Fabulous. We have just rolled in from another Atlanta gift market, and that’s the best word we can find to describe it. We had 4 solid days of back to back meetings, almost 30 in all, and every single one of them was positive and most will definitely be productive. We also had nine new lines debut, the usual scattering of existing product and ended up planning some nice extensions to a couple current collections. It’s a good tired, as they say…
The market was hopping. It was maybe a little slow on Wednesday and then built to a very busy weekend. Traffic was snarled, elevators and escalators were jammed and the showrooms were loud. Every single client we talked to was having a good show, and only one said they were not ahead of last year – their numbers were slightly behind but they did share that last year was the best market they had ever had, and so were still happy with the sales.
I know a lot of people talk about going to this show to trend shop, but after a dozen years of doing these markets we’ve learned a couple things – and one is that this is not the place. It’s easy to get thrown by the quantities and categories of product in the showrooms. If you walk into a greenhouse you are going to think gardening is a trend, or if you walk into a fine china tabletop showroom you’ll surely know that white is the trend. Until you go next door and everything is gloss black. Or emerald green. Or floral.
Atlanta is a great place to see what products are being offered for sale right now. It is not a great place to find emerging trends, in fact I will suggest that by the time you see products on the shelves in the Mart they are often approaching the end of the trend cycle. Trends grow organically in our culture, starting first on the streets (of Europe usually) and moving through fashion, home goods and pretty much last into gift and stationery. The internet has added some speed to this cycle but the early adopters are not the gift manufacturers. This is NOT a design show, it is a wholesale market, and these licensees tend to be conservative bunch compared to those at the forefront of trend. Also note that product development cycles typically run 6 months to a year – a lifetime in the fast moving world of trends. While you will see the occasional fresh idea, the vast majority of the products on the showroom shelves are either classic best sellers or “me too” designs from companies playing “catch up” with the market leaders. Sad but true. (If I EVER see another “This House Does Hugs…” plaque, or any of the myriad other hackneyed phrases everybody pulls off the internet it will be too soon. How about writing something original instead.) And don’t forget that even though a product makes it onto the shelf in a showroom it still may not sell, unfortunately a fact any experienced artist will readily attest to.
Atlanta IS a good venue to see what categories are on the upswing, for instance at this show it is very evident that clothing, accessories and jewelry have increased significantly with many manufacturers either expanding or adding them to their lines. It is also a good place to see what has gone missing from the market – things like chocolate/pink, blue/white Christmas, Spode-like Christmas, orange, mustaches and all the other hot trends that are so quickly replaced. We’ve ditched more than a few portfolio collections over the years after coming back from the market because they were definitely “post-trend”.
One cute story: we were having a lunch meeting with some clients and were showing them some fabric kitchen product prototypes that we had mocked up when our server stopped and asked where she could buy them. She then went and got the manager to show HIM the mock-ups and see if they could order them for the hotel. We all decided that was better than any focus group!
And now off to the big stacks of follow-up from the show… somebody order me a pizza...