US20070068885A1 - Product display and fronting assembly - Google Patents

Product display and fronting assembly Download PDF

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Publication number
US20070068885A1
US20070068885A1 US10/569,673 US56967304A US2007068885A1 US 20070068885 A1 US20070068885 A1 US 20070068885A1 US 56967304 A US56967304 A US 56967304A US 2007068885 A1 US2007068885 A1 US 2007068885A1
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United States
Prior art keywords
product
assembly
shelf
fronting assembly
member
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Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Abandoned
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US10/569,673
Inventor
Rafael Busto
David Haffner
Francis Kelly
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L and P Property Management Co
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L and P Property Management Co
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to US49803803P priority Critical
Priority to US56105104P priority
Application filed by L and P Property Management Co filed Critical L and P Property Management Co
Priority to PCT/US2004/027925 priority patent/WO2005021406A2/en
Priority to US10/569,673 priority patent/US20070068885A1/en
Assigned to L&P PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COMPANY reassignment L&P PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COMPANY ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: KELLY, FRANCIS A., HAFFNER, DAVID S., BUSTOS, RAFAEL T.
Publication of US20070068885A1 publication Critical patent/US20070068885A1/en
Application status is Abandoned legal-status Critical

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    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A47FURNITURE; DOMESTIC ARTICLES OR APPLIANCES; COFFEE MILLS; SPICE MILLS; SUCTION CLEANERS IN GENERAL
    • A47FSPECIAL FURNITURE, FITTINGS, OR ACCESSORIES FOR SHOPS, STOREHOUSES, BARS, RESTAURANTS OR THE LIKE; PAYING COUNTERS
    • A47F1/00Racks for dispensing merchandise; Containers for dispensing merchandise
    • A47F1/04Racks or containers with arrangements for dispensing articles, e.g. by means of gravity or springs
    • A47F1/12Racks or containers with arrangements for dispensing articles, e.g. by means of gravity or springs dispensing from the side of an approximately horizontal stack
    • A47F1/125Racks or containers with arrangements for dispensing articles, e.g. by means of gravity or springs dispensing from the side of an approximately horizontal stack with an article-pushing device

Abstract

In some embodiments, a product fronting assembly includes a rotatable rear member and an elongated member extending to a handle at a front of the assembly. The rear member in some embodiments is rotatable to permit rear product loading in the assembly. Alternatively or in addition, the rear member is rotatable between a position in which forward handle movement fronts product and another position in which such handle movement does not front product. In some embodiments, a ratchet mechanism enables a handle to be returned to a stowed position after fronting product. A cable or strip can connect a handle to a rear member used to move the product. A portion of the cable or strip can be wound in a coil within or at least partially defining an assembly handle. Also, in some embodiments the assembly can be snap-fit upon a shelf.

Description

    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention relates to systems and methods for displaying and dispensing products. More particularly, the present invention relates to product displaying and dispensing systems and methods employing an inventory fronting feature.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • Stores and other retail environments often display merchandise for sale on shelves and pallets. These conventional arrangements create a number of problems. For example, customers typically remove and purchase products from the most accessible location (e.g., from the front of shelves or pallets). This creates an absence of products on the front of the shelves or pallets, which can be unattractive to consumers due to a disorganized product appearance.
  • Store employees typically replace merchandise at the front of a shelf or pallet by manually sliding or picking up merchandise from the rear of the shelf or pallet, moving the merchandise to the front, and placing new product behind the product that has been moved to the front. The process of moving merchandise from a rearward position of a shelf or pallet to a more forward position is known as “fronting” the merchandise. This can prove to be a difficult task when other shelving is located directly over the shelves or pallets, making access to the merchandise at the rear of the shelves or pallets cumbersome or awkward.
  • Alternatively, store employees can, with certain types of shelves or pallets, load shelves from the rear by placing product on the rear of the shelf or pallet and pushing the product already on the shelf or pallet toward the front. This type of loading can continue until the shelf or pallet is full and/or all the product is fronted.
  • However, in many cases (e.g., in cases where a shelf or pallet is loaded with product from the rear) it can be difficult for a store employee to determine when a shelf or pallet is completely loaded or when product is positioned at the front of the shelf or pallet. In such cases, the store employee can push additional product onto the shelf when the shelf is completely loaded or can push the product with excessive force, both of which can cause product to fall from the front of the shelf and/or can damage the product.
  • As a result of these and other problems, employees often neglect to front merchandise. This can have several undesirable consequences. For example, if the front of the shelf or pallet remains unstocked, customers who wish to purchase the merchandise may have to reach to the back of the shelf or pallet in order to obtain the merchandise. Many customers will either forego purchasing such merchandise due to its reduced accessibility or will injure themselves in an attempt to reach and retrieve the merchandise. Also, the failure to restock the front of such shelves or pallets presents an unsightly appearance to consumers and may give consumers the impression that a store is sold out or is low in stock of a particular item.
  • As an alternative to foregoing fronting of merchandise, store employees may restock the front of the shelf or pallet using newer merchandise, merchandise that has just arrived at the store, or merchandise that is stored elsewhere in the store, rather than using stock already stored or located at the rear of the display shelf or pallet. While this approach may temporarily solve the problem relating to the lack of readily-available merchandise, it often results in newer stock being sold prior to older stock. This can create stocking problems and, depending on the type of merchandise in question, result in spoiled or expired merchandise that cannot be sold.
  • Although the problems and limitations described above are with respect to merchandise on shelves, racks, or pallets, similar problems and limitations exist in non-retail environments, such as in warehouses, mail and shipping facilities, and in other locations where items are stored and/or displayed on pallets, shelves, racks, or other similar structures. As used herein, the term “shelf” refers to all such structures.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • Some embodiments of the present invention provide a product fronting assembly for fronting products, wherein the product fronting assembly comprises a base; a rear member coupled to the base and slidable therealong; and a ratchet mechanism movable with respect to the base and engageable with the rear member, the ratchet mechanism rotatable between a first position in which movement of the ratchet mechanism in a first direction toward a front of the product fronting assembly moves the rear member in the first direction, and a second position in which the rear member does not move in response to movement of the ratchet mechanism.
  • In some embodiments, a product fronting assembly for fronting products is provided, and comprises a pair of opposed side walls between which product is positionable; a frame slidable relative to the opposed side walls, the frame comprising a front at least partially defining a handle; a side supported by one of the opposed side walls; and a rear member rotatable relative to the opposed side walls, the rear member moveable toward a front and a rear of the product fronting assembly by movement of the front of the frame.
  • Some embodiments of the present invention provide a product fronting assembly for fronting products, wherein the product fronting assembly comprises a base; a frame coupled to and slidable relative to the base, the frame comprising a front at least partially defining a handle; a rear member rotatable relative to the front of the frame, the rear moveable toward a front and a rear of the product fronting assembly by movement of the front of the frame; and an elongated member extending between and coupling the front and rear of the frame.
  • In some embodiments, a product fronting assembly for fronting product supported by a shelf comprising a front and a rear is provided, and comprises an elongated flexible element comprising a first end; a second end; and a length therebetween, at least part of the length of the elongated flexible element wound in a coil at the first end of the elongated flexible element; and a rear member coupled to the elongated flexible element at a distance from the first end of the elongated flexible element, the rear member positioned to engage and move product upon the shelf responsive to movement of the elongated flexible element in a forward direction.
  • Some embodiments of the present invention provide a product fronting assembly for fronting product, wherein the product fronting assembly comprises a base having a front, a rear, and opposed sides; a rear member movable along the base and toward the front of the base to move product toward the front of the base, the rear member also movable along the base and toward the rear of the base, the rear member coupled to the base by a side of the rear member extending at least partially around one of the opposed sides of the base; a front member accessible by a user to move the rear member; and an elongated intermediate member extending between and coupling the front and rear members.
  • The product fronting assembly according to the present invention can be used to front merchandise, packages, parts, equipment, and any other product. Although the present invention is particularly well-suited for fronting items in retail environments, the term “product” as used herein refers to all such items in any environment, including without limitation those described above.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • The present invention is further described with reference to the accompanying drawings, which show different embodiments of the present invention. However, it should be noted that the invention as disclosed in the accompanying drawings is illustrated by way of example only. The various elements and combinations of elements described below and illustrated in the drawings can be arranged and organized differently to result in embodiments which are still within the spirit and scope of the present invention.
  • FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a number of product fronting assemblies according to an embodiment of the present invention, shown with products stored thereon in phantom;
  • FIG. 2 is a front perspective view of the product fronting assemblies shown in FIG. 1, shown with some of the product fronting assemblies pulled to a forward position;
  • FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of a product fronting assembly shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, taken along line 3-3 in FIG. 2;
  • FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of a product fronting assembly shown in FIGS. 1-3, taken along line 4-4 in FIG. 3;
  • FIG. 5 is a front perspective view of a product fronting assembly shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, shown with the product fronting assembly in a loading position;
  • FIG. 6 is a partial cross-sectional view of the product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 5, taken along line 6-6 in FIG. 5;
  • FIG. 7 is a front perspective view of a number of product fronting assemblies according to another embodiment of the present invention, shown with products stored thereon in phantom;
  • FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of a product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 7, taken along line 8-8 in FIG. 7;
  • FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of a product fronting assembly shown in FIGS. 7 and 8, taken along line 9-9 in FIG. 8;
  • FIG. 10 is a partial cross-sectional view similar to the cross-sectional view shown in FIG. 8, shown with the product fronting assembly in a loading position;
  • FIG. 11 is a partial cross-sectional view similar to the cross-sectional view shown in FIG. 10, showing another embodiment of the product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 7;
  • FIG. 12 is a partial cross-sectional view similar to the cross-sectional view shown in FIG. 9, showing another embodiment of the product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 7;
  • FIG. 13 is a partial cross-sectional view similar to the cross-sectional view shown in FIG. 8, showing another embodiment of a base of the product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 7;
  • FIG. 14 is a partial cross-sectional view similar to the cross-sectional view shown in FIG. 8, showing another embodiment of a base of the product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 7;
  • FIG. 15 is a front perspective view of another embodiment of a handle of the product fronting assemblies shown in FIGS. 1-14;
  • FIG. 16 is a front perspective view of another embodiment of a handle of the product fronting assemblies shown in FIGS. 1-14;
  • FIG. 17 is a rear perspective view of the product fronting assemblies shown in FIG. 7, shown with a ratchet mechanism return assembly;
  • FIG. 18 is a front perspective view of a number of product fronting assemblies according to another embodiment of the present invention, shown with products stored thereon in phantom;
  • FIG. 19 is a broken top view of a product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 18;
  • FIG. 20 is a cross-sectional view of a product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 18, taken along line 20-20 in FIG. 19;
  • FIG. 21 is a front perspective view of a product fronting assembly according to another embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 22 is a broken top view of the product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 21;
  • FIG. 23 is a broken cross-sectional view of the product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 21, taken along line 23-23 in FIG. 22;
  • FIG. 24 is a front perspective view of a product fronting assembly according to another embodiment of the present invention, shown with products stored thereon in phantom;
  • FIG. 25 is a front perspective view of the product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 24, shown with the product fronting assembly pulled to a forward position;
  • FIG. 26 is a cross-sectional view of the product fronting assembly shown in FIGS. 24 and 25, taken along line 26-26 in FIG. 24;
  • FIG. 27 is a cross-sectional view of the product fronting assembly shown in FIGS. 24-26, taken along line 27-27 in FIG. 26;
  • FIG. 28 is a front perspective view of a handle and a bracket of the product fronting assembly shown in FIGS. 24 and 25;
  • FIG. 29 is a cross-sectional view of the handle and the bracket shown in FIG. 28, taken along line 29-29 in FIG. 28;
  • FIG. 30 is a cross-sectional view of another embodiment of the handle shown in FIG. 28, taken along line 29-29 in FIG. 28;
  • FIG. 31 is a front perspective view of a product fronting assembly according to another embodiment of the present invention, shown with products stored thereon in phantom;
  • FIG. 32 is a front perspective view of a product fronting assembly according to another embodiment of the present invention, shown with products stored thereon in phantom;
  • FIG. 33 is a front perspective view of a number of product fronting assemblies according to another embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 34 is a front perspective view of a product fronting assembly according to another embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 35 is a front perspective view of a number of product fronting assemblies according to another embodiment of the present invention, shown with products stored thereon in phantom;
  • FIG. 36 is a partial exploded view of a product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 35;
  • FIG. 37 is a cross-sectional view of a product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 35, taken along line 37-37 in FIG. 35;
  • FIG. 37A is a cross-sectional view similar to the cross-sectional view in FIG. 37, showing another embodiment of a mounting strip of the product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 35;
  • FIG. 38 is a cross-sectional view similar to the cross-sectional view in FIG. 37, showing another embodiment of a mounting strip of the product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 35;
  • FIG. 39 is a cross-sectional view of a product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 35, taken along line 39-39 in FIG. 35;
  • FIG. 39A is an enlarged view of a portion of the product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 39;
  • FIG. 39B is a cross-sectional view similar to the cross-sectional view in FIG. 39, showing another embodiment of a base of the product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 35;
  • FIG. 40 is a rear perspective view of a product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 35;
  • FIG. 40A is a rear perspective view of another embodiment of a product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 35;
  • FIG. 41 is a cross-sectional view of a product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 35, taken along line 41-41 in FIG. 35;
  • FIG. 42 is a cross-sectional view similar to the cross-sectional view in FIG. 41, showing the embodiment of the mounting strip shown in FIG. 38;
  • FIG. 43 is an enlarged top view of another embodiment of a base of a product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 35, a mounting strip of the product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 35 is partially shown;
  • FIG. 44 is a cross-sectional view of the base shown in FIG. 43, taken along line 44-44 in FIG. 43;
  • FIG. 45 is a cross-sectional view of the base shown in FIG. 43, taken along line 45-45 in FIG. 43;
  • FIG. 46 is a front perspective view of a product fronting assembly according to another embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 46 a is a cross-sectional view of a portion of a product fronting assembly according to another embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 47 is a side view of the product fronting assembly illustrated in FIG. 46, showing products toward a rear of the assembly that are positioned to be fronted;
  • FIG. 48 is a top view of the product fronting assembly illustrated in FIG. 46, showing products toward a rear of the assembly that are positioned to be fronted;
  • FIG. 49 is a side view of the product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 46, showing products that have been fronted by the product fronting assembly;
  • FIG. 50 is a front view of the product fronting assembly illustrated in FIG. 46;
  • FIG. 51 is a partial cross-sectional view of the product fronting assembly illustrated in FIG. 50, taken along line 56-56 in FIG. 50;
  • FIG. 52 is a partial top view of the product fronting assembly illustrated in FIG. 46.
  • FIG. 53 is a side view of a portion of the product fronting assembly shown in FIG. 46;
  • FIG. 54 is a side view of an alternate embodiment of the product fronting assembly portion illustrated in FIG. 53; and
  • FIG. 55 is a side view of another alternate embodiment of the product fronting assembly portion illustrated in FIG. 53.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • FIGS. 1-6 show a product display and fronting assembly 20 according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention. The assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 1-6 is adapted for installation on a steel shelf 24 by way of example only. Although a steel shelf-based assembly is shown, the present invention can be employed with any other product storage or display device or assembly used to store and/or display products 28 (e.g., pallets, racks, and the like). Although the shelf 24 is made of steel in the assembly shown, the shelf 24 can be made of materials other than steel, such as iron, stainless steel, or any other metal, plastic, wood, composite material, and the like. In some embodiments of the present invention, the assembly 20 is utilized without a shelf or other product storage or display device and supports the product 28 by itself.
  • The assembly 20 is used to move products 28 stored the shelf 24 forward (such as to fill empty spaces at the front of the shelf, to make product more accessible, and the like). In some embodiments of the present invention, one assembly 20 is utilized per shelf 24. In other embodiments, multiple assemblies 20 are utilized per shelf 24. In still other embodiments, one assembly 20 can be utilized for multiple shelves 24 (e.g., spanning across two or more shelves).
  • In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1-6, each assembly 20 includes a base 32 supported on top of a shelf 24 and coupled thereto with fasteners. Although fasteners are used in the illustrated embodiment, the assembly 20 can be coupled to the shelf 24 in a variety of other ways. By way of example only, the assembly 20 can be coupled to the shelf 24 by welding or integrally forming the assembly 20 with the shelf 24.
