unit comprising:
a base having generally opposed ends, the base and ends generally defining an interior for displaying contents that is accessible through a front margin defined between the generally opposed ends;
a plurality of wheel assemblies operably coupled to and extending below the base to provide a rolling surface adapted to roll on the floor;
a top generally opposed the base and further defining the interior and a canopy operably coupled to the unit proximate the top, the canopy being movable between an open position providing access to the interior and a closed position at least partially enclosing the front margin;
a storage structure disposed in the interior, the storage structure comprising a plurality of storage spaces configured to store at least some of the contents;
an access door operably coupled to one of the generally opposed ends, the access door being movable between an open position and a closed position; and
at least one track follower mechanism operably coupled to the base and having at least a portion of which is selectively engageable with the track, such that the plurality of units are configured to be stored in a generally abutting side-by-side position and movable in a direction generally parallel the track when the at least a portion of the track follower mechanism is selectively engaged with the track.
21. A modular display unit, comprising:
a base having generally opposed ends, the base and ends generally defining an interior for contents that is accessible through a front margin defined between the ends;
a plurality of wheel assemblies operably coupled to and extending below the base configured to roll the base thereupon;
an end panel operably coupled to at least one of the ends, the end panel being movable between an end panel open position enabling access to the interior and an end panel closed position;
a top generally opposed the base further defining the interior and a canopy operably coupled to the unit proximate the top, the canopy being movable between a canopy open position enabling access to the interior and a canopy closed position at least partially enclosing the front margin; and
a lock mechanism operably engageable with the end panel and the canopy to selectively retain the canopy and end panel in closed positions and selectively inhibit access to the interior.
22. A modular display unit, comprising:
a base having generally opposed ends, the base and ends generally defining an interior for contents that is accessible through a front margin defined between the ends;
a plurality of wheel assemblies operably coupled to and extending below the base configured to roll the base thereupon;
a top generally opposed the base further defining the interior and a canopy operably coupled to the unit proximate the top, the canopy being movable between a canopy open position enabling access to the interior and a canopy closed position at least partially enclosing the front margin, the canopy selectively retainable in the canopy open position with a rod operably coupled proximate the base; and
a storage structure disposed in the interior, the storage structure having an upper surface and a plurality of storage spaces configured to store at least some of the contents, the storage structure having a groove defined therein to operably retain the rod when the canopy is in a canopy closed position.
23. The modular display unit of claim 22, further comprising:
an end panel operably coupled to at least one of the ends, the end panel being movable between an end panel open position enabling access to the interior and an end panel closed position; and
a lock mechanism operably engageable with the end panel and the canopy to selectively retain the canopy and end panel in closed positions and selectively inhibit access to the interior, the rod being securely retained in the groove selectively inhibiting access to the storage spaces.
Description
RELATED APPLICATION

This application is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 10/990,277 filed Nov. 16, 2004, entitled “MODULAR STORAGE SYSTEM FOR LOGISTICAL MANAGEMENT OF OPERATIONAL UNITS,” which claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/523,044, entitled “LOGISTICAL MANAGEMENT OF FIELD EQUIPMENT FOR OPERATIONAL UNITS” filed Nov. 17, 2003, U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/543,047, entitled “LOGISTICAL MANAGEMENT OF FIELD EQUIPMENT FOR OPERATIONAL UNITS” filed Feb. 9, 2004, U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/599,227, entitled “LOGISTICAL MANAGEMENT OF FIELD EQUIPMENT FOR OPERATIONAL UNITS” filed Aug. 5, 2004, and U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/616,538, entitled “LOGISTICAL MANAGEMENT OF FIELD EQUIPMENT FOR OPERATIONAL UNITS” filed Oct. 6, 2004, all of which are incorporated herein in their entirety by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to merchandising units. More particularly, the present invention relates to a modular storage system for the logistical management of retail merchandising units.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Retailers often use retail merchandising units or kiosks from which to display and sell merchandise. Such merchandise can include clothes, accessories, mobile phones and accessories, food and beverages, school-related products such as shirts, hats, shorts, banners, buttons, pom-poms, noisemakers, bumper stickers, and various other commodities.

Conventional retail merchandising units and kiosks include both modular and stationary units. While the modular units can be moved from location to location, stationary units can generally be moved only with a number of persons or the aid of a lifting device. The lack of mobility can inhibit using the stationary units at different locations. For example, if a retailer desires to sell merchandise at high-impact sales and outdoor events, such as track and field and cross-country events or a football game, an indoor stationary unit would not be easily movable to the outdoor venue. On the other hand, an outdoor stationary kiosk would not be easily movable to the venue of an indoor sporting event, such as a wrestling match or basketball game.