  • The assembly 20 also includes an actuator assembly 36 and a paddle 40, both of which are supported by the base 32 and slidable relative thereto. The actuator assembly 36 is movable by a user to engage and pull the paddle 40 in a forward direction in one rotational orientation of the actuator assembly 36 (and, more particularly, of a handle 68 and rod 72 of the actuator assembly 36 as described below) and, in another rotational orientation does not engage the paddle 40 for movement. The actuator assembly 36 can take a number of different forms capable of performing this function, and in the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 1-6 is a ratchet assembly 36.
  • The ratchet assembly 36 in the illustrated embodiment is coupled to the paddle 40 and is engageable therewith to move the paddle 40 toward the front of the assembly 20, thereby pushing products 28 with the paddle 40 to move the products 28 toward the front of the assembly 20. In some embodiments, a front stop 44 is positioned at the front of the assembly 20 to limit the forward movement of the products 28.
  • The base 32 can include one or more downwardly extending support legs 48 that contact the shelf 24 to provide support to the assembly 20. Recesses 52 can be defined in the support legs 48 and can be shaped and dimensioned to receive cross-bar portions 24 of the shelf (see FIG. 1). Such a recess and cross-bar engagement assists in supporting the assembly 20 on the shelf 24.
  • The base 32 includes a product support surface 56 upon which products 28 are positionable and supportable. The support surface 56 is substantially planar and can extend beyond the support legs 48 to provide lips 60 (discussed in greater detail below). The support surface 56 can be manufactured of a material having a relatively low coefficient of friction, thereby making it easier for products 28 to move along the support surface 56. In some embodiments of the present invention, a slip sheet can be coupled to a top of the support surface 56 and products 28 can be positioned on top of the slip sheet. The slip sheet can be manufactured of any suitable material capable of reducing friction between products 28 and the support surface 56, thereby making it easier for the products 28 to move along the support surface 56.
  • The base 32 defines a cavity 64 shaped and dimensioned to receive the ratchet mechanism 36 therein. In the illustrated exemplary embodiment, the base 32 also has a bottom surface to engage the shelf 24 for providing additional stability to the assembly 20 when coupled to the shelf 24. In some embodiments of the present invention, recesses can be defined in an outer surface of the base 32 similar in shape, dimension, and function to the recesses 52 defined in the support legs described above.
  • With continued reference to FIGS. 1-6, the ratchet mechanism 36 is slidable within the cavity 64 in a forward direction toward the front of the assembly 20 and in a rearward direction toward the rear of the assembly 20. The ratchet mechanism 36 includes a handle 68 and a rod 72 coupled to one another, and is rotatable relative to the base 32 in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. When the ratchet mechanism 36 is completely pushed toward the rear of the assembly 20, the ratchet mechanism 36 is in a stored state. In some embodiments, the handle 68 in this state can be snapped or otherwise resiliently held between portions of the front stop 44. Alternatively or in addition, handle 68 may be latched, fastened, locked, or otherwise coupled to one or more portions of the front stop 44. In the stored state, the handle 68 can assist in limiting forward movement of the product 28.
  • The rod 72 includes a plurality of substantially aligned teeth or projections 76 extending therefrom. Each projection 76 has a first surface 80 extending substantially perpendicular from the rod 72 and a second surface 84 ramped upward in a direction from the rear of the rod 72 toward the front of the rod 72.
  • With further reference to FIGS. 1-6, the paddle 40 in the illustrated exemplary embodiment includes a front product engaging surface 88 to pushs products 28 positioned on the base 32 in front of the paddle 40, a pair of hooks 92 engaged with the lips 60 to guide the paddle 40 along the base 32 and to maintain engagement between the paddle 40 and the base 32, and a rotatable gate 96 positioned in an aperture 100 defined in the paddle 40. The gate 96 can include a first arm 104 positioned above a pivot 106 (see FIGS. 3 and 4) and in front of the product engaging surface 88 and a second arm 108 positioned below the pivot 106 and behind the product engaging surface 88. The gate 96 is at rest when the first and second arms 104, 108 are rotated into engagement with the adjacent surfaces of the paddle 40. In the illustrated embodiment of the present invention, gravity forces the gate 96 toward the rest position. In some embodiments of the present invention, a biasing member, such as, for example, a torsion spring, a coil spring, or any other suitable type of biasing member, is used to bias the gate 96 toward its rest position.
  • As discussed above, the actuator assembly employed in the illustrated embodiment is a ratchet assembly 36 in which teeth 76 of a rod 72 driveably engage the paddle 40 when the rod 72 is placed in one rotational orientation. In another selected rotational orientation of the rod 72, the teeth 76 will not engage the paddle 40. It will be appreciated by one of ordinary skill in the art that other actuator assemblies can perform the same function without employing ratchet teeth 76 and a gate 96 as described above. Such devices include a reed assembly through which an elongated element can readily pass in one direction but not in another (adapted, however, to permit two-way movement in at least one rotational orientation of the elongated element), pin or ball bearing assemblies through which an elongated element can move in a similar manner, and the like. Examples of such alternative structures include John Guest®-type fittings (often used for fluid connections), and cable seals for cargo containers. Still other examples of assemblies capable of performing the same functions described above exist, all of which fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention.
  • Having thus described the components of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 1-6, operation of the assembly 20 will now be discussed with respect to fronting of products 28 positioned in the assembly 20 and loading of products 28 onto the assembly 20.
  • With particular reference to FIGS. 1-4, the ratchet mechanism 36 has a fronting position with the projections 76 positioned in a substantially vertical orientation. In the fronting position, the second arm 108 of the gate 96 extends sufficiently downward to align with and be engaged by the first surface 80 of one of the plurality of projections 76. When product 28 is removed from the front of the assembly, the ratchet mechanism 36 is pulled forward to bring the first surface 80 of one of the plurality of projections 76 into engagement with the second arm 108 of the gate 96. In the illustrated exemplary embodiment, the gate 96 is biased in a counter-clockwise direction as viewed in FIG. 4 so that the first arm 104 abuts the product engaging surface 88 to prevent additional counter-clockwise rotation of the gate 96. Additional forward movement of the ratchet mechanism 36 moves the projection 76 against the gate 96, thereby moving the paddle 40 toward the front of the assembly 20. The product engaging surface 88 pushes product 28 in front of the paddle 40 toward the front of the assembly 20 until the product 28 engages the front stop 44.
  • The ratchet mechanism 36 is returned to the stored state by pushing it rearward. During rearward movement of the ratchet mechanism 36, the second surface 84 of the projections 76 engages the second arm 108 of the gate 96 to rotate the gate 96 in a clockwise direction as illustrated in phantom in FIG. 4, thereby allowing the projections 76 to pass under the gate 96 without moving the paddle 40. After each projection 76 passes by the gate 96, the gate 96 returns to the rest position under the influence of gravity. In some embodiments of the present invention, a biasing member, such as, for example, a torsion spring, a coil spring, or any other suitable type of biasing member, is used to bias the gate 96 toward the rest position. As product 28 is subsequently removed from the front of the assembly 20, the ratchet mechanism 36 is repeatedly pulled toward the front of the shelf 24 to front the remaining product 28 and is moved in a rearward direction to return the ratchet mechanism 36 to the stored state.
  • With particular reference to FIGS. 5 and 6, the ratchet mechanism 36 can have a loading position in which the projections 76 are moved away from a gate engaging position (e.g., oriented substantially laterally in the illustrated exemplary embodiment). The ratchet mechanism 36 is movable between fronting and loading positions by rotating the ratchet mechanism 36. In the loading position, the ratchet mechanism 36 is rotated to position the projections 76 at a height below the second arm 108 of the gate 96 so as not to interfere with the gate 96 as the paddle 40 is moved along the base 32.
  • After rotating the ratchet mechanism to the loading position, product 28 is loaded onto the assembly 20 by placing the product 28 onto the base 32 and moving the product 28 against the paddle 40 in a rearward direction. As product 28 is added to the shelf 24, the product 28 pushes the paddle 40 rearwardly along the base 32 without interfering with the projections 76 on the ratchet mechanism 36. When product loading is complete, the ratchet mechanism 36 can be rotated back to the fronting position.
  • With continued reference to the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 1-6 and described above, it should be noted that components of the assembly 20 can be at varying elevations with respect to the products 28 and with respect to each other. These components can be at any elevation, such as below the products 28, at the same level of the products 28, and above the products 28, or at any other elevation in which at least a portion of the assembly 20 is positioned to contact and move the products 28 along the shelf 24.
  • Referring to FIGS. 7-11, another exemplary embodiment of the assembly 20 according to the present invention is illustrated. With some exceptions (described in greater detail below), the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 7-11 is similar to the assembly 20 described above with reference to FIGS. 1-6. Accordingly, reference is made to the above discussion regarding the structure, operation, and alternatives of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 7-11, wherein like elements and features of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 7-11 have like reference numerals.
  • Like the embodiment of FIGS. 1-6, the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 7-11 has an actuator assembly 36 movable by a user to front product 28 in the assembly 20. The actuator assembly 36 in the illustrated embodiment is a ratchet mechanism 36 for moving a paddle 40 to front product 28. The ratchet mechanism 36 is supported in a cavity 64 of a base 32, and has a rod 72 with a plurality of recesses 112 therein (along the length of the rod 72). The paddle 40 includes a gate support 116 within which a gate 120 is slidable, and a biasing member 124 engaged with the gate 120 to bias the gate 120 toward the rod 72 of the ratchet mechanism 36 (FIGS. 8-14 show various embodiments of the gate and gate support).
  • With particular reference to FIGS. 7-9, the ratchet mechanism 36 of the assembly 20 is illustrated in a fronting state. In particular, the recesses 112 of the rod 72 are oriented in an upward direction to catch the gate 120 therein. To front product 28, the ratchet mechanism 36 is moved forward to catch the gate 120 in one of the recesses 112 (if not already caught) and to engage a substantially vertical wall 128 of the one of the recesses 112 with the gate 120 (if not already engaged). Additional forward movement of the ratchet mechanism 36 moves the vertical wall 128 against the gate 120, thereby moving the paddle 40 toward the front of the assembly 20. The product engaging surface 88 of the paddle 40 engages product 28 positioned in the assembly 20 and in front of the paddle 40 to move the product 28 forward until the product 28 engages the front stop 44.
  • With particular reference to FIG. 10, the ratchet mechanism 36 can be returned to the stored state by rotating the ratchet mechanism 36 to the loading position. In the illustrated exemplary embodiment of the present invention, the loading position is at least ninety degrees of rotation from the fronting position. In some embodiments of the present invention, the loading position is greater than or equal to ninety degrees of rotation and less than or equal to two-hundred and seventy degrees of rotation from the fronting position of the ratchet mechanism 36. Rotation of the ratchet mechanism 36 in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction moves the recesses 112 out of alignment with the gate 120 and moves the gate 120 upwardly against the bias of the biasing member 124. After sufficient rotation of the ratchet mechanism 36, the gate 120 is no longer caught within one of the recesses 112, and engages a smooth surface of the rod 72, thereby allowing rearward movement of the ratchet mechanism 36 without moving the paddle 40 rearward along the base 32.
  • Referring to FIG. 11, an alternate embodiment of the ratchet mechanism 36 illustrated in FIGS. 7-10 is shown, and includes recesses 112 that require a larger turn to move the ratchet mechanism 36 between the fronting position (shown in FIG. 11) and the loading position. For example, the recesses 112 can be shaped to require 180 degrees of ratchet mechanism rotation to move the ratchet mechanism between fronting and loading positions.
  • Referring to FIG. 12, another alternate embodiment of the ratchet mechanism 36 illustrated in FIGS. 7-10 is shown, and includes recesses 112 that have a front ramped surface 132. In this embodiment, the ratchet mechanism 36 can be returned to the stored condition without rotating the ratchet mechanism 36 to a loading position. Moving the ratchet mechanism 36 rearward brings the ramped surfaces 132 of the recesses 112 into engagement with the gate 120, which allows the gate 120 to ride upward over the ramped surfaces 132 and against the bias of the biasing member 124. The biasing force of the biasing member 124 is sufficient to facilitate substantial continuous engagement between the gate 120 and the rod 72 during forward and rearward movement of the ratchet mechanism 36. After each ramped surface 132 passes by the gate 120, the gate 120 moves downward into the next recess 112 under the biasing force applied by the biasing member 124.
  • Referring back to FIG. 10, product 28 is loaded onto the assembly 20 by rotating the ratchet mechanism 36 to the loading position, placing the product 28 upon the base 32, and pushing the product 28 against the paddle 40 in a rearward direction. Under the rearward force of the product 28, the paddle 40 slides rearward along the base 32 without interference between the gate 120 and the recesses 112. Additional product 28 is loaded onto the assembly 20 by pushing the additional product 28 against the product 28 already positioned on the assembly 20 to move both the product 28 and the paddle 40 further rearward. The ratchet mechanism 36 can be rotated back to the fronting position after the assembly 20 is sufficiently loaded with product 28.
  • In the embodiments described above, the gate 96, 120 (if employed) is described as being spring-biased into a position in which the gate 96, 120 can engage the ratchet mechanism 36. However, it should be noted that in each embodiment, the gate can instead be biased into such a position under the force of gravity. For example, the gate 120 in FIGS. 8-14 need not necessarily be spring-biased to perform the functions of the gate 120 described above.
  • Referring to FIG. 13, an alternate embodiment of the base 32 is illustrated. In this embodiment, the base 32 includes fastener apertures 133 defined through the product support surface 56 for receiving fasteners to mount the base 32 to a shelf 24. The base 32 can define any number of fastener apertures 133 therethrough.
  • Referring to FIG. 14, another alternate embodiment of the base 32 is illustrated. In this embodiment, the base 32 includes cavity support legs 134 extending downwardly from a cavity 64 in which the ratchet mechanism 36 is received as described above. The cavity support legs 134 can be co-terminal with the support legs 48 (if employed) and can rest or mount to the shelf 24 to provide additional support to the base 32. It should be understood that support legs may be disposed anywhere between the support legs 48 and the cavity 64 while still falling within the spirit and scope of the present invention.
  • FIGS. 15 and 16 illustrate alternate embodiments of the handle 68 employed in the assemblies 20 described above. These handles 68 and the front stops 44 (if employed) useable in combination with the handles 68 can be complementary shaped to resiliently hold the handles 68 front stops 44. Alternatively, the handles 68 and front stops 44 can be shaped to enable the handles 68 to be secured in place with respect to the front stops 44 in any suitable manner, such as by latching, fastening, locking, and the like. It should be understood that the ratchet mechanism 36 can include any type, shape and size of handle 68 while still falling within the spirit and scope of the present invention.
  • Any of the various types of ratchet mechanisms 36 described above can be biased to a fronting position, if desired. An example of a manner in which the ratchet mechanism 36 can be biased toward such a position is illustrated in FIG. 17. The fronting assembly 20 in FIG. 17 includes a ratchet mechanism return assembly 135 that can be used in combination with any of the fronting assembly embodiments described above with reference to FIGS. 1-16. The return assembly 135 is operable to return the ratchet mechanism 36 to the fronting position after the ratchet mechanism 36 has been rotated from the fronting position. The exemplary return assembly 135 illustrated in FIG. 17 includes a pusher 137 having an upper portion 138 positioned above the product support surface 56 and a lower portion 139 positioned in the cavity 64 and slidable therein. The return assembly 135 also includes a spring 141 positioned to rotatably bias the pusher 137, such as by being wrapped at least partially around the rod 72 as shown in FIG. 17 and having a first end connected to the upper portion 138 of the pusher 135 and a second end connected to the rod 72. In some embodiments, an aperture is defined through the lower portion 139 of the pusher 135 and is shaped and dimensioned to receive the rod 72 therethrough. In other embodiments, the pusher 135 is connected to the rod 72 in any other suitable manner. In either case, the rod 72 is rotatable relative to the pusher 135.
  • To rotate the ratchet mechanism 36 out of the fronting position, a user exerts a rotational force on the rod 72 (via the handle 68) sufficient to overcome the bias of the spring 141. Once the spring bias has been overcome, the rod 72 rotates relative to the pusher 135 to stress the spring 141. The pusher 135 is then slidable forward and backward along the base 32. When the rotational force on the rod 72 is released, the bias of the spring 141 will rotate the ratchet mechanism 36 back to the fronting position.