While modular retail merchandising units can be moved from location to location, it is also desirable to securely enclose merchandising units when not displaying or selling the merchandise included therein. For example, enclosing the units can inhibit any theft of or damage to the merchandise if a retailer desires to leave a modular unit at a sporting venue or in the halls of a mall. Some examples of enclosable, modular display carts are disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,634,668 to Urffer et al. and U.S. Patent Publication No. 2004/0000774 to Zeuner. However, while the disclosed modular display carts are modular and collapsible, the carts generally are not storable in an organized and easily accessible configuration.

For example, at the end of an event or day of selling, the units can be moved to a storage site or location. However, the units can only be positioned in the storage site and can obstruct those desiring to get into and move about the storage location. In addition, if a number of units are placed in the room, carts towards the front can inhibit access to carts further back in the room. To get at the further back units, the closer-up carts must be shifted to make room for access to the other carts. In a storage room fully populated with units, access to the further carts can be inhibited or even prevented.

Because the general problems discussed above have not been addressed by conventional retail merchandising units, there is a current need for a modular retail merchandising system and unit addressing the problems and deficiencies inherent with conventional designs.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The modular storage system for the logistical management of retail merchandising units of the present invention substantially solves the problems of conventional retail merchandising units by providing a storage track positioned on a floor at a storage site and a plurality of modular merchandising units. Each of the units includes a base having an interior defined therein for displaying and storing merchandise. The units also can include a plurality of wheel assemblies and a track follower mechanism coupled to the base.

The wheels enable the units to be movable from a storage site to a location at which the merchandise is to be sold. The track follower mechanisms are selectively engageable with the track, such that the units can be stored in a generally abutting side-by-side position and movable along the track when the track follower mechanism is engaged with the track to enable access to the merchandise stored in the units. When the carts are to be removed from the storage site, the track follower mechanisms can be disengaged and the cart can be removed from the track.

The modular merchandising unit according to the various embodiments can be used to store and transport merchandise from a secure storage location to a location where the merchandise can be displayed and/or sold from the unit. Such merchandise can include school or athletic, theatric, musical, parades, pep rallies, or other various school or team-related events. School and team vendors can use the unit to sell merchandise at events, such as shirts, hats, shorts, banners, buttons, pom-poms, noisemakers, bumper stickers, and the like. Using the unit, vendors can arrange the merchandise in the unit, close up the unit, move the unit to the event, and simply open the unit up at the event and begin selling merchandise. A storage structure contained in the interior of the unit enables a vendor to organize the merchandise and display the merchandise in an organized manner.

The modular merchandising unit according to the various embodiments can also be used to display and sell retail merchandise at shopping centers or malls. During the night or during hours that the shopping center or mall is closed, the retail merchandising unit can be closed up and locked and/or transported to a secure location including the track. The unit can also be taken off-site and transported between facilities or venues. During the day or during hours that the shopping center or mall is open, the modular retail merchandising unit can be transported to a location where the merchandise is to be sold, unlocked, and opened.

The uses of the modular merchandising system and unit described herein are intended to be illustrative and not limiting. Those of skill in the art will recognize that the system and unit can be used for any of a number of uses. For example, the modular merchandising unit according to the various embodiments can also be used as a concession stand for the storage, transport, and sale of various food and beverage items. Such concessions can include food or snacks that do not need to be cooked or prepared, including, but not limited to, candy or other non-perishable items.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a modular storage system according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a modular storage unit according to the present invention depicting track follower mechanisms on a modular retail merchandising unit engaged with a storage track;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a base of the modular retail merchandising unit;

FIG. 4 is a front perspective view of the modular retail merchandising unit depicting a canopy and doors in an open position;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the outside of the door of the modular retail merchandising unit;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the inside of the door of FIG. 4 depicting the grooves;

FIG. 7 is a top perspective view of a top of the modular retail merchandising unit;

FIG. 8 is a bottom perspective view of the canopy of the modular retail merchandising unit;

FIG. 9 is a top perspective view of the canopy of FIG. 7;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a prop rod of the modular retail merchandising unit;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a lock rod of the modular retail merchandising unit;

FIG. 12 is a rear perspective view of the modular retail merchandising unit depicting the canopy and doors in an open position;

FIG. 13 is a top front perspective view of a storage structure of the modular retail merchandising unit;

FIG. 14 is a front perspective view of the modular retail merchandising unit depicting the prop rods positioned in prop rod grooves included on a counter of the storage structure prior to closing the canopy;