  • Referring now to FIGS. 18-20, another exemplary embodiment of the assembly 20 according to the present invention is illustrated. With some exceptions (described in greater detail below), the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 18-20 is similar to the assemblies 20 described above with reference to FIGS. 1-17. Accordingly, reference is made to the above discussion regarding the structure, operation, and alternatives of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 18-20, wherein like elements and features of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 18-20 have like reference numerals.
  • Like the other embodiments of the assembly 20 described above, the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 18-20 has a fronting position and a loading position and is operable to front products 28 when in the fronting position and to facilitate loading when in the loading position. Although product 28 can be loaded into the assembly 20 from any direction (as is the case in the other embodiments described herein), the assembly 20 is especially useful for loading product 28 thereon from the rear of the assembly 20.
  • The illustrated exemplary assembly 20 of FIGS. 18-20 includes a pair of opposed side walls 136 between which product 18 is positionable. In the illustrated embodiment of the present invention, the side walls 136 are attached to the shelf 24 and the product 28 is supported on top of the shelf 24. In some embodiments of the present invention, the side walls 136 are attached to a base or a slip sheet that rests upon (and can be attached to) the shelf 24 with product 28 being supported on the base or the slip sheet. In such embodiments, the base 32 can be similar to the base 32 described above with reference to the embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 1-17 or can have any other appropriate shape and size.
  • The assembly 20 in FIGS. 18-20 also includes an actuator 140 movable by a user to front product 28 in the assembly 20. The actuator 140 is a frame slidable and rotatable relative to the side walls 136 and the shelf 24. The frame 140 may be of a unitary or assembled structure formed by a front member 144 defining a handle 148, an elongated side member 152 joined to the front member 144 and supported within a support channel 156 on one of the side walls 136, and a rear member 160 joined to the side member 152 and having a product engaging surface 164 engageable with product 28 positioned between the walls 136. The support channel 156 defines a substantially C-shaped slot 168 extending substantially the entire length of the side wall 136 to enable forward and rearward movement of the rear pusher member 160 of the frame 140 along the channel 156. The support channel 156 can be located on either side of an assembly 20 to support the side member 152 of the frame 140. In some embodiments (such as that shown in FIGS. 18-20,) the rear member 160 of the frame 140 can be received within and slide along the support channel 156. Depending upon the shape of the rear member 160 and side member 152 of the frame 140, the rear member 160 of the frame 140 can be movable along the support channel 156 in different rotational positions of the frame 140 or only in limited rotational positions of the frame 140. For example, the frame 140 illustrated in FIGS. 18-20 is movable along the support channel 156 when in the product fronting position (see the far left and middle frames 140 illustrated in FIG. 18) and is not movable along the support channel 156 when in the loading position (see the far right frame 140 illustrated in FIG. 18). In other embodiments, the frame 140 is shaped to permit movement along the support channel 156 regardless of the rotational position of the frame 140.
  • Although a support channel 156 is employed in the embodiment of FIGS. 18-20, it should be noted that the frame 140 can be slidably mounted to the side wall 136 of the assembly 20 in a number of other manners, such as by the side member 152 of the frame 140 being slidably received within one or more apertured lugs, bosses, hooks, or loops extending from the side wall 136 of the assembly 20, by a mating engagement between an extension of the frame 140 and one or more elongated grooves, slots, or other apertures in the side wall 136, and the like.
  • In the illustrated embodiment of the present invention, the front member 144 and rear member 160 of the frame 140 extend partially between the side walls 136. However, the front member 144 and rear member 160 can extend any distance between the side walls 136, such as, for example, substantially completely therebetween.
  • In some embodiments, the assembly 20 further includes a biasing member 172 coupled to one of the side walls 136 and the rear member 160 of the frame to pull the frame 140 rearward on the assembly 20. Although a number of different biasing members can be employed to perform this function, some biasing members 172 include a housing 176 and flexible media 180 winddable in the housing 176 and coupled to the rear member 160 of the frame 140. In the illustrated embodiment of the present invention, the biasing member 172 is coupled to the same side wall 136 as the side member 152 of the frame 140. However, the biasing member 172 can instead be coupled to the assembly 20 or the shelf 24 in any suitable location as long as the biasing member 172 is coupled to the frame 140 to pull or bias the frame 140 rearward on the assembly 20.
  • Having thus described the components of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 18-20, operation of the assembly 20 will be discussed with respect to fronting and loading of products 28 in the assembly 20.
  • With particular reference to FIG. 18, the assembly 20 is illustrated in a variety of positions, including a fronting position and a loading position. To front products 28, the assembly 20 is positioned in the fronting position, in which the front member 144 and the rear member 160 are positioned substantially perpendicular to the side walls 136 of the assembly and extend between the side walls 136 to position the rear member 160 behind products 28 in the assembly 20. A user grasps the handle 148 and pulls the frame 140 forward to overcome the rearward bias of the biasing member 172. The rear member 160 is aligned with the slot 168 defined by the support channel 156 and slides forward therein to bring the product engaging surface 164 of the frame 140 into contact with product 28 positioned between the side walls 136 (if not already engaged therewith). Additional forward movement of the frame 140 moves the product 28 forward until the product 28 engages the front stop 44. The frame 140 can be returned to the most rearward position (or stored condition) by letting biasing member 172 pull the frame 140 rearward.
  • To load product 28 into the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 18-20, the handle 148 is rotated upward toward the side wall 136 of the assembly 20, thereby rotating the rear member 160 upward toward and substantially parallel to the side wall 136. With particular reference to FIG. 19, the rear member 160 is positioned behind the support channel 156 when the frame 140 is in the stored condition. This permits the rear member 160 to be rotated without interference from the support channel 156. With the rear member 160 rotated upward, product 28 can be easily loaded between the side walls 136 of the assembly from the rear of the assembly 20. After the assembly 20 is sufficiently loaded with product 28, the handle 148 can be rotated downward, thereby rotating the rear member 160 behind the product 28.
  • Referring to FIGS. 21-23, another exemplary embodiment of the assembly 20 according to the present invention is illustrated. With some exceptions (described in greater detail below), the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 21-23 is similar to the assemblies 20 described above with reference to FIGS. 1-20. Accordingly, reference is made to the above discussion regarding the structure, operation, and alternatives of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 21-23, wherein like elements and features of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 21-23 have like reference numerals.
  • The assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 21-23 has a fronting position and a loading position, and is operable to front products 28 when in the fronting position and to facilitate loading when in the loading position. The assembly 20 is especially useful for loading product 28 thereon from the rear of the assembly 20. Like the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 18-20, the assembly 20 in FIGS. 21-23 has opposed side walls 136 spaced a distance from one another to receive product 28 therebetween. In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 21-23, the side walls 136 are coupled to a shelf 24 and the product 28 is supported on top of the shelf 24. In other embodiments, the side walls 136 are coupled to a base or a slip sheet that rests upon (and can be attached to) the shelf 24 with product 28 being supported on the base or the slip sheet. In such embodiments, the base 32 can be similar to the base 32 described above with reference to the embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 1-17 or can have any other appropriate shape and size.
  • Each side wall 136 of the assembly 20 includes a support channel 156 defining a slot 168 extending substantially the length of the support channel 156. The slot 168 has a generally C-shaped cross section, although other cross-sectional shapes can be employed as desired.
  • The assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 21-23 also has an actuator 140 movable by a user to front product 28 in the assembly 20. The actuator 140 in the illustrated embodiment is a frame 140 employed for fronting product 28 in the assembly 20. The frame 140 may be formed as a unitary or assembled structure, and includes a front member 144 defining a handle 148, side members 152 joined to the front member 144 and supported in the support channels 156, and a rear pusher member 160 joined to both side members 152 and having a product engaging surface 164 engageable with product 28 positioned between the side walls 136 of the assembly. The side members 152 are positioned in the support channels 156 and slidable therein. The rear member 160 includes a rotatable back member 184 positionable behind product 28 between the side walls 136, a stop member 188 positioned behind the back member 184 and attached to the frame 140 at the non-rotating corners thereof, and a biasing member 192 engaging the back member 184 and biasing the back member 184 toward the stop member 188. Although a biasing member 192 can be employed as just described, in other embodiments the back member is biased into a downward position by gravity.
  • In the illustrated embodiment of the present invention, the stop member 188 is positioned to orient the back member 184 in a substantially perpendicular orientation with respect to the shelf 24 when the back member is biased against the stop member 188. However, in other embodiments the stop member can be positioned to orient the back member 184 in any other orientation with respect to the shelf 24 (such as, for example, any angled position relative to the shelf 24). A portion of the rear member 160 is positioned in each of the slots 168, facilitating sliding of the rear member 160 along the support channels 156 without substantial interference.
  • Having thus described the components of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 21-23, operation of the assembly 20 will be discussed with respect to fronting and loading of products 28 in the assembly 20.
  • With particular reference to FIG. 21, the assembly 20 is illustrated in the fronting position. To front product 28, a user grasps the handle 148 and pulls the frame 140 forward along the side walls 136 so that the product engaging surface 164 pushes product 28 positioned between the side walls 136 forward. The engagement between the stop member 188 and the back member 184 prevents the back member 184 from rotating rearward when the product engaging surface 164 engages the product 28 and the frame 140 is moved forward. Additional forward movement of the frame 140 moves product 28 forward until the product 28 engages the front stop 44. In the illustrated exemplary embodiment of FIGS. 21-23, the frame 140 is returned to the rearward-most or stored position by pushing the frame 140 rearward. In some embodiments of the present invention, the assembly 20 also includes a biasing member (similar to the biasing member 172 described above or the alternatives thereto) coupled to the frame 140 to bias the frame 140 rearward. In such embodiments, the frame 140 returns to the rearward-most or stored position merely by releasing the frame 140.
  • To load product 28 in the assembly illustrated in FIGS. 21-23, the assembly 20 is moved to the loading position, after which time product 28 is pushed against a rear surface of the back member 184 to overcome the bias of the biasing member 192. Pushing product 28 against the rear surface rotates the back member 184 toward the front of the assembly 20 (counter-clockwise as viewed in FIG. 23) as illustrated in phantom in FIG. 23 so that product 28 can be loaded onto the shelf under back member 184. After the product 28 passes by the back member 184, the back member 184 automatically rotates rearward under the bias of the biasing member 192 until it once again engages the stop member 188 and is in the fronting position. Product 28 is loaded in this manner until the shelf 24 is sufficiently loaded with product 28.
  • It should be understood that the frame 140 can take different forms and can be oriented within the assembly 20 in various configurations with respect to the frame 140 illustrated in FIGS. 21-23. By way of example only, another embodiment of the assembly 20 according to the present invention is illustrated in FIG. 33. With some exceptions (described in greater detail below), the assembly 20 illustrated in FIG. 33 is similar to the assemblies 20 described above with reference to FIGS. 1-23. Accordingly, reference is made to the above discussion regarding the structure, operation, and alternatives of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIG. 33, wherein like elements and features of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIG. 33 have like reference numerals.
  • The assembly 20 illustrated in FIG. 33 has a fronting position and a loading position, and is operable to front products 28 when in the fronting position and to facilitate loading when in the loading position. The assembly 20 is especially useful for loading product 28 the rear of the assembly 20. Like the assemblies 20 illustrated in FIGS. 18-20, the assembly 20 in FIG. 33 has opposed side walls 136 spaced a distance from one another to receive product 28 therebetween. In the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 33, the side walls 136 are coupled to or otherwise extend from a shelf 24 capable of supporting product 28 thereon. In other embodiments, the side walls 136 are coupled to a base or a slip sheet that rests upon (and can be attached to) the shelf 24 with product 28 being supported on the base or the slip sheet. In such embodiments, the base 32 can be similar to the base 32 described above with reference to the embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 1-23 or can have any other appropriate shape and size.
  • Like the assembly 20 in FIGS. 21-23, the assembly 20 in FIG. 33 has a frame 140 that includes a handle 148 located between the side walls 136 of the assembly 20. However, unlike the assembly 20 in FIGS. 21-23, the assembly 20 in FIG. 33 has an elongated rod 72 connecting the handle 148 to a rear member 160 extending between the side walls 136 of the assembly 20. The handle 148, rod 72, and rear member 160 define an actuator 140 that is similar in function and purpose to the frame 140 in the embodiment of FIGS. 21-23, and can be formed as a unitary or assembled structure.
  • In the FIG. 33 embodiment, the actuator 140 is supported from above by a channel 64 defined in or located on an upper surface above the product support surface 56. The channel 64 can take any of the forms (and alternatives) of the side wall channels 156 described above with reference to the embodiments of FIGS. 21-23, and can retain the elongated rod in a position above the product 28 and product support surface 56. For example, the assembly 20 can include a cover 198 in or on which the channel 156 is located.
  • The rear member 160 of the frame 140 in the embodiment of FIG. 33 includes a rotatable back member 184 positionable behind product 28 between the side walls 136, a stop member 188 positioned behind the back member 184 and attached to the rod 72, and a biasing member 192 engaging the back member 184 and biasing the back member 184 toward the stop member 188. Although a biasing member 192 can be employed as just described, in other embodiments the back member is biased into a downward position by gravity.
  • In the illustrated embodiment of the present invention, the stop member 188 is positioned to orient the back member 184 in a substantially perpendicular orientation with respect to the shelf 24 when the back member 184 is biased against the stop member 188. However, in other embodiments the stop member 188 can be positioned to orient the back member 184 in any other orientation with respect to the shelf 24 (such as, for example, any angled position relative to the shelf 24).
  • With continued reference to FIG. 33, the assembly 20 is illustrated in the fronting position. To front product 28, a user grasps the handle 148 and pulls the frame 140 forward along the channel 64 so that the product engaging surface 164 pushes product 28 positioned between the side walls 136 forward. The engagement between the stop member 188 and the back member 184 prevents the back member 184 from rotating rearward when the product engaging surface 164 engages the product 28 and the frame 140 is moved forward. In the illustrated exemplary embodiment of FIG. 33, the frame 140 is returned to the rearward-most or stored position by pushing the frame 140 rearward. In some embodiments of the present invention, the assembly 20 also includes a biasing member (similar to the biasing member 172 described above or the alternatives thereto) coupled to the frame 140 to bias the frame 140 rearward. In such embodiments, the frame 140 returns to the rearward-most or stored position merely by releasing the frame 140.
  • To load product 28 in the assembly illustrated in FIG. 33, the assembly 20 is moved to the loading position, after which time product 28 is pushed against a rear surface of the back member 184 to an extent that overcomes the bias of the biasing member 192. Pushing product 28 against the rear surface rotates the back member 184 toward the front of the assembly 20 so that product 28 can pass underneath the back member 184 and onto support surface 56. After the product 28 passes by the back member 184, the back member 184 automatically rotates rearward under the bias of the biasing member 192 until it once again engages the stop member 188 and is in the fronting position. Product 28 is loaded in this manner until the shelf 24 is sufficiently loaded with product 28.
  • In the embodiment of the present invention illustrated in FIG. 33, an actuator 140 is located above a product supporting surface 56 (and product 28 thereon) and is operable to front product 28 in the assembly 20. Also in the assembly shown in FIG. 33, a rear member 160 is employed for pushing product 28 during fronting operations of the product 28, but is rotatable to enable new product 28 to be loaded into the assembly 20 past the rear member 160 (when pushed from a rearward position by the new product 28). It should be noted that the location of the actuator 140 and the pivot about which the rear member 160 rotates can be changed while still performing the same functions just described.
  • For example, yet another assembly 20 according to the present invention is illustrated in FIG. 34. Like the assembly 20 illustrated in FIG. 33, the assembly 20 illustrated in FIG. 34 includes an actuator 140 having a handle 148, a rod 72, and a rear member 160, and may be formed as a unitary or assembled structure. The rod 72 is supported in a cavity 64 defined in the base 52 of the assembly 20 and is slidable therein. The back member 184 is oriented to pivot downward toward the product support surface 56 when product 28 is pushed against a rear of the back member 184. By continuing to push product 28 against a rear of the back member 184, the back member 184 continues to rotate downward until a front of the back member 184 (or product engaging surface 164) is in facing relationship with the product support surface 56 of the assembly 20. Product 28 slides over the rear of the back member 184 and past or off of the back member 184. After the product 28 is past or off of the back member 184, the biasing member 192 biases the back member 184 back into engagement with one or more stop members 188 of the assembly 20.