FIG. 15 is a front perspective view of the modular retail merchandising unit of claim 14 depicting the canopy in a closed position securing the prop rods in the prop rods grooves;

FIG. 16 is a front perspective view of the modular retail merchandising unit depicting the unit in a closed-up position wherein the canopy and doors are in a closed position and the lock rod is engaged with the door lock plates included on the doors;

FIG. 17 is a fragmentary perspective view of a canopy and lock rod lock mechanism wherein the lock portion of the lock rod is in alignment with the lock plate included on the canopy;

FIG. 18 a is an elevational view of a door lock plate and lock rod lock portion depicting the lock portion in a disengaged position; and

FIG. 18 b is similar to FIG. 18 a, but with the lock portion in an engaged position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Referring to FIGS. 1-2, a modular storage system 20 according to the present invention broadly includes a track 22 and one or more carts 24, wherein one or more of the carts comprises a modular retail merchandising unit 26. The carts can also comprise one or more modular and/or retained carts 28, 30, which are described further in copending application Ser. No. 10/990,277 filed Nov. 16, 2004, entitled “Modular Storage System For Logistical Management Of Operational Units,” which is incorporated herein by reference. A modular merchandising unit 26 can be used to store and transport merchandise such as clothes, novelty items, food, beverages, advertising propaganda, or other contents from a secure storage location to a location where the merchandise can be displayed and/or sold from the unit.

Referring to FIG. 2, a modular merchandising unit 26 generally can comprise a base or bottom 28, first and second generally opposed sides 30, 32 operably coupled to the base 28, a top or roof 34 operably coupled to the first or left side 30 and the second or right side 32, the top 34 being generally opposed the base 28. The base 28, sides 30, 32, and top 34 can generally define an interior 40 of the unit, the interior 40 optionally containing a storage structure 42 defined therein that is configured to organize, store, and display the merchandise and/or contents of the unit 26. As will be described in greater detail herein, the unit can also comprise a rear 38 having one or more rear panels and a canopy 102 operably coupled to the top 34 of the unit 26.

Referring to FIG. 3, the base 28 of the modular merchandising unit 26 can include the same or substantially the same structure as base of the retained or modular carts, which are described further in copending application Ser. No. 10/990,277 filed Nov. 16, 2004, entitled “Modular Storage System For Logistical Management Of Operational Units,” which is incorporated herein by reference. Similarly to the modular cart, the base 28 of the modular merchandising unit 26, as depicted in FIG. 3, can comprise a generally planar bottom 44, a shaped first plate 46 and a shaped second plate 48 operably coupled to the bottom 44 using a plurality of mechanical fasteners, and a pair of generally opposed sides 50 that can be integrally formed with or operably coupled to the bottom 44. The unit base 28 can further comprise a plurality of cylindrical frame posts 52 disposed on the sides 50 proximate the intersections of the plates 46, 48 and sides 50. The unit base 28 also can comprise beams 54 operably connected to a top edge of the sides 50 and extending substantially from the frame posts 52 proximate the first plate 46 to the frame posts 52 proximate the second plate 48. The beams 54 can provide additional structure and support to the base 28 and sides 50 and also can provide additional aesthetic appeal to the top edge of the sides 50.

The bottom 28 generally also includes a plurality of wheel mechanisms 56, each wheel mechanism 56 comprising a caster 58 and a wheel 60. The casters 58 can be pivotally or statically coupled to the bottom 28. Wheel mechanisms 56 according to the various embodiments are described in detail with respect to the retained and modular carts above and are exemplified by part number 16-XA-06201-S from Tricker Caster & Wheel Sales in Faribault, Minn. Any number of wheel mechanisms 56 greater than two can be provided on the unit base.

The casters 58 can be constructed of steel, although other materials such as aluminum, alloys, graphite or composite materials can be used. Wheels 60 according to the various embodiments can be constructed of urethane, although other materials such as nylon or other similar polymer materials can be used. In another embodiment, the wheels 60 can be an axle wheel or ball wheel. The wheel mechanisms 56 can be 6″ to 9″ high, optimally 7.5″ high, and the wheels 60 can have a diameter of approximately 4″ to 8″, optimally 6.0″ and a width of approximately 1.5″ to 3″, optimally 2.0″. The wheels 60 each can have a load rating of at least 500-100 pounds, optimally 850 pounds. The wheels 60 can comprise a concave cross-section in which the diameter at the center of the wheel 60 is slightly larger than the diameter at the edges of the width of the wheel 60.