  • It should be noted that the frame or actuator of the various assemblies described above can be adapted to enable the back member 184 to pivot about any axis other than a horizontal axis as illustrated in FIGS. 21-23 and 33-34, such as, for example, a vertical axis and an inclined axis.
  • Referring to FIGS. 24-29, another exemplary embodiment of the assembly 20 according to the present invention is illustrated. With some exceptions (described in greater detail below), the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 24-29 is similar to the assemblies 20 described above with reference to FIGS. 1-23. Accordingly, reference is made to the above discussion regarding the structure, operation, and alternatives of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 24-29, wherein like elements and features of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 24-29 have like reference numerals.
  • FIGS. 24-29 show a product display and fronting assembly 20 according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention. The assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 24-29 is adapted for installation on a steel shelf 24 by way of example only. Although a steel shelf-based assembly is shown, the present invention can be employed with another product storage or display device or assembly used to store and/or display products 28 (e.g., pallets, racks, and the like). Although the shelf 24 is made of steel in the assembly shown, the shelf 24 can be made of materials other than steel, such as iron, stainless steel, and any other metal, plastic, wood, composite material, and the like.
  • In the illustrated embodiment of the present invention, the assembly 20 further includes a slip sheet 196 supported on a top surface of the shelf 24. Although not required to practice the present invention, the slip sheet 196 can reduce friction of the products 28 upon the shelf 24, thereby facilitating easier movement of the products 28 with respect to the shelf 24. In some embodiments of the present invention, the slip sheet 196 comprises one or more elements constructed of any suitable material capable of reducing the friction between products 28 and the top surface of the shelf 24, thereby making it easier for the products 28 to move along the shelf 24.
  • In the illustrated embodiment shown in FIGS. 24-27, each slip sheet 196 is a sheet of plastic, Teflon, UHMW, or other low-friction material at least partially covering the top surface of the shelf 24. The slip sheet 196 can take any shape desired, such as a ribbed shape (see FIGS. 24-27), a flat, corrugated, or dimpled shape, and the like. In addition, the slip sheet 196 can take a number of different forms, such as tracks or glides extending along the top surface of the shelf, knobs or other projections extending up from the top surface of the shelf 24, and the like. Accordingly, the term “slip sheet” refers not only to sheets of material, but also to elements and assemblies in non-sheet form. While low-friction slip sheet materials are desirable, the slip sheet can instead be made from other materials while still performing the low-friction function described above. By way of example only, the slip sheet 196 can be made of any other material, including without limitation metal, fiberglass, and the like, and can be shaped in any manner (described above) generating lower sliding resistance of product on the shelf 24.
  • The slip sheet 196 can be shaped and dimensioned such that one slip sheet 196 covers the entire top surface of the shelf 24. On the other hand, the slip sheet 196 can be shaped and dimensioned such that multiple slip sheets 196 can be utilized to cover the top surface of the shelf 24. In some embodiments, the top surface of the shelf 24 is manufactured from or includes a reduced friction material and/or is shaped to provide lower resistance to product movement of the shelf 24.
  • With continued reference to the exemplary embodiment shown in FIGS. 24-29, the product display and fronting assembly 20 also includes an actuator 200 movable by a user to front product 28 in the assembly 20. The actuator 200 in the illustrated embodiment is a fronting mechanism 200 that can slide between a retracted position in which the fronting mechanism 200 is not extended, and an extended position in which the fronting mechanism 200 is pulled forward by a user. The fronting mechanism 200 is used to move products 28 stored on the shelf 24 forward (e.g., to fill empty spaces at the front of the shelf 24, to make product more accessible, and the like).
  • In some embodiments of the present invention, one fronting mechanism 200 is utilized per shelf 24. In other embodiments, multiple fronting mechanisms 200 are utilized per shelf 24. In still other embodiments, one fronting mechanism 200 can be utilized for multiple shelves 24.
  • Elements of the fronting mechanism 200 can be at varying elevations with respect to the products 28 and with respect to each other. These elements can be at any elevation, such as below the products 28, at the same level of the products 28, and above the products 28, or at any other elevation in which at least a portion of the fronting mechanism 200 is positioned to contact and move the products 28 along the shelf 24.
  • The exemplary fronting mechanism 200 of FIGS. 24-29 includes a handle 204, a tether 208, and a pushing member 40. The fronting mechanism 200 can also include a magnetic base for the pushing member 40 and/or a guide and limiting bracket 212 for the handle 204 and tether 208. The tether 208 extends from the handle 204 to the pushing member 40 (or base 216 thereof), and can extend beneath the shelf 24 as shown in FIGS. 24-29. In this manner, product 28 on the shelf 24 does not interfere with the tether 208 or tether movement 208 during fronting operations, nor does the tether 208 occupy valuable shelf space or otherwise adversely affect the ability to place product upon the shelf 24 as desired. The handle 204 is manipulatable by a user and in the illustrated embodiment is positioned at the front of the shelf 24 to make the handle 204 assessable to users that wish to front product 28 on the shelf 24. In other embodiments, the handle 204 is located in other areas of the shelf 24 for manipulation by a user wishing to draw product 28 in other directions on the shelf 24.
  • With continued reference to the illustrated embodiment in FIGS. 24-29, one end of the tether 208 is connected to a ratchet spool 220 within the handle 204 and is windable around the spool 220, while the other end of the cable 208 is directly or indirectly connected to the paddle 40. If desired, a spring mechanism 224 (such as, for example a coil spring) can be located within the handle 204 to bias the ratchet spool 220 in a direction to wind the tether 208 therearound. The tether 208 can be unwound from the ratchet spool 220 by pulling the handle 204 out from the front of the shelf 24. By releasing the handle 204 or by returning the handle to the shelf 24, the spring mechanism 224 provides sufficient biasing force to wind the cable 208 back onto the ratchet spool 220.
  • The handle 204 can be retained in a desired location upon the shelf 24 in a number of different manners and structures. By way of example only, the shelf 24 and/or the slip sheet 196 (if employed) can have a bracket or other stop positioned to retain the handle 204 in a desired location. An example of such a bracket 212 is illustrated in FIGS. 24-29. The bracket 212 is located at the front of the shelf 24 so that the handle 204 of the fronting mechanism 200 contacts the bracket 212 when the handle 204 is retracted to the shelf 24. In the illustrated embodiment, the bracket 212 has an aperture 228 defined therethrough through which the tether 208 extends. The bracket 212 includes a mounting portion 232 for mounting the bracket 212 to the shelf 24 in any suitable manner (e.g., by nails, screws, bolts, rivets, pins, and other fasteners, adhesive or cohesive bonding material, welding, brazing, and the like) and a stop portion 236 engageable with the handle 204. In other embodiments, the bracket 212 is defined by a portion of the slip sheet 196 and/or shelf 24.
  • With continued reference to the embodiment of FIGS. 24-29, the magnetic base 216 is positioned on top of the slip sheet 196 and is slidable therealong. Alternatively, (i.e., in cases where no slip sheet 196 is employed, or in cases where the magnetic base 216 can otherwise contact the shelf 24), the magnetic base 216 can be positioned directly upon the shelf 24 for sliding movement therealong. The base 216 is magnetically coupled to the shelf 24 through the slip sheet 196 due to the magnetic properties of the base 216 and the metallic properties of the shelf 24. Magnetically coupling the base 216 to the shelf 24 prevents the base 216 from readily disengaging from the slip sheet 196 or moving vertically away from the top surface of the shelf 24. Magnetically coupling the base 216 to the shelf 24 also hinders movement of the base 216 without sufficient force from a user pulling upon the tether 208 or when the base 216 is introduced to undesirable forces (i.e., products bumping the base 216, users bumping the base, etc.). The paddle 40 is positioned to engage the rearmost product 28 on the shelf 24 when the handle 204 is pulled to front the products 28. The paddle 40 can take any shape or form capable of performing this function.
  • In some embodiments of the present invention, the handle 204 includes one or more grips 240 for grasping by a user. The grip(s) 240 can be located in any position(s) on the handle 204 suitable for grasping by a user. Also, in some embodiments the handle 204 includes a spool housing 244 within which the tether 208 can be retracted. To control retraction and/or extension of the tether 208, the handle 204 can have a user-manipulatable control which can be operated to selectively interfere with retraction and/or extension of the tether 208. The control can take a number of different forms, such as a user-manipulatable lever, slide, button, switch, and the like. By way of example only, the user-manipulatable control in the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 24-29 is a button 248 positioned within an aperture 252 defined in the spool housing 244. The button 248 can be depressed by a user to generate interference between the button 248 and a ratchet spool 220 (described in greater detail below) rotatable in the spool housing 244.
  • The spool housing 244 (if employed) can have any shape desired, and can be shaped to compliment the shape of the bracket 212 or other structure (if employed) defining a stowed location of the handle 204. In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 24-29 for example, the spool housing 244 has a slanted surface 256 that is complementary to the stop portion 236 of the bracket 212 and is engageable therewith. The spool housing 244 and the stop portion 236 can take any other complementary shape and form desired. In some embodiments, the handle 204 (including at least part of the spool housing 244) is received within the bracket 212 or in a location defined by the bracket 212 and a part of the shelf 24, such as by the mating engagement between the handle 204 and the bracket 212 illustrated in FIGS. 24-29.
  • In addition to providing a complementary shape for receiving and/or providing a stowed location for the handle 204, the bracket 212 can be shaped to guide the tether 208 in its movement. By way of example only, the angled upper portion of the bracket 212 illustrated in FIGS. 24-29 defines a guiding surface for the tether 208 in its movement during fronting operations described in greater detail below.
  • The ratchet spool 220 can be located within a spool housing 244 for rotation therein about a shaft 260 or other pivot. The button 248 (or other user-manipulatable control as described above) is manipulatable by a user to move the button 248 between a locked position, in which the button 248 directly or indirectly engages the ratchet spool 220 to prevent rotation thereof in at least one direction, and an unlocked position, in which the button 248 does not engage the ratchet spool 220 and allows the ratchet spool 220 to rotate in both directions. In this regard, the button 248 can include an an engaging portion 264 that is engageable with the ratchet spool 220 (when in the locked position). If desired, a spring (not shown) can be employed for biasing the button 248 away from the locked position. If forces exerted upon the button 248 opposite the biasing force of the spring are enough to overcome the biasing force of the spring, the engaging portion 264 will move into engagement with the ratchet spool 220 accordingly. Upon removing the forces exerted on the button 248, the spring will once again bias the engaging portion 264 away from engagement with the ratchet spool 220.
  • With particular reference to the exemplary embodiment illustrated in FIG. 29, the locking button 248 is shown in a locked position. The ratchet spool 220 includes a plurality of teeth 268, each having a generally triangular shape, and having a stop surface 272 and a ramped surface 276. The stop surfaces 272 are oriented to engage the engaging portion 264 of the button 248 in a manner stopping rotation of the ratchet spool 220 in at least one direction, such as to prevent the tether 208 from being spooled out of the handle 204 (unwound from the ratchet spool 220). For example, the stop surfaces 272 can be oriented at a steep angle or can be perpendicular or substantially perpendicular to the engaging portion 264 of the button 248. The ramped surfaces 276 are oriented to permit rotation of the ratchet spool 220 in at least one direction, such as to allow the ratchet spool 220 to rotate in a direction that winds the tether 208 therearound and to retract the tether 208 into the handle 204. For example, the ramped surfaces 276 can be oriented at a smaller angle to the engaging portion 264 of the button 248 than the stop surfaces 272.
  • The stop surfaces 272 and the ramped surfaces 276 of the ratchet spool 220 can take any shape and form capable of preventing and permitting rotation of the ratchet spool 220, respectively. Although the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 24-29 only shows one side of the ratchet spool 220 having the plurality of teeth 268, both sides of the ratchet spool 220 can include a plurality of teeth 268 to engage engaging portions 264 of the same or multiple buttons 248. In some embodiments, the button 248 has more than one engaging portion 264 for engaging teeth 268 on both sides of the ratchet spool 220.
  • In some embodiments of the present invention, the plurality of teeth 268 are shaped and dimensioned to engage the engaging portion 264 of the button 248 in the locked position and to prevent the ratchet spool 220 from rotating in both directions. In these embodiments, the tether 208 cannot wind around the ratchet spool 220 and be retracted into the handle 204 when the button 248 is in the locked position. Only after the button 248 returns to the unlocked position can the tether 208 wind onto the ratchet spool 220 and retract into the handle 204.
  • Referring to FIG. 30, an alternate embodiment of the ratchet spool 220 is illustrated. In FIG. 30, the button 248 is shown in a locked position. The engaging portion 264 of the button 248 is a bearing, pin, or other element shaped to engage recesses in the ratchet spool 220. For example, the engaging portion 264 can be a ball bearing movable into engagement with rounded recesses 288 in the ratchet spool 220. The rounded recesses 288 can be shaped and dimensioned to complement the ball bearing 264. In the locked position of the button 248, the engaging portion 264 is biased into one of the recesses 288 to prevent the ratchet spool 220 from rotating in either direction. In this embodiment, the tether 208 cannot be wound around the ratchet spool 220 and retracted into the handle 204 when the button 248 is in the locked position. Only after the button 248 is in the unlocked position can the tether 208 wind around the ratchet spool 220 and retract into the handle 204.
  • In some embodiments of the ratchet spool 220 illustrated in FIG. 30, the plurality of recesses 288 can be shaped and dimensioned to prevent rotation of the ratchet spool 220 in only one direction when the button 248 is in the locked position. By way of example only, the tether 208 can be wound around the ratchet spool 220 when the button 248 is in the locked position, but cannot be unwound from the ratchet spool 220 when the button 248 is in the locked position.
  • In some embodiments of the present invention and with particular reference to the embodiment of FIGS. 24-29, the bracket 212 limits the forward movement of the products 28 toward the front of the shelf 24. The bracket 212 can limit forward movement of products 28 alone or in conjunction with other limiting structure at the front of the shelf 24. When products 28 are pulled forward by the fronting mechanism 200 in such embodiments, the products 28 slide along the shelf 24 (or slip sheet 196) until they contact the bracket 212. The bracket 212 can take a number of different forms (e.g., one or more fingers, rods, bars, plates, and other elements extending in the pathway of products 28 approaching the front of the shelf 24) and can take any other shape capable of stopping products 28 and defining a resting recess, stop, receptacle, or other location for the handle 204, such as triangular, half-circular, square, trapezoidal, and the like, and have any width spanning part or all of the width of the shelf 24.
  • In some embodiments of the present invention, the shelf 24 can include a stop (not shown) integral therewith or connected thereto in any suitable manner. The stop can be positioned to limit forward movement of products 28 either solely or in combination with another device (such as the bracket 212). In these embodiments, the bracket 212 can be mounted either in a position where the product 28 engages the bracket 212 prior to engaging the stop, in which the bracket 212 limits forward movement of the product 28 and the stop acts as a secondary limiting structure, in a position where the product 28 engages the stop prior to engaging the bracket 212 (in which the bracket 212 acts as a secondary limiting structure), or in a position where the product 28 engages the bracket 212 and stop substantially simultaneously to limit the product 28 in combination. In other embodiments of the present invention, a stop can be part of the slip sheet 196 to limit forward movement of product 28 in a manner similar to that discussed above.
  • In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 24-29, the handle 204 is connected to the paddle 40 by the tether 208. However, the fronting mechanism 200 can use other components to connect the handle 204 to the paddle 40 and to permit retraction of such components in or on the handle 204 (such as around a ratchet spool 220). By way of example only, the tether 208 can be defined entirely or in part by a cable, rope, wire, tape, belt, and the like. Such components can be connected to the paddle 40 and ratchet spool 220 in manners similar to or different from that described elsewhere herein and illustrated in the figures. By way of example only, the tether 208 can be directly or indirectly connected to the paddle 40 by one or more bolts, clamps, pins, rivets, or other conventional fasteners, by adhesive or cohesive bonding material, by inter-engaging elements on the tether 208 and paddle 40 or base 216, and the like. In this regard, it should be noted that the tether 208 can be connected to the paddle directly, or to the base 216 in any of the manners just described.
  • As described above, in some embodiments the tether 208 can be retracted upon or within the handle 204, such as about a ratchet spool 220. The ratchet spool 220 can be spring-loaded to wind the tether 208 thereabout, such as by a torsion spring as shown in the figures, by other types of springs capable of performing the same function, and the like. In some alternative embodiments, such as in those cases where the tether 208 is or includes a resilient tape, cable, or wire, the tether 208 is shaped to be inherently biased in a wound position upon the ratchet spool 220.
  • In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 24-29, the base 216 includes an aperture 300 defined therethrough through which the tether 208 extends to connect to the paddle 40. The aperture 300 can take any shape sufficient to permit the tether 208 to be passed therethrough. The tether 208 can have a pin, rod, ball, or other element connected thereto or integral therewith, and which engages the base 216 or paddle 40 for connection thereto (such as via a bracket, stop, boss, or other feature of the base 216 or paddle 40).
  • The base 216 in the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 24-29 includes a plurality of recesses 292 defined in a bottom surface 296 thereof that are shaped and dimensioned to complement the shape of the slip sheet 196 or shelf 24. In the illustrated embodiment for example, the slip sheet 196 has a ribbed shape and, accordingly, the plurality of recesses 292 are shaped and dimensioned to complement the ribs of the slip sheet 196. The complementary shape of the slip sheet 196 and recesses 292 defined in the base 216 facilitate linear movement of the fronting mechanism 200 toward and away from the front of the shelf 24, and help to prevent the fronting mechanism 200 from moving laterally with respect to the shelf 24. In other embodiments, the base 216 can have varying shapes and dimensions of recesses 292 defined therein to complement any shapes and forms of slip sheets 196 or 24 shelves desired. In further embodiments, the base 216 has no such recesses.
  • In the embodiment of the present invention illustrated in FIGS. 24-29, the base 216 of the fronting mechanism 200 extends partially across the width of the shelf 24. In some embodiments of the present invention, the base 216 extends across the entire width of the shelf 24. In other embodiments of the present invention, the base 216 extends across multiple shelves 24. The base 216 can have any width and can partially or fully extend across any number of shelves 24 (or shelf) desired.
  • As shown in FIG. 24, in some embodiments the base 216 can be moved as far towards the rear of shelf 24 as possible, thereby maximizing the amount of product 28 that can be stored on the shelf 24. Similarly, the handle 204 can be located as far towards the front of the shelf 24 as possible, thereby presenting the handle 204 in an easily accessible location (in some cases extending from beneath an overhead shelf). As shown best in FIGS. 24 and 25, the handle 204 can be positioned substantially flush with the front of the shelf 24 so that substantially no portion thereof extends beyond the front of the shelf 24. This can prevent the handle 204 from being struck by passing objects (i.e., users, consumers, carts, lifts, and the like) which can otherwise damage the handle 204. Alternatively, the handle 204 can be mounted to the shelf 24 in a position extending in front of the shelf 24, thereby providing an easily accessible location for a user. In short, the handle 204 can be positioned in any location desired between the rear and the front of the shelf 24 to accommodate varying shapes and sizes of shelves 24 and products 28, and to accommodate varying applications of the shelf 24.
  • The paddle 40 can be connected to the base 216 in any suitable manner. In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 24-29 by way of example only, the paddle 40 can be adhesively connected to the base 216 using double sided adhesive tape (not shown), or other adhesive or cohesive bonding material. The tape or other adhesive or cohesive bonding material is sufficient to adhere the paddle 40 to the base 216 under normal operating conditions. In other embodiments, the paddle 40 is connected to the base 216 by welding or brazing, by one or more rivets, bolts, screws, pins, nails, or other conventional fasteners, and the like. In still other embodiments of the present invention, the paddle 40 and base 216 are the same element or are otherwise integral with one another. In such embodiments, the entire integral component can have magnetic properties or can be provided with magnets or magnetic elements for performing the same functions of the base 216 as described above.
  • The paddle 40 can take a number of different shapes, each enabling the paddle to push product 28 on the shelf 24 while still providing a degree of stability of the paddle 40. In the illustrated embodiment of the present invention by way of example only, the paddle 40 includes a generally horizontal portion 304 at least partially mounted to a top surface 308 of the base 216 and a generally vertical portion 312 extending substantially perpendicular from the generally horizontal portion 304 (although other relative orientations of these portions 304, 312 are possible and fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention). The vertical portion 312 of the paddle 40 is positioned to engage the rearmost product 28 on the shelf 24 when the handle 204 is pulled to front the product 28.
  • In some embodiments of the present invention, the paddle 40 is defined entirely or in part by one or more rods, plates, bars, beams, or fingers, and the like, connected to the base 216 and positioned behind the rearmost product 28, each capable of pushing the rearmost product 28 when the handle 204 is pulled. In this regard, the paddle 40 can be integral with the base 216 or can be connected thereto in any manner, including those described above. In the embodiment of the present invention illustrated in FIGS. 24-29, the paddle 40 is made of steel, aluminum, or other metal. Alternatively, the paddle 40 can be made entirely or partially from any other material, including without limitation plastic, wood, fiberglass, composite material, and the like.
  • In some embodiments of the present invention, the fronting mechanism 200 is spring-biased to return the fronting mechanism 200 to a desired position or orientation upon release by a user. A spring mechanism (not shown) can be secured to a rear portion of the shelf 24 and can be connected to the fronting mechanism 200 to bias the fronting mechanism 200 toward the rear of the shelf 24 (e.g., an original position of the fronting mechanism 200 prior to pulling the fronting mechanism 200 forward). The spring mechanism can be connected to either or both of the base 216 and the paddle 40 in any suitable manner. The spring mechanism can be any type of spring mechanism that provides sufficient biasing force to bias the fronting mechanism 200 toward the rear of the shelf 24. The spring mechanism can include, for example, a housing and at least one return tether. In some embodiments, the at least one strap is flexible and can be made of a number of different materials, such as, Mylar™, spring steel, and the like, and can be pinned, clamped, riveted, screwed, bolted, and the like to the housing. When extended from the housing, the return strap exerts a biasing force to wind the extended portion of the return strap back within the housing, such as about a spool, axle, pin, or other member about which the return strap is wound. Accordingly, the strap functions as a spring to bias the fronting mechanism 200 toward the rear of the shelf 24.
  • In other embodiments of the spring mechanism, a cable, rope, wire, tape, or other elongated and flexible element can be wound about a spring-biased spool, axle, pin, or similar element. Accordingly, a spool, axle, pin, or other similar element can function to wind up (retract) the cable, rope, wire, tape, or other elongated and flexible element, thereby pulling the fronting mechanism 200 toward the rear of the shelf 24. In such cases, the cable, rope, wire, tape, or other elongated and flexible element can be fixed at one end within the housing of the spring mechanism and at another end to either or both of the base 216 and the paddle 40. It should be noted that in some embodiments of the spring mechanism, the housing is not employed. It should also be noted that other devices exist for retracting the fronting mechanism 200 toward the rear of the shelf 24, each of which falls within the spirit and scope of the present invention.
  • Having thus described the components of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 24-29, operation of the assembly 20 will now be described. With particular reference to FIG. 25, the handle 204 is shown in two positions: an extended position (shown in phantom) and a user operating position. To pull the handle 204 toward the extended position, enough force must be applied to the handle 204 in a direction out from the front of the shelf 24 to overcome the bias of the spring mechanism 224 within the handle 204 and connected to the ratchet spool 220. When the bias of the spring mechanism 224 is overcome, the handle 204 moves forward and the cable 208 unwinds from the ratchet spool 220, all without movement (or significant movement) of the base 216 and the paddle 40. If desired, the user can also move the handle vertically, such as to lift the handle to the user operating position shown in FIG. 25. This allows a user to move the handle 204 to a position where the user is more comfortable in fronting the product 28 and/or where the user is better positioned to front the product 28. This capability can decrease the opportunity for injury of the user during product fronting.
  • To lock the handle 204 in a desired position once it has been extended, the user depresses the button 248 to engage the engaging portion 264 of the button 248 and the ratchet spool 220. Engagement between the engaging portion 264 and the ratchet spool 220 prevents the handle 204 from paying out additional tether 208. In other words, the tether 208 will not unwind from the ratchet spool 220 after engagement between the engaging portion 264 of the button 248 and the ratchet spool 220. The user can now pull the handle 204 to move either or both of the base 216 and paddle 40 into engagement with the product 28 (unless either or both the base 216 and the paddle 40 were previously engaged with the product 28) to move the product 28 toward the front of the shelf 24.
  • In some embodiments of the present invention, such as the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 24-29, the handle 204 and ratchet spool 220 can be constructed to both prevent the tether 208 from unwinding from the ratchet spool 220 while also enabling the cable 208 to rewind around the ratchet spool 220 when the engaging portion 264 engages the ratchet spool 220. For example, the triangular-shaped teeth (as discussed above) 268 can be shaped and dimensioned to facilitate this type of ratcheting operation. The tether 208 can wind around the ratchet spool 220 when the force exerted on the handle 204 (in a direction out from the front of the shelf 24) no longer overcomes the biasing force exerted by the spring mechanism 224 within the handle 204. By re-applying a force out from the front of the shelf 24 sufficient to overcome the biasing force of the biasing mechanism 224, the cable 208 will stop winding around the ratchet spool 220, but will not unwind from the ratchet spool 220 due to the engagement between the engaging portion 264 and the stop surfaces 272 of the ratchet spool 220.
  • After the product 28 is fronted, the user can manually push the paddle 40 and base 216 toward the rear of the shelf 24 (whether by a user directly pushing the paddle 40 in a rearward direction or by a user pushing the paddle 40 in a rearward direction with product being added to the shelf 24 while the button 248 is in its unlocked position). Alternatively, a spring mechanism (as discussed above) can be employed to automatically return the base 216 and paddle 40 to the rear of the shelf 24.
  • The illustrated embodiment of the fronting mechanism 200 shown in FIGS. 24-29 is presented by way of example only and is not intended to be limiting. The fronting mechanism 200 can have different shapes and can be oriented in different manners from that shown in FIGS. 24-29 and discussed herein while still falling within the spirit and scope of the present invention.
  • Referring to FIG. 31, another exemplary embodiment of the assembly 20 according to the present invention is illustrated. With some exceptions (described in greater detail below), the assembly 20 illustrated in FIG. 31 is similar to the assemblies 20 described above with reference to FIGS. 1-30. Accordingly, reference is made to the above discussion regarding the structure, operation, and alternatives of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIG. 31, wherein like elements and features of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 31 have like reference numerals.
  • This illustrated embodiment is employed in combination with a wire shelf 320. With some exceptions (described in greater detail below), the assembly 20 illustrated in FIG. 31 is similar to the assembly 20 described above with reference to FIGS. 24-30. Accordingly, reference is made to the above discussion regarding the structure, operation, and alternatives of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIG. 31, wherein like elements and features of the fronting assembly 20 illustrated in FIG. 31 have like reference numerals.
  • The fronting assembly 20 illustrated in FIG. 31 is mounted to a wire shelf 320 having a plurality of wires 324 extending between a front and rear of the wire shelf 320 and a support wire 328 to which the plurality of wires 324 are connected. The wire shelf 320 can be made of any material, and in the illustrated embodiment is made of steel to enable the base 216 to be magnetically coupled to the wire shelf 320. The exemplary base 216 illustrated in FIG. 31 includes a plurality of recesses 292 defined in the bottom surface 296 thereof. The plurality of recesses 292 are shaped to complement the structure of the wire shelf 320 below the base 216.
  • In some embodiments of the present invention, the base 216 extends partially across the width of the wire shelf 320. In such embodiments, the plurality of recesses 292 complement the shape and spacing of the plurality of wires 324 positioned below the base 216 to enable movement of the base 216 between the front and rear of the wire shelf 320. In other embodiments, the base 216 extends the entire width of the wire shelf 320. In these embodiments, the base 216 includes a plurality of recesses 320 defined in the bottom surface 296 thereof that are shaped to complement both the plurality of wires 324 and the support wire 328 to enable movement of the base 216 between the front and the rear of the wire shelf 320. In still other embodiments, the base 216 extends across multiple wire shelves 320. In such embodiments, the plurality of recesses 292 are shaped to complement the plurality of wires 324 and support wires 328 of the multiple wire shelves 320 positioned below the base 216 to enable movement of the base 216 between the front and rear of the multiple wire shelves 320.
  • Referring to FIG. 32, another exemplary embodiment of the assembly 20 according to the present invention is illustrated. With some exceptions (described in greater detail below), the assembly 20 illustrated in FIG. 32 is similar to the assemblies 20 described above with reference to FIGS. 1-31. Accordingly, reference is made to the above discussion regarding the structure, operation, and alternatives of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIG. 32, wherein like elements and features of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIG. 32 have like reference numerals.
  • The assembly illustrated in FIG. 32 is mounted to a second type of wire shelf 332 having a plurality of wires 336 extending between a front and rear of the wire shelf 332 and an upper support wire 340 and a lower support wire 344 between which the plurality of wires 336 are connected. The wire shelf 332 can be made of any material, and in the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 32 is made of steel to enable the base 216 to be magnetically coupled to the wire shelf 332. The base 216 illustrated in FIG. 32 includes a plurality of recesses 292 defined in the bottom surface 296 thereof. The plurality of recess 292 are shaped to complement the structure of the wire shelf 332 below the base 216.
  • In some embodiments of the present invention, the base 216 extends partially across the width of the wire shelf 332. In such embodiments, the plurality of recesses 292 are shaped to complement the shape and spacing of the plurality of wires 336 positioned below the base 216 to enable movement of the base 216 between the front and rear of the wire shelf 332. In other embodiments, the base 216 extends the entire width of the wire shelf 332. In these embodiments, the base 216 includes a plurality of recesses 292 defined in the bottom surface 296 thereof that are shaped to complement both the plurality of wires 336 and the upper support wire 340 and to enable movement of the base 216 between the front and the rear of the wire shelf 332. In still other embodiments, the base 216 extends across multiple wire shelves 332. In such embodiments, the plurality of recesses 292 are shaped to complement the plurality of wires 336 and upper support wires 340 of the multiple wire shelves 332 positioned below the base 216 and to enable movement of the base 216 between the front and rear of the multiple wire shelves 332.
  • The assembly illustrated in FIG. 32 includes a handle 204 having a similar structure, similar operation, and similar alternatives as those described above with reference to the embodiments of the present invention illustrated in FIGS. 24-30, wherein like elements and features of the handle 204 illustrated in FIG. 32 have like reference numerals. The handle 204 includes a shelf engaging portion 348 that engages the front of the shelf. In some embodiments, the shelf engaging portion 348 engages the upper and lower support wires 340, 344 to position the handle 204 in an easily accessible location. In the illustrated embodiment, the fronting assembly 20 does not include a bracket 212, since the wire shelf 332 provides a seat for the handle 204. Although a bracket 212 is not illustrated in FIG. 32, the assembly 20 can include a bracket 212 mounted to the front of the wire shelf 332 for performing the same or similar bracket functions described above (either independently or in combination with the wire shelf 332).
  • The tether 208 is connected to both the handle 204 and the paddle 40 (in a manner similar to the embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 24-30), and can extend between the upper and lower support wires 340, 344. The tether 208 extends from the handle 204 to the pushing member 40 (or base 216 thereof), and can beneath the shelf or within the shelf as shown in FIGS. 24-29. In this manner, product 28 on the shelf does not interfere with the tether 208 or tether movement 208 during fronting operations, nor does the tether 208 occupy valuable shelf space or otherwise adversely affect the ability to place product upon the shelf as desired.
  • The button 248 illustrated in FIG. 32, although having a different shape than the buttons 248 illustrated in the earlier embodiments, operates similarly and has similar alternatives to the locking button 228 illustrated in FIGS. 24-30.
  • By way of example only, the embodiments of the present invention described above employ a paddle 40 having a magnetic base 216 (whether by being entirely or partially of magnetic material or by having one or more magnets thereon), thereby enabling the paddle 40 to be retained in desired positions on the shelf 24. However, it should be noted that some embodiments of the present invention do not require a magnetic base or other manners of magnetic connection between the paddle 40 and the shelf 24 or slip sheet 196. In particular, the present invention can function without magnetically retaining the paddle 40 as described above, or even by retaining the paddle 40 in position on the shelf 24 in any other manner. In other embodiments, the paddle 40 can rest upon the shelf 24 (or slip sheet 196) without being secured thereto, or can be connected thereto by one or more rails, tracks, or other sliding connections and structures as desired.