The unit base 28 also can comprise a plurality of track follower mechanisms 62. The track follower mechanisms 62 can be substantially the same as the track follower mechanisms described in detail above with respect to the retained or modular carts, but are preferably similar to those described in detail with respect to the modular carts. Each track follower mechanism 62 can include a track follower 66 that can operably engage with a track 22 included on or in a floor of a storage site to enable the unit to be displaced with respect to the track 22. The interaction of the track follower with a track 22 is provided further in copending application Ser. No. 10/990,277 filed Nov. 16, 2004, entitled “Modular Storage System For Logistical Management Of Operational Units,” which is incorporated herein by reference.

Similarly to the modular cart, the track follower mechanisms 62 can comprise a locking mechanism 64, which can enable a user to lock the track follower 66 up in a retained position when the unit 26 is removed from a track 22 in a storage facility. The locking mechanism 64 can be substantially the same as the locking mechanisms 293 described in detail above with respect to the modular carts. As with the locking mechanism 293 of the modular cart, although the locking mechanism 64 is preferably described in terms of the lever arrangement as described, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that numerous other locking mechanism 64 could be implemented to secure the track follower mechanism 282 in a retained position, such as a pin and aperture arrangement, a friction fit or wedge arrangement, a screw arrangement, a slot and ledge arrangement, or the like.

Although the track follower mechanism 62 is depicted as being disposed on the second end 32 of the modular merchandising unit, it will be recognized that alternate embodiments are contemplated. For example, the track 22 and corresponding track follower mechanisms 62 can be positioned proximate the first end 30 of the units 26 with appropriate coupling and linkages can be provided for mechanical triggering the track follower mechanism 62 and locking mechanism 64 from the second end 32 of the unit 26. In another embodiment, the track followers 66 can be positioned at any position along the length of the unit 26, for example, in the middle of the length of the unit corresponding to placement of the track 22, and electronic powered controls, such as battery-operated solenoids, can be used to remotely operate the track follower mechanism 62.

The modular merchandising unit base 28 further can include a plurality of bumpers 68. The bumpers 68 are described in detail above with respect to the retained cart. The bumpers 68 can be constructed of nylon, although other materials such as rubber or various plastics can be used. The bumpers 68 protect adjacent units when the units are moved along the track 22 within a storage facility. If a first unit is moved towards a second unit, such that the units contact one another, the bumpers 68 on the first unit will contact the bumpers 68 of a second unit rather than other parts of the units coming into contact with one another. As the bumpers can be constructed of nylon or other similar resilient materials, they will absorb the forces exerted when adjacent units are moved into an abutting relation along the track 22.

Referring to FIG. 4, the unit 26 comprises a first or left end 30 and a generally opposed second or right end 32, each end comprising a frame 70 and an end panel or side door 72 fixedly or operably coupled to the frame 70 using a plurality of brackets or hinges 78. The frame 70 can comprise a pair of generally opposed vertical members 74 connected by a substantially horizontal frame member 76 opposite where the vertical members 74 are coupled to the base 28.

To connect the frames 70 to the unit base 28, the lower portion of the vertical members can be operably coupled to the frame posts 52 included on the base 28 of the unit 26. The connection of the frames 70 to the base 28 is described in greater detail with respect to the retained cart in copending application Ser. No. 10/990,277 filed Nov. 16, 2004, entitled “Modular Storage System For Logistical Management Of Operational Units,” which is incorporated herein by reference. While the frames 70 as depicted can be generally tubular in shape, it is contemplated that the frames 70 have a different shaped cross-section, such as square, rectangular, flat, or other various geometric shapes. The frames 70 can be constructed of tubular steel, although other materials such as aluminum, alloys, graphite or composite materials can be used.

Referring to FIGS. 4-6, the side doors 72 can be hingedly coupled to a respective rearward vertical frame member 74 with a hinge mechanism 78. The hinge mechanism 78 can be operably coupled to the door 72 with a hinge channel member 80. In other embodiments, the side doors 72 can be coupled to a respective forward vertical frame member 74 such that the side doors 72 open towards the front of the unit 26. Alternatively, the side doors 72 can be coupled to a respective horizontal frame member 76 such that the side doors 72 open upwardly with respect to the unit 26. The side doors 72 can also be fixedly or removably coupled to the frame 70 or other portion of the unit 26 without hinges. The doors can also comprise an additional edge channel member 82 generally opposed the hinge channel member 80 can provide protection and additional aesthetic appeal to the edge of the door 72. The edge channel member 82 and hinge channel member 80 can be coupled to the doors using fasteners or another mechanism to fix the plate with respect to the door 72 known to those of skill in the art. In other embodiments, the side doors 72 can include automatic opening mechanism, such as a hydraulic cylinder, that enables the doors 72 to open without any manual force.