  • Referring to FIGS. 35-42, another exemplary embodiment of the assembly 20 according to the present invention is illustrated. With some exceptions (described in greater detail below), the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 35-42 is similar to the assemblies 20 described above with reference to FIGS. 1-34. Accordingly, reference is made to the above discussion regarding the structure, operation, and alternatives of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 35-42, wherein like elements and features of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 35-42 have like reference numerals.
  • The assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 35-42 is adapted for installation upon a shelf 24 by way of example only. Although a steel shelf-based assembly is shown, the present invention can be employed with other product storage or display devices or assemblies used to store and/or display products 28 (e.g. pallets, racks, and the like). Also, although the shelf 24 is made of steel in the assembly shown, the shelf 24 can be made of materials other than steel, such as iron, stainless steel, and any other metal, plastic, wood, composite material, and the like.
  • With continued reference to FIGS. 35-42, the assembly 20 includes mounting strips 400 mounted at the front and rear of the shelf 24 and extending substantially parallel to the front and rear edges of the shelf 24. The mounting strips 400 can extend along any width of the shelf 24, such as along the entire width of the shelf 24, along less than the width of the shelf 24 or along a length wider than the width of the shelf 24. Each of the mounting strips 400 includes a base 404 engaging a top surface of the shelf 24 and a bead, rib, flange, or other extension 408 (hereinafter referred to as a “bead”) extending upward from the base 404. In the illustrated embodiment, the bead 408 has a semi-circular cross-sectional shape. Alternatively, the bead 408 can take other shapes, such as, for example oval, square, rectangular, triangular, or any other polygon, and still fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention. For example, with particular reference to FIG. 37A, the mounting strip 400 is shown with an alternatively shaped bead 408 complementary to the base 432.
  • With particular reference to FIGS. 36-37, the base 404 defines apertures 412 therethrough that are alignable with apertures 416 of the shelf 24. Fasteners 420 are insertable into the mounting strip apertures 412 and the shelf apertures 416 to mount the mounting strip 400 to the shelf 24. The mounting strip 400 can have any number of apertures 412 defined therethrough and, particularly, includes a sufficient number of apertures 412 defined therethrough to support a sufficient number of fasteners 420 in order to support the mounting strip 400 for its particular application. In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 35-42, the fasteners 420 are plastic push-pins. However, any other type of fasteners, such as, for example rivets, screws, bolts, nails, and the like, can be used to mount the mounting strips 400 to the shelf 24.
  • With particular reference to FIG. 38, in other embodiments, the base 404 includes a recessed portion 424 in which a two-sided adhesive strip 428 is adhesively bonded to the base 404. The adhesive strip 428 is adhesively bondable to the top surface of the shelf 24 to mount the mounting strip 400 to the shelf 24. In this illustrated embodiment, the base 404 includes both apertures 412 for receiving fasteners 420 therein and an adhesive strip 428. In such embodiments, the mounting strip 400 can be mounted to the shelf 24 by either the fasteners 420 or the adhesive strip 428 or both. In some embodiments, the mounting strip 400 only includes an adhesive strip 428 for mounting the mounting strip 400 to the shelf 24. Also, it should be noted that the adhesive strip 428 need not necessarily be located within a recessed portion 424 of the base 404.
  • In the exemplary assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 35-42, the mounting strips 400 mounted at the front and the rear of the shelf 24 are substantially similar to one another. In other embodiments, the mounting strips 400 at the front and rear of the shelf 24 are different in shape, function and/or manner in which they are mounted to the shelf 24. For example, the mounting strips 400 can be mounted to the shelf 24 differently, such as, one mounted with fasteners 420 and the other mounted with an adhesive strip 428, or one mounted to the shelf 24 with either the fasteners 420 or the adhesive strip 428, and the other mounted to the shelf 24 with both the fasteners 420 and the adhesive strip 428. The mounting strips 400 can be mounted to the shelf 24 in alternative manners to those illustrated and discussed above, such as, for example, by using alternate fasteners, integrally forming the mounting strip 400 with the shelf 24, by welding or brazing, by adhesive or cohesive bonding material, and the like, while still falling within the spirit and scope of the present invention.
  • With continued reference to FIGS. 35-42, the assembly 20 also includes a base 32 selectively mountable to the shelf 24 via the mounting strips 400. The base 32 includes an exterior snap member 432 and interior snap members 436 (see FIG. 40) disposed at the front and rear ends thereof that are engageable with their respective beads 408. In the illustrated exemplary embodiment, the assembly 20 includes a single exterior snap member 432 disposed at both the front and rear of the base 32 and extending the entire width of the base 32. In some embodiments of the present invention, the assembly 20 includes a plurality of discontinuous exterior snap members 432 disposed at both the front and rear of the base 32.
  • To mount the base 32 to the mounting strips 400, the exterior and interior snap members 432, 436 are moved into contact with a bead 408 and are biased downward against the bead 408. Either or both of the exterior and interior snap members 432, 436 can be resilient and flex to allow the bead 408 to move between the exterior and interior snap members 432, 436 and into a mounting cavity 440 defined between the exterior and interior snap members 432, 436. The resilient snap member(s) move toward each other to capture the bead 408 therebetween once the snap members 432, 436 move past the bead 408. The base 32 is mounted to the shelf 24 when the bead 408 is captured in the mounting cavity 440. In some embodiments, the base 32 is operable to laterally slide along the mounting strips 400 from side to side relative to the shelf 24 when the base 32 is mounted to the mounting strips 400. This allows the base 32 to be repositioned on the shelf 24, and allows the shelf 24 to be adjustable and to accommodate products 28 of varying sizes. Such a feature can be beneficial when shelf space in a retail environment is reorganized. For example, the bases 32 on a shelf 24 that supported small boxes of aspirin could be spaced further apart from one another to allow the shelf 24 to accommodate larger items, such as, for example six-packs of beverage, diapers, etc. In contrast, a shelf having a permanent configuration could only accommodate one size of product during its lifetime.
  • In some embodiments, the base 32 can be dismounted from the shelf 24 by moving the base 32 upward in a direction opposite to that for mounting the base 32 to the shelf 24 as described above. In those embodiments in which snap member(s) 432, 436 are employed, the snap member(s) 432, 436 can flex apart from one another to allow the bead 408 of the mounting strip 400 to move out of the mounting cavity 440 and out from between the snap members 432, 436. The base 32 is therefore dismounted from the shelf 24 upon removal of the bead 408 from the mounting cavity 440.
  • The base 32 can be shaped in a variety of manners in order to mount to the shelf 24 via the mounting strips 400. For example, and with particular reference to FIGS. 43-45, another embodiment of the base 32 is shown and includes snap members 441 positioned at the front and rear of the base 32 for engaging the front and rear mounting strips 400, respectively. The front and rear snap members 441 can be shaped substantially similar to one another or can be shaped differently. In the embodiment shown, the front and rear snap members 441 are substantially similar; therefore, only the front snap member 441 is discussed in greater detail herein. In some embodiments, the snap member 441 is narrower than the width of the base 32, and includes an exterior snap member 432 and interior snap members 436. The exterior snap member 432 can include one or more teeth 442 (see FIG. 45) spaced therealong that are engageable with the bead 408 of the mounting strip 400. The exterior snap member 432 can include any number of teeth 442 therealong as desired. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 43-45, the exterior snap member 432 includes two teeth 442 disposed at ends thereof. In some embodiments, the exterior snap member 432 only includes a single tooth 442 that extends along at least part of (and in some embodiments, the entire length of) the exterior snap member 432. Also in some embodiments, the interior snap members 436 include teeth 443 engageable with the bead 408. The snap member 441 can include any number of interior snap members 436 while still falling within the spirit and scope of the present invention. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 43-45, the snap member 441 includes two interior snap members 436 disposed within the edges of the base 32 and substantially aligned with teeth 442 of the exterior snap member 432 such that the teeth 442 of the exterior snap member 432 and the teeth 443 of the interior snap member 436 engage the bead 408 on opposite sides thereof to secure the base 32 to the mounting strip 400. In some embodiments, the snap member 441 includes a single interior snap member 436 that extends partially or entirely across the same width of the snap member 441 as an exterior snap member 432.
  • With continued reference to the exemplary embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 43-45, the actuator 36 can include one or more locking protrusions 445 on a bottom surface of the body portion 448, while the base 32 can have one or more apertures 446 in a top surface thereof. For example, the actuator 36 in FIGS. 43-45 has a single locking protrusion 445 releasably engagable with an aperture 446 in the base 32. The locking protrusion 445 is positionable within the aperture 446 to secure the actuator 36 to the base 32 in order to prevent undesired movement of the actuator 36 relative to the base 32. The protrusion 445 can be pulled out of the aperture 446 by an operator pulling on the actuator 36 in a forward direction. In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 43-45, the engagement between the protrusion 445 and the aperture 446 is not meant to prevent an operator from pulling the actuator 36 forward. Rather, such engagement is meant to prevent the actuator 36 from moving relative to the base 32 when fronting of the product 28 is not desired. For example, some shelving units in retail stores are ramped downward toward the ground, which could otherwise enable the actuator to slide forward and out from the base 32. The engagement between the protrusion 445 and the aperture 446 prevents such movement of the actuator 36 relative to the base 32. The actuator 36 can be secured to the base 32 to prevent undesirable movement of the actuator 36 in any other manner while still falling within the spirit and scope of the present invention. By way of example only, the locations of the protrusion(s) 445 and aperture(s) 446 in the illustrated exemplary embodiment of FIGS. 43-45 can be reversed. As another example, any other inter-engaging and releasable features or elements on the base 32 and actuator 36 can instead be employed. In still other embodiments, magnets on the base 32 and actuator 36 are positioned to provide a retention force keeping the actuator 36 in place with respect to the base 32 in an unactuated position.
  • In some embodiments, the actuator 36 can be secured to the base 32 to prevent any type of movement (whether accidental or operator induced). In such embodiments, an operator will have to perform an unlocking step before the actuator 36 can be pulled forward. For example, an operator may have to undo a snap, flip a lever, turn a key, etc. in order to unlock the actuator 36 from the base 32.
  • Referring back to FIGS. 35-42, the exemplary assemblies 20 also include an actuator 36 and a paddle 40, both of which are supported by the base 32 and are slidable relative thereto. The actuator 36 is supported within a cavity 64 in the base 32, and includes a front portion 444, a body portion 448 and an upturned rear portion 452. In the illustrated embodiment, the actuator 36 is a single integral component. In other embodiments, the front portion 444, the body portion 448 and the rear portion 452 are separate pieces and can be connected in any manner desired, such as, for example, by fastening, brazing, welding, soldering, heat fusing (e.g., melting), and the like. The actuator 36 is slidable within the cavity 64 from a rearward position to a forward position in order to front product 28 on the shelf 24.
  • In some embodiments, the paddle 40 includes hooks or sliding support members 456 (see FIGS. 39 and 39A) positioned on each side of the paddle 40 for engaging lips 60 or other edge features of the base 32. The support members 456 can extend forward from the product engaging surface 88. Also, each support member 456 can include an upper horizontal member 460 positionable above the product support surface 56 and engageable therewith. Each support member 456 can also include an exterior vertical member 464 extending downward from the upper horizontal member 460 outside of the lip 60 of the base 32, a lower horizontal member 468 extending below the lip 60 and in the same direction as the upper horizontal member 460, and an interior vertical member 472 extending upward from the lower horizontal member 468 on the inside of the lip 60. The support members 456 and the lips 60 can be complementarily shaped to guide the paddle 40 along the base 32 and to maintain engagement between the paddle 40 and the base 32.
  • The base 32, the paddle 40 and the support members 456 can take any complimentary or non-complimentary shape in which the support members 456 are slidable (with the paddle 40) along the base 32. With particular reference to FIG. 39B, in some embodiments the base 32 defines ledges 473 in a plane (e.g., below the product support surface 56) upon which the support members 456 are supported. Supporting the support members 456 below the product engaging surface 56 inhibits products 28 from undesirably engaging the support members 456 and snagging on them.
  • With continued reference to FIG. 39B, the base 32 can include a plurality of product support projections 474 extending upward from the base 32. Product 28 can be supported on the projections 474 to be slidable therealong. The projections 474 provide a reduced surface area of engagement between the product 28 and the base 32 (reduced from the surface area of engagement between product 28 and the product engaging surface 56), thereby providing a relative low amount of friction between product 28 and the base 32 to allow the product 28 to slide relatively easy along the base 32. The base 32 can include any number of projections 474, and the projections 474 can assume any shape while still being within the spirit and scope of the present invention. Any of the product display and fronting assemblies 20 shown and described herein with reference to FIGS. 1-42 can be adapted with such projections 474.
  • With particular reference to FIG. 40, in some embodiments the paddle 40 includes an actuator support 476 extending rearwardly from the rear surface of the paddle 40. The actuator support 476 can have any shape adapted to receive a rear portion 452 of the actuator 36. By way of example only, the actuator support 476 illustrated in FIG. 40 has an actuator slot 480 into which the rear portion 452 of the actuator 36 is insertable and is operable to capture the rear portion 452 of the actuator 36 therein to cause the actuator 36 and the paddle 40 to move together. The actuator support 476 does not extend significantly rearwardly from the rear surface of the paddle 40. The actuator support 476 extends rearwardly sufficiently to define an actuator slot 480 deep enough to receive the rear portion 452 of the actuator 36. The combination of the actuator support 476 and the forwardly-extending support members 456 allows the paddle 40 to be positioned close to the rear of the shelf 24 when the paddle 40 is moved completely rearward, thereby saving significant space on the product support surface onto which product 28 is positionable.
  • The actuator 36 can be adapted to connect to the paddle 40 in other manners while still being within the spirit and scope of the present invention. For example, and with particular reference to FIG. 40A, the rear portion 452 of the actuator 36 can extend upward in a manner similar to that shown in FIG. 40, and can engage with one or more features of the paddle 40 to secure the rear portion 452 with respect to the paddle 40. In this regard, the rear portion 452 of the actuator 36 can have a lip 481 that is engagable with one or more projections 483 on the rear of the paddle 40. In the embodiment of FIG. 40A for example, the rear upstanding portion 452 of the actuator 36 is inserted into an aperture 482 at the bottom of the paddle 40 until the lip 481 on the rear upstanding portion 452 passes the projections 483 on the rear of the paddle 40 and snaps into place as shown in FIG. 40A. Once in this position, the engagement between the lip 481 and the projections 483 can prevent or provide resistance against removal of the upstanding portion 452 from the paddle 40. In some embodiments, the rear upstanding portion 452 can extend vertically at a rearward angle to provide improved engagement between the lip 481 and the projection(s) 483 as desired, or can extend in any other angle for this purpose. In such cases, the rear upstanding portion 452 can remain in a biased position when engaged with the paddle 40 as described above. To disconnect the actuator 36 from the paddle 40 in such cases, the rear portion 452 can be moved until the lip 481 can pass the projections 483, at which point the paddle 40 is movable upward and away from the actuator 36.
  • To front product 28, the actuator 36 is pulled forward, causing the paddle 40 to move forward therewith. The paddle 40 engages product 28 positioned on the product support surface 56 and moves the product 28 toward the front of the shelf 24. When the product 28 is sufficiently fronted, the actuator 36 can be pushed rearward, causing the paddle 40 to move rearward therewith.
  • With continued reference to FIGS. 35-42 and particular reference to FIGS. 41-42, the assembly 20 further includes dividers 136 selectively mountable to the shelf 24 via the mounting strips 400. The dividers 136 are mountable to the mounting strips 400 at positions in between consecutive bases 32 mounted to the mounting strips 400 and are operable to divide the shelf space into multiple retail spaces. The dividers 136 can be made of a variety of materials, such as, for example plastic, metal, wood, composite material and polymer.