The side doors 72 can also include one or more pull handles 84 thereon to enable opening the door 72 and effecting movement the unit 26 along a track 22 when the unit is selectively engaged with or disposed on a track 22. The side doors 72 can also include door lock plates 86 that can be used in conjunction with a lock mechanism 122 included on the canopy 102 to lock the side doors 72 and a canopy 102 so that the contents and interior 40 of the unit cannot be accessed. The lock plates 86 can be coupled to the doors 72 using fasteners or another mechanism to fix the plate 86 with respect to the door 72 known to those of skill in the art. The lock plates 86, canopy 102, and lock mechanism 122 are described in greater detail herein.

The side doors 72 can be constructed of ⅝″ veneer core plywood with a laminate overlay, although other materials such as aluminum, graphite, or composite materials or various plastics can be used to construct the doors 72. The side doors 72 can also include one or more grooves 90 defined therein to enable a user to hang brackets, shelves, or hangers thereupon so that merchandise or signage can be hung on the side doors 72.

Referring to FIGS. 2 and 7, the unit also can comprise a top 34. Further description of a unit top 34 is provided in copending application Ser. No. 10/990,277 filed Nov. 16, 2004, entitled “Modular Storage System For Logistical Management Of Operational Units,” which is incorporated herein by reference. The top 34 can generally comprise a top panel 92 extending from the second frame 70 a to the first frame 70 b and a plurality of top panel extrusions 94 positioned on opposing sides of the top panel 92 and extending substantially along the length of the top panel 92. The top panel extrusions 94 can be connected to top panel 92 using a plurality of fasteners.

As depicted, the top panel extrusions 94 can have a profile that matches the profile of the end frames 70 where the vertical members 74 intersect the horizontal member 76. The top panel 92 is positioned on support brackets (see FIG. 32 in copending application Ser. No. 10/990,277 filed Nov. 16, 2004, entitled “Modular Storage System For Logistical Management Of Operational Units,” which is incorporated herein by reference) disposed on the horizontal member 76 of the frames 70. Once the top panel 92 is positioned on support brackets, it can then be connected to the support brackets using fasteners.

Once the top panel 92 is connected to the frames 70, the top panel extrusions 94 can be connected to the top panel 92 using fasteners. Roof caps 96 can then be connected to the top panel extrusions 94 using fasteners. The roof caps 96 protect the top panel extrusions 94 and can provide a more aesthetically appealing appearance. The top panels 92 can be constructed of ⅝″ veneer core plywood with a laminate overlay, although other materials such as aluminum, graphite or composite materials or various plastics can be used. The roof caps 96 can be constructed of 14-gauge steel, although other materials such as aluminum, alloys, graphite or composite materials or various plastics can be used.

Referring to FIG. 7, canopy hinge caps 98 can be included and used in place of, or in addition to, the roof caps 96 on all or selected top panel extrusions 94. The canopy hinge caps 98 include an aperture 100 enabling a hinged mechanism included on the canopy to be coupled to the top panel extrusion 94 so that a canopy can be operably coupled to the unit 28 at the canopy hinge cap 98. The canopy 102 is described in greater detail herein.

Referring to FIGS. 2 and 8-9, the mobile merchandise unit can further include a canopy 102 operably coupled to the unit 26. The canopy 102 can include a hinge channel 104 operably coupled to the canopy 102 having a hinge mechanism 106 with a hinge bushing 108 thereon. The hinge mechanism 106 can be operably coupled to the apertures 100 located on the canopy hinge caps 98 or can be directed coupled to the top panel extrusion 94 or top panel 92. Once coupled to the unit, the canopy can be disposed between an open position (see FIG. 2) and a closed position (see FIG. 16). As depicted, the canopy can be positioned in the open position by generally raising the canopy upwardly upon the hinged mechanism 106. In other embodiments, the canopy 102 can be coupled to one of the vertical frame members 74 of the first or second ends 30, 32 and can open towards the left or right of the unit. In these embodiments, the canopy 102 can be positioned in the open position by generally opening the canopy 102 leftwardly or rightwardly, respectively, upon the hinged mechanism 106. Alternatively, the canopy 102 can also be fixedly or removably coupled to the frame 70, top panel 92, top panel extrusions 94, or other portion of the unit 26 without hinges.