  • Each divider 136 includes a vertical wall 484 and a front and rear support member 488. In the embodiment shown, the front and rear support members 488 are substantially the same; therefore, only the front support member 488 will be discussed herein in greater detail. The front support member 488 includes a snap member 496 (FIGS. 41-42) extending substantially perpendicularly from both sides of the vertical wall 484 at the ends thereof. In the illustrated embodiment, the snap member 496 is integrally formed with the vertical wall 484 and both the vertical wall 484 and the snap member 496 are made of plastic. In some embodiments of the present invention, the snap member 496 is a separate component and can be mounted to the vertical wall 484 in many manners, such as, for example fastening, brazing, soldering, welding, and the like. Also in some embodiments of the present invention, the vertical wall 484 and the snap member 496 are made of materials other than plastic, such as, for example metal, wood, composite material and polymer. The snap member 496 includes a hook 500 at a bottom end thereof that curves inward toward the vertical wall 484 and partially into a vertical wall aperture 504 defined in the vertical wall 484. Also in the illustrated embodiment, the snap member 496 is preferably resilient to allow mounting (discussed in greater detail below) of the divider 136 to the mounting strips 400. When mounted to the mounting strips 400, the snap members 496 also act as a product stop at the front and rear of the shelf 24.
  • In some embodiments, the front and rear support members 488 can be shaped differently from each other. For example, the front support member 488 may include snap members 496 similarly to those illustrated in the embodiment shown and used to stop product, while the rear support member 488 does not include snap members 496 extending from the vertical wall 484 and only has a hook 500 that is the width of the vertical wall 484 and extends partially into the vertical wall aperture 504. The front and rear support members 488 can have any shape and still be within the spirit and scope of the present invention.
  • To mount the dividers 136 to the mounting strips 400, the front and rear support members 496 are positioned over the beads 408 of the mounting strips 400 and the hook 500 of the snap members 496 is biased against the beads 408. The resilient snap members 496 move outward away from the vertical wall 484 to allow the beads 408 to enter the vertical wall apertures 504. After the beads 408 pass by the hooks 500, the hooks 500 move inward toward the vertical wall 484 to capture the beads 408 in the vertical wall apertures 504. A flange slot 508 is defined at both ends of the vertical wall 484 to accommodate the base flange 404 of the corresponding mounting strip 400 and allow a bottom edge of the divider 136 to be substantially flush or in contact with the top surface of the shelf 24. The divider 136 is operable to laterally slide along the mounting strips 400 from side to side relative to the shelf 24. This allows the divider 136 to be repositioned on the shelf 24, thereby making the shelf 24 adjustable to accommodate products 28 of various sizes at various times. To dismount the divider 136 from the mounting strips 400, the divider 136 is moved upward away from the mounting strips 400 causing the snap members 496 to move away from the vertical wall 484 and release the beads 408 from within the vertical wall apertures 504.
  • In the illustrated embodiment and specifically in FIGS. 35-36, the base 32 and the dividers 136 are used in combination to separate and support products 28. It should be noted that the base 32 and dividers 136 can be independently used on a shelf 24. In applications where bases 32 are independently used, the bases 32 are sufficiently spaced from one another to prevent substantial interference between products 28 supported on consecutive bases 32. In applications where dividers 136 are independently used, the product 28 is supported on the top surface of the shelf 24 in between the dividers 136.
  • It should be noted that the embodiments of the assembly 20 illustrated in FIGS. 1-45 are presented by way of example only, and that the paddles, the frames, and the bases can be dimensioned so as to accommodate any number of different types of products 28, including without limitation boxes of varying sizes, jars, bottles, packages, cans, bags, or any other items, whether these products 28 are stored or displayed individually or in packaged or bundled form. In particular, the paddles, the frames, and the bases can be wider or narrower, and can have taller or shorter product engaging surfaces 88, 164, 316 as appropriate for the type, size, number, and arrangement of products 28 to be stored and displayed in the assembly 20.
  • It should also be noted that the product engaging surfaces 88, 164, 316 of the paddles 40 and the rear of the frames are illustrated in the figures by way of example only, and that the product engaging surfaces 88, 164, 316 can have different shapes to accommodate any number of different types of products 28. For example, the product engaging surfaces 88, 164, 316 can have one or more concave recesses therein to engage cylindrical products 28 such as beverage cans, beverage bottles, ice cream buckets, medicament bottles, and any other product 28 in cylindrical form. The product engaging surfaces 88, 164, 316 can also have multiple types of shapes defined therein. For example, the product engaging surfaces 88, 164, 316 can be partially flat and partially concave to engage both flat products 28 and cylindrical products 28, respectively.
  • It should further be noted that the paddles 40, the rear of the frames, and the bases 216 can be shaped and dimensioned to be relatively small or relatively large compared to the products 28 which the assembly 20 fronts. In instances where the paddles 40, the rear of the frames, and the bases are relatively small compared to the products 28 to be fronted, they can be placed substantially near a center of the product 28 to ensure that the product 28 being fronted does not twist or turn during fronting. In instances where the paddles 40, the rear of the frames, and the bases are relatively large compared to the products 28 to be fronted, they can front multiple rows of product 28 positioned adjacent to each other.
  • FIGS. 46-49 show a product display and fronting assembly 510 according to another embodiment of the present invention. The assembly 510 illustrated in FIGS. 46-49 is adapted for installation on a metal shelf 514 by way of example only. Although a shelf-based assembly is shown, the present invention can be employed with any other product storage or display device or assembly used to store and/or display products 518 (e.g., shelves, pallets, racks, and the like). Also, the shelf 514 can be made of any material or combinations of materials, including without limitation steel, iron, stainless steel, or any other metal, plastic, glass, wood, composite material, and the like.
  • The assembly 510 in FIGS. 46-49 is used to move products 518 stored on the shelf 514 in a forward direction (such as to fill empty spaces at the front of the shelf 514, to make products 518 more accessible, and the like). In some embodiments, one assembly 510 is installed on each shelf 514. In other embodiments, multiple assemblies 510 are installed on each shelf 514. In still other embodiments, one assembly 510 can be installed on multiple shelves 514 (e.g., spanning across two or more adjacent shelves 514).
  • In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 46-49, each assembly 510 includes an elongated flexible member 521 extending in a generally forward and rearward direction with respect to a front and rear of the shelf 514. The elongated flexible member can have a number of different forms, such a strip, wire, and the like. Also, the elongated flexible member can be made of a number of different materials, such as plastic (e.g., polyester) or other synthetic material, spring steel or other metal, composite material, and the like. In some embodiments, the elongated flexible member can comprise multiple portions, such as a member having a laminate structure of the same or different materials. By way of example, the flexible member 521 in the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 46-49 is an elongated and substantially planar strip 522 of plastic.
  • With reference to FIGS. 53-55, the strip 522 includes a “memory” to urge a portion 530 or all of the strip 522 into a coil 523. For example, the strip 522 can be made of a polyester or other plastic that has been heat set to coil as just described. In other embodiments, the strip 522 can be biased into a coil 523 in other manners, depending at least in part upon the type of material used for the strip 522. The self-coiling nature of the strip 522 provides a return spring action for the strip 522 as will be described in greater detail below. In those embodiments in which less than all of the strip 522 has a coiling memory as described above, the portion of the strip 522 having the memory can tend to naturally coil, while the remaining portion(s) of the strip 522 can lie substantially flat or can have any other orientation desired.
  • The strip 522 shown in FIGS. 46-55 is supported upon a surface (e.g., a top surface 526) of the shelf 514. In other embodiments, the strip 522 can be positioned to be supported by other surfaces, such as upon a vertical surface, an angled surface, or a surface above the product to be fronted (in which case the strip 522 can be retained in a desired position by tabs, fingers, or other elements extending from the surface, or in any other manner).
  • In some embodiments, the strip 522 includes a product support surface 534 upon which products 518 are at least partially positionable and supportable. In the illustrated embodiment, the strip 522 can be sufficiently wide such that products 518 can be entirely supported on the support surface 534. In other words, the strip 522 can be sufficiently wide so that all or substantially all of the products 518 rest upon the strip 522 rather than the top surface 526 of the shelf 514. In alternative embodiments of the assembly 510, the strip 522 can have a width that is smaller than the width of the products 518 supported by the strip 522. In such embodiments, at least a portion of the products 518 is still supported by the strip 522, while one or more other portions of the products 518 can be located in spaced relationship with the top surface 526 of the shelf 514 (e.g., spaced by a distance that is substantially the same as the thickness of the strip 522, or another distance), or can be in sliding contact with the top surface 526 of the shelf 514.
  • With reference again to FIGS. 53-55, strips 522, 522′, 522″ having different dimensions are illustrated. The strip 522 illustrated in FIG. 53 can be used to support relatively large size and/or relatively heavy weight products 518 (e.g., cases of soft drinks, etc.) and can have a width of about 510 inches. In some embodiments, the strip 522 can naturally coil to an inner diameter of about 0.75 inches and an outer diameter of about 1.0 inches. As another example, the strip 522′ illustrated in FIG. 54 can be used to support medium size and/or medium weight products 518 (e.g., canned goods, etc.) and can have a width of about 4 inches. In some embodiments, the strip 522′ can naturally coil to an inner diameter of about 0.375 inches. As yet another example, the strip 522″ illustrated in FIG. 55 can be used to support relatively small size and/or relatively light weight products 518 (e.g., medicine bottles, etc.) and can have a width of about 2 inches. In some embodiments the strip 522″ can naturally coil to an inner diameter of about 0.25 inches. Still other strip widths and strip coil diameters are possible, and fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention.
  • Depending on the relative size and weight of the products 518 which the strips 522, 522′, 522″ are to front, the strips 522, 522′, 522″ can have a variety of different thicknesses. For example, the strip 522 illustrated in FIG. 53 can have a thickness of about 0.010 to about 0.013 inches for large size and/or relatively heavy products 518. As another example, the strip 522′ illustrated in FIG. 54 can have a thickness of about 0.010 inches for medium size and/or medium weight products 518. As yet another example, the strip 522″ illustrated in FIG. 55 can have a thickness of about 0.007 inches for relatively small and/or relatively lightweight products 518.
  • With reference to FIG. 46, in addition to the product support surface 534, the strip 522 can also include a sliding surface (not shown) in sliding contact with the top surface 526 of the shelf 514. The sliding surface can have a relatively low coefficient of friction, thereby making it easier for the strip 522 to move along the top surface 526 of the shelf 514. In alternate embodiments of the assembly 510, the strip 522 can be formed from two or more layers of separate and distinct materials. In such an embodiment, for example, a first layer made of a first material in contact with products 518 can provide the product support surface 534 with a relatively high coefficient of friction, while a second layer made of a second material can provide the sliding surface with a relatively low coefficient of friction. As a result, the relatively high coefficient of friction on the product support surface 534 can substantially prevent products 518 from slipping off or with respect to the product support surface 534, while the relatively low coefficient of friction on the sliding surface can allow the strip 522 to move relative to the top surface 526 of the shelf 514 with decreased effort.
  • In some embodiments, the assembly 510 also includes a backstop 538 which is movable to push product 518 when the strip 522 is moved in a forward direction. The backstop 538 can be located at any point along the strip 522 for this purpose. In the illustrated embodiment for example, the backstop 538 is located at an end of the strip 522.
  • The backstop 538 can take any form capable of engaging and moving products 518 as described above. In the illustrated embodiment for example, the backstop 538 includes a first portion 542 coupled to the strip 522 and a second portion 546 upstanding from the first portion 542. The first portion 542 of the backstop 538 can be coupled to the strip 522 in any suitable manner, such as by fastening (e.g., with rivets, pins, screws, and the like), adhesive or cohesive bonding material, heat sealing, welding, brazing, soldering, snap-fitting elements and other inter-engaging elements, and the like. In other embodiments, the backstop 538 can be integral with the strip 522, such as in cases where the strip 522 is bent or otherwise shaped to form a backstop 538 performing the functions described above.
  • The backstop 538 can be made from any of a number of different materials, such as, for example, any metal or plastic. The material of the backstop 538 can be determined at least in part by the type of products to be fronted in the assembly 510. For example, metal backstops 538 can be used to front heavier and/or larger products, while plastic backstops 38 can be used to front lighter and/or smaller products.
  • As shown in FIGS. 46 and 47, the second portion 546 of the backstop 538 can include a product-engaging surface 550 with which to engage a rearmost product 518 on the strip 522. In the illustrated embodiment of the assembly 510, the second portion 546 forms a right angle with respect to the first portion 542. However, in alternate embodiments of the assembly 510, the second portion 546 can be oriented at any other angle with respect to the first portion 542.
  • The product-engaging surface 550 of the backstop 538 illustrated in the figures is presented by way of example only. In other embodiments, the product-engaging surface 550 can have different shapes to engage and move any number of different types of products 518. For example, the product engaging surface 550 can have one or more concave recesses therein to engage cylindrical products 518 (such as beverage cans, beverage bottles, ice cream buckets, medication bottles, and any other cylindrically-shaped product 518). As another example, the product engaging surface 550 can also have multiple shapes defined therein, including surfaces adapted to engage both flat and curved products 518. As yet another example, the product engaging surface 550 can have one or more portions that extend in a generally forward direction in order to stabilize product 518 in front of the product engaging surface 550. Still other shapes of the backstop 538 are possible, and fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention.
  • The products 518 to be fronted in the assembly 510 can be stacked in one or more layers or levels. As such, the second portion 546 of the backstop 538 can be dimensioned or can be extendible to be located behind upper layers or levels of product 518. Alternatively, an extension (not shown) can be coupled to the backstop 538 in any suitable manner when it is desired to stack more than one level of product 518 on the assembly 510 or to otherwise provide a taller backstop 538.
  • With reference to FIG. 46, the coil 523 of the strip 522 can have a mandrel 554 therein at a location disposed from the backstop 538. For example, the mandrel 554 can be coupled at an end of the strip 522 opposite the backstop 538. The mandrel 554 can be coupled to the strip 522 in any manner, including without limitation by fastening (e.g., with rivets, pins, screws, and the like), adhesive or cohesive bonding material, heat sealing, welding, brazing, soldering, snap-fitting elements and other inter-engaging elements, and the like. Alternatively or in addition, the strip 522 can be threaded through one or more apertures in the mandrel 554 in order to secure the strip 522 to the mandrel 554. In other embodiments, the strip 522 is not secured to the mandrel 554, and is instead only coiled about the mandrel 554.
  • The mandrel 554 can be a solid or hollow element made of a sufficiently rigid material to provide a rigid or substantially rigid core about which the strip 522 can coil. By way of example only, the mandrel 554 can comprise steel, iron, stainless steel, or any other metal, plastic, glass, wood, composite material, and the like. The mandrel 554 can also have a substantially round cross-section to facilitate coiling of the strip 522 about the mandrel 554. However, mandrels 554 having other cross-sectional shapes can instead be used, if desired. In some embodiments, the mandrel 554 can have one or more enlarged ends to help maintain the strip 522 upon the mandrel 554. By way of example, the mandrel can include one or more end plates 558 coupled to the mandrel 554 for this purpose. It will be appreciated that some embodiments of the present invention do not use a mandrel 554.
  • In some embodiments of the present invention, the coil 523 can be located in a housing 525 at least partially retaining the coil 523 at a front of the assembly 510. The housing 525 can have any shape desired. With reference to FIG. 46 a for example, the coil 523 can be located in a housing 525 having a square cross-sectional shape. In other embodiments, the housing 525 can have another polygonal cross-sectional shape, can have a round or irregular cross-sectional shape, and the like. The housing 525 can have an opening 527 through which the strip 522 can extend, and in some embodiments can support the mandrel 554 (if used), such as at one or more pivots on the ends of the mandrel 554.
  • In embodiments of the present invention in which the coil 523 is located within a housing 525, the housing 525 can be provided with a lock 529 that can be manipulated by a user to secure the coil 523 from unwinding in the housing 525. The lock 529 can be secured to the housing 529 in any manner, such as by a pivot, by being received within a recess or other aperture in the housing 525, and the like. Also, the lock 529 can engage a surface of the coil 523, a surface of the mandrel 554, a surface of a mandrel pivot, and the like in order to resist unwinding of the coil 523. For example, the lock 529 in the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 46 a is a button that can be pressed by a user to be pushed against a surface of the coil 523. The lock 529 can be made of or include a high-friction material (e.g., rubber, urethane, and the like) to enhance the locking ability of the lock 529.
  • With reference again to FIG. 46, the assembly 510 is shown positioned on a top surface 526 of the shelf 514 such that the sliding surface of the strip 522 is in sliding contact with the top surface 526 of the shelf 514. The backstop 538 in the illustrated embodiment is positioned toward a rear of the shelf 514, and the mandrel 554 and coiled portion 530 of the strip 522 is positioned toward a front of the shelf 514. The assembly 510 also includes a front stop 562 coupled to the front of the shelf 514 to substantially prevent the strip 522 from continuing to coil past the front stop 562 (see FIG. 47). The front stop 562 can also serve to prevent product 518 from falling off the front of the shelf 514. In the illustrated embodiment of the assembly 510, the front stop 562 is positioned to stop the coil 523 from passing the front stop 562, but is shaped to permit the strip 522 to extend past the front stop 562 to the backstop 538. To this end, the front stop 562 can be a bar, plate, panel, or other element coupled to the shelf 514 and extending into a path blocking the coil 523 as just described. For example, in some embodiments the stop 562 is a bar that is at least partially spaced from the top surface 526 of the shelf 514 to allow the strip 522 to pass beneath the front stop 562. In such cases, the front stop 562 need only be sufficiently spaced from the top surface 526 of the shelf 514 so that the strip 522 is allowed to slide between the front stop 562 and the top surface 526 of the shelf 514.
  • As another example, the front stop 562 can include an elongated member 578 (e.g., a rod, bar, tube, and the like) extending to a position blocking the coil 523 from passing the front stop 562. With reference to FIGS. 50-52, the front stop 562 comprises a pair of projections 570 coupled to the shelf 514 and to the elongated member 578 extending across the front of the shelf 514. The projections 570 can be spaced from each other by any amount still permitting the strip 522 to pass therebetween. In some embodiments, the projections 570 are spaced sufficiently to also permit the coil 523 to fit between the projections 570 (in which case the elongated member 578 can be sufficiently low to prevent the coil 523 from passing the stop 562). The projections 570 can be connected to the elongated member 578 in any manner, such as by transverse portions 574 fitted into or over the ends of the elongated member 578 as shown, by coupling to bent or angled ends of the elongated member 578, and the like. In some embodiments, the projections 570 and elongated member 578 are integral with one another. Still other types and shapes of front stops 562 are possible, and fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention.
  • The projections 578 of the front stop 562 can be portions of one or more brackets coupled to the shelf 514 in any manner, such as by fastening (e.g., with rivets, pins, screws, and the like), adhesive or cohesive bonding material, heat sealing, welding, brazing, soldering, snap-fitting elements and other inter-engaging elements, and the like. In the illustrated embodiment for example, the projections 570 extend from a bracket 531 screwed to a surface of the shelf 514.
  • The front stop 562 can be made from any of a number of different materials, such as, for example, any metal or plastic. In addition, the front stop 562 can be sufficiently rigid to act as a stop for products 518 on the shelf 514. Further, the front stop 562 can be made from a clear material (e.g., plastic) such that products 518 on the shelf 514 are visible through the front stop 562.
  • With reference to FIG. 46, the assembly 510 can include one or more dividers 582 selectively mountable to the shelf 514. The dividers 582 are operable to divide the shelf space into multiple spaces or channels for individual product rows, and can be made of any material desired. Each divider 582 can include one or more vertical walls that can be mounted to the shelf 514 in an adjustable or non-adjustable manner in order to accommodate products 518 of various sizes. Any adjustable or non-adjustable divider structure can be employed as desired.
  • In alternate embodiments of the assembly according to the present invention, the strip 522 and the backstop 538 can be positioned on opposite sides of a shelf 514, and can be connected through one or more apertures in the shelf 514. For example, one or more rods, bars, links, or other members can extend through one or more elongated apertures in the shelf 514, thereby enabling the strip 522 to be located on a top side or a bottom side of the shelf 514 while the backstop 538 is located on an opposite side of the shelf 514. In such cases, products 518 can be in direct sliding contact with a top shelf surface 526 rather than being supported directly upon the strip 522.
  • Having thus described the components of the assembly 510 illustrated in FIGS. 46-55, operation of the assembly 510 will now be discussed with respect to fronting of products 518 positioned in the assembly 510 and loading of products 518 onto the assembly 510.
  • With particular reference to FIG. 47, the assembly 510 is shown having products 518 positioned thereon that can be fronted. To front the products 518, a user grasps the coiled portion 530 of the strip 522 and pulls the strip 522 such that the contact between the product-engaging surface 550 of the backstop 538 and the rear-most product 518 causes the products 518 to be moved toward the front of the shelf 514. Alternatively, the user can at least partially unwind the coiled portion 530 in order to position the coil 530 in a more convenient pulling location (e.g., for low or high shelves 514), and can then pull the strip 522 and/or mandrel 554. In some embodiments, the user can fully unwind the coil 530, and can then grasp and pull the mandrel 554 attached thereto (in cases where the mandrel 554 is secured to the strip 522 as described above). The user can continue pulling the strip 522 until the forward-most product 518 engages or contacts the front stop 562 or any other structure limiting forward movement of the products 518. After the products 518 are fronted, a portion of the strip 522 that was previously located rearward of the front stop 562 is now located forward of the front stop 562. The user can then release the coiled portion 530 of the strip 522 or the mandrel 554 in order to allow the strip 522 to coil (whether upon itself or upon a mandrel 554) until the coiled portion 530 contacts the front stop 562. This process can be continued or repeated until all of the products 518 have been removed from the shelf 514.
  • To load the shelf 514 with additional products 518, the user can place the new products 518 in front of the backstop 538 to be pushed against the backstop 538 in a rearward direction (toward the back of the shelf 514). The user can thus continue loading new products 518 on the strip 522, incrementally pushing the backstop 538 rearward until the backstop 538 reaches a rear-most position.
  • With continued reference to the assembly 510 illustrated in FIGS. 46-55, it should be noted that components of the assembly 510 can be at varying elevations with respect to the products 518 and with respect to each other. These components can be at any elevation, such as below the products 518, at the same level of the products 518, and above the products 518, or at any other elevation in which at least the backstop 538 is positioned to contact and move the products 518 along the shelf 514.
  • It should be noted that the embodiments of the assembly 510 illustrated in FIGS. 46-55 are presented by way of example only, and that the strip 522, backstop 538, mandrel 554, dividers 582, and front stop 562 can be dimensioned to accommodate any number of different types of products 518, including without limitation boxes of varying sizes, jars, bottles, packages, cans, bags, or any other items, whether such products 518 are stored or displayed individually or in packaged or bundled form. In particular, the backstop 538 can be wider or narrower, and can have taller or shorter product-engaging surfaces 550 as appropriate for the type, size, number, and arrangement of products 518 to be stored and displayed in the assembly 510.
  • In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 46-55, product 518 is positioned to rest upon the strip 522. However, it should be noted that the strip 522 can instead be positioned so that the product 518 does not rest upon the strip 522. For example, the strip 522 can be received within a recess in the shelf 518 and/or the product 518 can rest upon one or more elevated surfaces of the shelf 518.
  • There has been described, with reference to specific exemplary embodiments thereof, a product display and fronting assembly. It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that modifications may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. All modifications are considered within the spirit and scope of the present invention. The specification and drawings, therefore, are to be regarded in an illustrative rather than restrictive sense.

Claims (78)

1. A product fronting assembly for fronting products, the product fronting assembly comprising:
a base;
a rear member slidable therealong; and
a ratchet mechanism movable with respect to the base and engageable with the rear member, the ratchet mechanism slidable between a first position in which movement of the ratchet mechanism in a first direction toward a front of the product fronting assembly moves the rear member in the first direction, and a second position in which the rear member does not move in response to movement of the ratchet mechanism.
2. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 1, wherein the rear member is slidable along a top surface of the base.
3. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 1, wherein the ratchet mechanism comprises an elongated member extending in a direction substantially parallel to the first direction.
4. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 3, wherein the ratchet mechanism is rotatable about an axis substantially parallel to the elongated member.
5. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 3, further comprising a spring coupled to the ratchet mechanism to bias the ratchet mechanism toward the first position.
6. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 3, further comprising a plurality of teeth located along at least a portion of the elongated member.
7. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 6, wherein each of the teeth has a ramped shape.
8. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 1, wherein the ratchet mechanism comprises a plurality of teeth releaseably engageable with the rear member.
9. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 1, further comprising a spring coupled to the ratchet mechanism to bias the ratchet mechanism toward the first position.
10. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 1, wherein at least part of the ratchet mechanism extends beneath a surface of the base upon which product rests.
11. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 1, wherein the rear member is releasably engagable with the ratchet mechanism.
12. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 1, wherein the ratchet mechanism comprises a handle at a front of the ratchet mechanism.
13. The product fronting mechanism as claimed in claim 12, further comprising a stop positioned at the front of the product fronting assembly and positioned to stop forward movement of product on the base past the stop, the stop defined at least in part by the user-manipulatable handle.
14. A product fronting assembly for fronting products, the product fronting assembly comprising:
a pair of opposed side walls between which product is positionable;
a frame slidable relative to the opposed side walls, the frame comprising
a front at least partially defining a handle;
a side supported by one of the opposed side walls; and
a rear member rotatable relative to the opposed side walls, the rear member moveable toward a front and a rear of the product fronting assembly by movement of the front of the frame.
15. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 14, wherein the rear member is rotatable by rotating the handle.
16. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 14, further comprising a spring coupled to the frame to bias the frame toward the rear of the product fronting assembly.
17. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 14, wherein the frame is slidably coupled to one of the opposed side walls.
18. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 14, wherein the frame extends beside product to be fronted by the product fronting assembly.
19. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 14, wherein the frame has a first position in which movement of the frame toward the front of the product fronting assembly moves the product and a second position in which movement of the frame toward the front of the product fronting assembly does not move the product.
20. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 14, wherein the side of the frame is an elongated member extending along at least part of one of the side walls.
21. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 20, wherein:
the elongated member extends along an axis; and
the frame is pivotable about the axis.
22. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 21, wherein the axis extends along and adjacent one of the side walls.
23. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 14, further comprising a stop positioned at the rear of the product fronting assembly, the stop positioned to stop rearward movement of the frame past the stop.
24. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 14, wherein the rear member is rotatable with respect to the handle.
25. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 24, wherein the side of the frame is an elongated member extending along at least part of one of the side walls.
26. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 25, wherein:
the elongated member extends along an axis; and
the frame is pivotable about the axis.
27. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 26, wherein the axis extends along and adjacent one of the side walls.
28. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 14, wherein the rear member is rotatable in a direction to permit passage of product past the rear member toward the front of the product fronting assembly.
29. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 32, wherein the frame further comprises a stop limiting rotation of the rear member in the first position.
30. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 14, wherein the rear member is spring biased in a rotational direction.
31. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 14, wherein at least a portion of the frame is adapted to be coupled to an underside of a shelf.
32. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 31, wherein the rear member is adapted to be located on a top side of the shelf.
33. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 31, wherein the rear member is adapted to be located on an underside of the shelf.
34. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 14, wherein the frame is slidable along an aperture defined in one of the side walls.
35. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 14, wherein at least a portion of the frame is positioned above product to be fronted by the product fronting assembly.
36. A product fronting assembly for fronting products, the product fronting assembly comprising:
a base;
a frame coupled to and slidable relative to the base, the frame comprising
a front at least partially defining a handle;
a rear member rotatable relative to the front of the frame, the rear moveable toward a front and a rear of the product fronting assembly by movement of the front of the frame; and
an elongated member extending between and coupling the front and rear of the frame.
37. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 36, wherein the elongated member extends along at least part of the base.
38. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 36, further comprising a stop positioned to limit rearward rotation of the rear member.
39. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 36, wherein the rear member is rotatable independently of movement of the handle.
40. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 36, wherein the rear member is rotatable to a lowered position permitting increased access from the rear of the frame to load product in the product fronting assembly.
41. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 36, wherein the rear member is spring biased in a rotational direction.
42. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 36, wherein at least a portion of the frame is adapted to be coupled to an underside of a shelf.
43. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 36, wherein the rear member is located on a top side of the shelf.
44. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 42, wherein the rear member is also located on the underside of the shelf.
45. A product fronting assembly for fronting product supported by a shelf comprising a front and a rear, the product fronting assembly comprising:
an elongated flexible member comprising
a first end;
a second end; and
a length therebetween,
at least part of the length of the elongated flexible member wound in a coil at the first end of the elongated flexible member; and
a rear member coupled to the elongated flexible member at a distance from the first end of the elongated flexible member, the rear member positioned to engage and move product upon the shelf responsive to movement of the elongated flexible member in a forward direction.
46. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 45, wherein the elongated flexible member is at least partially wound about a spool.
47. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 45, wherein the elongated flexible member comprises a cable.
48. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 45, further comprising a slip sheet positioned on a top surface of the shelf, the slip sheet having a coefficient of friction different from a coefficient of friction of the shelf.
49. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 45, further comprising a magnetic base coupled to the rear member and adapted to releasably couple the product fronting assembly to the shelf.
50. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 45, wherein at least a portion of the elongated flexible member is located beneath the shelf.
51. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 45, further comprising a bracket positioned to guide movement of the elongated flexible member.
52. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 46, further comprising:
a housing in which the coil is received; and
a control coupled to the housing and operable to prevent rotation of the spool.
53. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 45, further comprising:
a housing in which the coil is received; and
a control coupled to the housing and operable to prevent unwinding of the coil.
54. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 45, wherein the shelf is a wire shelf, the product fronting assembly further comprising a based coupled to the rear member and movable along wires of the shelf.
55. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 54, wherein the base has a plurality of apertures located in the base to receive wires of the shelf.
56. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 55, wherein the base is releaseably coupled to the shelf by magnetic force.
57. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 45, wherein the elongated flexible member comprises a strip of flexible material.
58. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 57, wherein the strip has a memory urging the at least part of the length of the elongated flexible member into the coil.
59. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 58, wherein the memory of the strip urges the coil into a position with respect to the shelf.
60. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 57, wherein the strip is adapted to be positioned with respect to the shelf to support product on the shelf.
61. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 57, wherein at least a portion of the strip is adapted to be positioned in a recess in the shelf.
62. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 46, wherein the spool is spring loaded in a rotational direction.
63. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 45, further comprising a front stop against which the coil stops.
64. A product fronting assembly for fronting product, the product fronting assembly comprising:
a base having a front, a rear, and opposed sides;
a rear member movable along the base to move product toward the front of the base, the rear member coupled to the base by a side of the rear member extending at least partially around one of the opposed sides of the base;
a front member accessible by a user to move the rear member; and
an elongated intermediate member extending between and coupling the front and rear members.
65. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 64, wherein:
the side of the rear member is a first side of the rear member;
the rear member further comprises a second side of the rear member opposite the first side; and
the rear member is coupled to the base by the first and second sides of the rear member extending at least partially around the opposed sides of the base.
66. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 64, wherein the side of the rear member extends across an edge of a side of the base.
67. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 64, wherein the side of the rear member extends to a location beneath the base.
68. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 64, wherein the elongated intermediate member is integral with the front member.
69. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 64, wherein the front and rear members extend generally vertically with respect to the elongated intermediate member.
70. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 64, wherein the elongated intermediate member is recessed within the base.
71. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 64, wherein the elongated intermediate member is positioned with respect to the base to support product upon the base.
72. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 64, wherein the base is coupled to the shelf by at least one snap-fit connection.
73. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 72, further comprising a mount adapted to be coupled to the shelf, wherein the base is coupled to the shelf by at least one snap-fit connection to the mount.
74. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 72, wherein the base is coupled to the shelf by at least one snap-fit connection located proximate the front of the base and at least one snap-fit connection located proximate the rear of the base.
75. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 74, further comprising mounts adapted to the coupled to the shelf, wherein the base is coupled to the shelf by snap-fit connections to the mounts.
76. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 64, wherein the elongated intermediate member is received within an aperture in the rear member.
77. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 76, wherein the elongated intermediate member comprises a generally vertical rear portion removably received within the aperture in the rear member.
78. The product fronting assembly as claimed in claim 77, wherein the front member and generally vertical rear portion are integral with the elongated intermediate member.
US10/569,673 2003-08-27 2004-08-27 Product display and fronting assembly Abandoned US20070068885A1 (en)

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US56105104P true 2004-04-09 2004-04-09
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US10/569,673 US20070068885A1 (en) 2003-08-27 2004-08-27 Product display and fronting assembly

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