Referring to FIGS. 2 and 10, the mobile merchandise unit 26 can include one or more canopy prop rods 110 to retain the canopy 102 in an open position. The prop rods 110 can be operably coupled to the unit proximate the base 28. The prop rods 110 can be operably coupled proximate the base 28 with a prop rod swivel hinge 113, which enables the prop rod 110 to be moved upwardly and downwardly and inwardly and outwardly. Optimally, the swivel hinge 113 enables the prop rod 110 to move in 360° on a plane parallel with ground and 180° in any plane perpendicular to the ground.

Referring to FIGS. 8 and 10, the prop rods 110 can include a prop rod cap 114 configured to operably engage a prop rod slot 116 in a prop rod bracket 112 included on the interior surface of the canopy 102. Alternatively, the canopy 102 can directly include a slot or groove that acts as an interface for the prop rod 110 to engage the canopy 102. The prop rod bracket 112 generally can comprise a v-shaped portion 118 and two legs 120, the legs 120 being fastened to the canopy 102 and the v-shaped portion 118 being configured and oriented such that it the cap 114 of the prop rod 110 can engage with the prop rod slot 116. In the open position, the canopy 110 can provide some shade and shelter to those underneath the canopy 110 and can also inhibit the merchandise contained in an interior 40 of the unit 26 from getting damaged from environmental conditions such as rain, wind, sun, or snow. The prop rods 110 can be constructed of hollow aluminum tubes. Those of skill in the art would recognize that the prop rods 110 could also be constructed of other materials, such as wood, steel, plastic, or the like and can be solid or hollow.

Referring to FIGS. 11 and 16, the mobile merchandise unit 26 can also include a lock mechanism 122. The lock mechanism 122 is generally disposed on the canopy and can comprise a lock rod 124 having an elongated portion 126 and a lock portion 128 defined at each end of the elongated portion 126. The elongated portion 126 further can comprise a lock tab 130 at a middle portion thereof. The lock rod 124 is operably coupled to an exterior of the canopy 110 with a plurality of lock rod plates 134 having lock rod guides 135 disposed or defined thereon and is movable so that the lock portions and lock tab are rotatable about an axis defined by the lock rod. The lock portions 128 of the lock rod 124 can be selectively engageable with the lock plates 134 included on the side doors 72 and canopy 102 when the side doors 72 and canopy 110 are in a closed position.

Referring to FIG. 12, the rear of the unit comprises one or more rear panels 136. As depicted, the rear comprises a top rear panel 140 and a bottom rear panel 142. The bottom rear panel 142 can partially define the storage structure 42 described herein and can include a bottom edge that is shaped correspondingly to the shape of the base. Referring to FIG. 3, the panels 136 can include one or more grooves 138 defined therein to enable a user to hang brackets, shelves, or hangers thereupon so that merchandise or signage can be hung on the panels 136.

Referring to FIGS. 3 and 13, the mobile merchandising unit 26 further can include a storage structure 42 included within the interior 40 of the unit 26. The storage structure 42 can include a plurality of storage spaced defined therein, including drawers 144 or compartments/doors 154 and a counter 146 or workspace defined thereon. The storage structure 42 can extend upwardly from the base 28 towards the top 34 or downwardly from the top 34 to the base 28. The storage structure 42 can extend completely between the base 28 and top 34 or only partially between the base 28 and top 34.

Each of the drawers 144 and doors 154 can include one or more handles or knobs 148 to enable a user to open and close the drawers 144. In addition, if the drawers 144 are arranged in a side-by-side configuration, the drawers 144 can be separated by a partition 150. The storage structure 42 can include one or more doors 154 thereon that can open upwardly, downwardly, leftwardly, or rightwardly. The doors 154 can be hingedly coupled to the storage structure 42 or can alternatively be coupled to the storage structure 42 to be slidably or otherwise selectively removable from the storage structure 42.

The counter 42 can generally comprise a rectangular shape and can comprise one or more prop rod grooves 158 on a front edge 155 and one or more merchandise grooves 160 defined on the side edges 153 thereof. As described below, the grooves 158, 160 enable the merchandise and/or prop rods 110 to rest within the margins of the counter 42 and inhibit damage to the merchandise when the when the unit 26 is closed.

The drawers 144 and doors 154 can be made of sheet steel, although those of skill in the art will recognize that other materials such as ⅝″ veneer core plywood with a laminate overlay, aluminum, graphite or composite materials or various plastics can be used. The counter 146 can be constructed of ⅝″ veneer core plywood with a laminate overlay, although other materials such as aluminum, graphite or composite materials or various plastics can be used.

The storage structure 42 can be coupled to the unit 26 in a number of ways that those of skill in the art would recognize. For example, brackets 156 can be included such that the storage structure 42 can be disposed on the base 28 and operably coupled to the frame 70 using the brackets 156. Referring to FIGS. 3 and 13, the storage structure 42 can include brackets 156 such that the structure 42 is coupled to the vertical frame members 74. The shape of the structure 42 in conjunction with gravity will also aid in fixing the structure 42 with respect to the unit 26, particularly the base 26. For example, as described above, the bottom rear panel 142 can include a shaped lower portion that corresponds to the shape of the base 28. Such a shaped portion can inhibit the panel 142, and thus the structure 42, from effecting movement downwardly, leftwardly, or rightwardly, with respect to the base 28. Referring to FIG. 3, the prop rod swivel hinge 113 can be coupled to the unit at or proximate the bracket 156.

The storage structure 42 can also include a pair of generally opposed end panels 152 proximate the first and second ends 30, 32 of the unit. The end panels 152 can be made of sheet steel, although other materials, such as ⅝″ veneer core plywood with a laminate overlay, aluminum, graphite or composite materials or various plastics can be used.

Referring to FIG. 14, to lock the unit 26, prior to closing the canopy 102, the prop rods 110 can be removed from the prop rod brackets 112 and displaced inwardly in a plane perpendicular to the ground on the swivel hinge 113 towards the vertical frame members 74 and inwardly on another plane perpendicular to the ground towards one another. The rods 110 can be selectively placed within prop rod retention grooves 158 included on a front edge of the counter 146 that is part of the storage structure 42.

Next, referring to FIG. 15, the canopy 102 is closed enclosing the front of the unit 26 and capturing the prop rods 110 within the prop rod grooves 158, such that the prop rod grooves 158 can inhibit movement of the prop rods 110 and enable the rods 110 to act as a barrier to opening the drawers 144 and door 154 when the canopy 102 is in a closed position. By placing the rods 110 in this configuration, the rods 110, which are generally longer than the general height of the unit 26, are enabled to fit entirely within the enclosed unit 26.

Referring to FIG. 16, the doors 72 are closed and the lock portions 128 of the lock rod 124 are positioned through apertures 88 included on the lock plates 86 of the doors 72. The merchandise grooves 160 included on the counter 146 enable the merchandise to remain on a hook or bracket included on the door 72 when the doors 72 are closed. By providing some space for the clothes to rest when closed, the merchandise grooves 160 inhibit damage to the clothes and enable a compact closure and quick closing process.

Referring to FIGS. 18 a and 18 b, the lock rod 124 can be rotated such that the lock portions 128 of the lock rod 124 engage the apertures 88 of the lock plates 86 of the doors 72. The doors 72 can then be inhibited from being opened by the lock portions 128 and the canopy 102 can be inhibited from being opened by the lock rod 86.

In this position, referring to FIG. 17, the lock tab 130 on the lock rod 86 generally is in alignment with the lock plate 134 included on the canopy 102. A padlock or other lock can be placed through the lock mechanism 122, such as through the lock tab 130 and through the lock plate 134 proximate the lock tab 130, to inhibit access to the contents of the modular merchandising unit 26 when the doors 72 and canopy 102 are in a closed position.

In use, one or more retail merchandising units are selectively trackable on a track 22. The track 22 can be disposed on a floor or incorporated into the surface of a floor. A description of the track 22 is provided further in copending application Ser. No. 10/990,277 filed Nov. 16, 2004, entitled “Modular Storage System For Logistical Management Of Operational Units,” filed Nov. 16, 2004, which is incorporated herein by reference. The track follower 66 included on the base 28 of the unit 26 is selectively engageable with the track 22 such that the unit 26 is moveable in a direction generally parallel to the track 22. When one or more units 26 are selectively engaged with the track 22, the contents of one or more units 26 can be accessed by creating a space proximate the unit 26 and opening the unit 26.

When a user desires to remove a unit 26 from the track 22, the track follower 66 is moved to a retained position. The unit 26 is then movable in a direction that is generally perpendicular to the track 22 and removable from the storage site. The unit 26 can then be moved on its wheel mechanism 56 to a location for display and or sale of the merchandise therein. When it is desired to return the unit 26 to the storage site, the unit 26 is moved upon its wheel mechanism 56 back to the storage site. The track follower 66 is then displaced from a retained position to an engaged position such that it engaged the track 22. The unit 26 is then movable along the track 22 within the storage site.

A modular merchandising unit 26 can be used to store and transport merchandise from a secure storage location to a location where the merchandise can be displayed and/or sold from the unit 26. Such merchandise can include school or athletic, theatric, musical, parades, pep rallies, or other various school or team-related events. School and team vendors can use the unit 26 to sell merchandise at events, such as shirts, hats, shorts, banners, buttons, pom-poms, noisemakers, bumper stickers, and the like. Using the unit 26, vendors can arrange the merchandise in the unit 26, close up the unit 26, move the unit 26 to the event, and simply open the unit 26 back up at the event and begin selling merchandise from the unit 26. A storage structure 42 contained in the interior of the unit 26 enables a vendor to organize the merchandise and display the merchandise in an organized manner.

Such merchandise can also include other retail merchandise at shopping centers or malls. During the night or during hours that the shopping center or mall is closed, the retail merchandising unit 26 can be closed up and locked and/or transported to a secure location. The unit 26 can also be taken off-site and transported between facilities or venues. During the day or during hours that the shopping center or mall is open, the modular retail merchandising unit 26 can be transported to a location where the merchandise is to be sold and then opened and unlocked.

The modular merchandising unit 26 can also be used as a concession stand for the storage, transport, and sale of various food and beverage items. Such concessions can include food or snacks that do not need to be cooked or prepared, including, but not limited to, candy or other non-perishable items. The modular merchandising unit 26 can include equipment to prepare and/or preserve other food such as stoves, grills, microwaves, refrigerators, hot plates, freezers, and other various equipment known to those of skill in the art.

The modular merchandising unit 26 can also be used as a newsstand or bookstand for the display and/or sale of newspapers, magazines, books, postcards, and various items that can be generally sold at newsstands.

The modular merchandising unit 26 according to the various embodiments is not limited to the above uses, but can be used wherever it is desired to display and/or sell items. Some other examples include, but are not limited to, automobile races, motorcycle races, ATV races, fairs, parades, arts & craft shows, auto shows, or the like. The modular merchandising unit 26 can also be used at various tradeshows and or school fairs, such as college fairs.

As described herein, the modular merchandising system according to the various embodiments can include a track 22 and a modular merchandising unit 26 having a track follower mechanism. The track follower mechanism enables the unit to be selectively tracked in a storage site with other modular merchandising units 26 and/or modular or retained carts as described further in copending application Ser. No. 10/990,277 filed Nov. 16, 2004, entitled “Modular Storage System For Logistical Management Of Operational Units,” filed Nov. 16, 2004, which is incorporated herein by reference.

For example, in a mall or shopping center, can be desirable to remove the units from the halls and place them into overnight storage. There can be dozens of the units 26 throughout the mall. The modular merchandising units 26 can be closed, secured, and moved to a storage site at night and selectively tracked on a track 22. This enables compact storage and access to any of the units. When it is desired to remove the units from the storage site, the units can simply be removed from the track 22 and taken to the desired location. Also, sports teams and schools often do not have storage space dedicated to team or school merchandise. When the modular merchandising units 26 are used at various events, the units 26 can be stored in or near locker rooms or storage sites along with various other equipment.

The embodiments of the modular merchandising unit 26 described herein are intended to be illustrative and not limiting. Additional embodiments are described further in copending application Ser. No. 10/990,277 filed Nov. 16, 2004, entitled “Modular Storage System For Logistical Management Of Operational Units,” filed Nov. 16, 2004, which is incorporated herein by reference. Additional embodiments are also described in the claims. Although the present invention has been described with reference to particular embodiments, those skilled in the art will recognize that changes may be made to the embodiments in form and detail without departing from the spirit and the scope of the invention.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7484631 *Nov 16, 2004Feb 3, 2009Nenger CorporationModular storage system for logistical management of operational units
US7963533Mar 16, 2007Jun 21, 2011Wenger CorporationAll-terrain retail merchandising unit
US8523196Feb 13, 2012Sep 3, 2013Mark J. ApplebyConvertible cart and canopy apparatus
US20100263248 *Mar 23, 2010Oct 21, 2010Stadjuhar Jr RobertOutdoor display Sign
US20110030289 *Apr 16, 2009Feb 10, 2011Oscar RossiColumbarium, particularly for accommodating cinerary urns
WO2010011669A1 *Jul 21, 2009Jan 28, 2010Metro Industries Inc.Secure storage system having mobile shelving units
Classifications
U.S. Classification211/162
International ClassificationA47F5/00, B65D, A47F1/00, A47B53/02
Cooperative ClassificationA47B53/02
European ClassificationA47B53/02
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Dec 7, 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: WENGER CORPORATION, MINNESOTA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:BOTHUN, RICHARD A.;SWEDBERG, DAN;JINES, MICHAEL D.;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:016865/0071;SIGNING DATES FROM 20051201 TO 20051205