A Reason to Celebrate

Commemorating 20 Years of Holiday & Floral/Home Décor
By Helen Anne

It’s party time! Holiday & Floral/Home Décor is marking 20 years of success with a celebration during the January 2017 Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market. The product center, initially marketed using the “Art of Christmas,” has expanded to include celebrations that create family traditions.

Executing a new exhibit concept in 1996, AmericasMart redesigned space in Building 1, brought exhibitors with substantial Christmas lines together into one area and began promoting products designed for holiday celebrations. By focusing marketing efforts on a certain type of product located in a collective space, AmericasMart hoped to increase traffic to all exhibitors.

Loyal From the Beginning
Vaillancourt Folk Art, owned by Gary and Judi Vaillancourt, manufactures highly-detailed, hand-painted chalkware collectibles. The company was one of the first exhibitors to move to the 20th floor where artist-driven companies are highlighted. Gary Vaillancourt says the move has been very profitable for their business. “Right now, [the 20th floor] is probably the place to go in the show,” he says. “We see every major department store and every major catalog.”

Vaillancourt-AmericasMart AtlantaIn the beginning, however, it took creativity to develop foot traffic in the new center. The Vaillancourts relied on appointments with large buyers, but worked diligently with fellow exhibitors to build business with smaller buyers. “We would do different things,” Gary Vaillancourt says. “We would have scavenger hunts and Halloween parties and Easter egg hunts.” He even admitted to having photos of himself dancing a tango with Bethany Lowe, another early exhibitor in the product center.

Bethany Lowe, artist and creative director at Bethany Lowe Designs, remembers those early days well. Her company specializes in one-of-a-kind, collectible Christmas figurines and ornaments, as well as products for other holidays and family celebrations. She still designs and hand-finishes her high-end products, while her daughter Erin Glennon serves as CEO.

Lowe says she sent three Santa figurines to her first Atlanta Market more than 25 years ago. “I sold out my production for the year with one show,” she says. “After that, I was hooked on Atlanta.”

When the product center opened in the mid-1990s, it didn’t take long for Bethany Lowe Designs to move in. “We jumped on board on the 20th floor in the second year, and we’re really happy we did,” Lowe says. “It was appealing to me that the Mart was willing to offer dedicated showrooms to a select group of artists.”

All About the Relationships
Bethany Lowe - AmericasMart AtlantaBoth Bethany Lowe and Gary Vaillancourt credit the close-knit community of exhibitors with helping them maintain a competitive edge. Glennon echoes those sentiments. “We’ve been in a prime location for going on 20 years,” Glennon says. “People know where we are, and we’re absolutely a destination. That recognition is based, in part, on the relationships we’ve built in that building—from fellow exhibitors to the AmericasMart staff.”

Stephanie Voss, director of marketing for K&K Interiors, says her company also found a home in Holiday & Floral/Home Décor because K&K had an emphasis on the Holiday product category. Since first exhibiting on floors 19 and 20, K&K has experienced sales growth each year, and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. “The shows represent a reunion of sorts for us because many of our customers are like family since they have been doing business with us for so long,” Voss says. “The ambiance is always upbeat with music, the smell of baked cookies, laughter and plenty of hugs.”

Kurt S. Adler is also celebrating an anniversary this year – the company’s 70th. Founded just after the end of World War II by Kurt Adler, the company is guided today by his children – Howard, Clifford and Karen. As the decades passed, the company has modified its product line from European traditions such as Black Forest Christmas Trees to blown glass ornaments, bubble-blowers and limited edition ornaments. With a nod to the past, its collection of Hollywood Nutcrackers has been popular for the past decade, and animatronics, fiber optic trees and interactive advent calendars carry it into the future.

Always Evolving and Growing
Julie H. Fry, CEO of Select Artificials, has had a decades-long association with AmericasMart, but only moved to Building 1 in late 2014 with a grand opening in the new space in January 2015. With the expanded showroom, Fry says Select Artificials continues to welcome both long-standing and new clients. “It is a great way for old friends, I mean customers, to see our product in a different venue,” she says. “It reinforces relationships.”

Building 1, Floor 20 - AmericasMart AtlantaAnother relatively new exhibitor in Holiday & Floral/Home Décor is Kaemingk, an international company focused on seasonal products from Christmas to Valentine’s Day to Easter to summer gardens. Mark Hooper, USA sales manager for Kaemingk, says the company’s experience has been so positive, it’s making an investment in its showroom this year. “We see Atlanta as one of the strongest markets in the U.S. and Building 1 the best place for our type of products,” he says. “We’re expanding our showroom for the 2017 January Market,” he says, “doubling our space from 7,000 to 14,000 sq. ft.”

As Holiday & Floral/Home Décor moves into its third decade, exhibitors are excited about the future. They expect their products to stay rooted in Christmas with continued expansion into Halloween, Easter, spring, Valentine’s Day and family traditions. They also have great plans to introduce their products to new buyers.

Join the exhibitors on Friday, January 13, from 4 – 7 p.m. as they celebrate 20 years of Holiday & Floral on Floor 20 and visit all the Holiday & Floral/Home Décor showrooms in Building 1, Floors 16-20 during January Market. And, keep in mind many exhibitors are Open Year Round between Markets as well.

Images courtesy of Bethany Lowe and Vaillancourt Folk Art.

Holiday Decorating Tips

For most retailers and designers it’s definitely looking a lot like Christmas. 

How can buyers make the most of seasonal décor? We asked the decorators extraordinaire at Studio M  Executive Vice President and General Manager Tammy Hickel, Senior Director of Product Development Anne Brown and Marketing Coordinator Maura Lodes  for their tips for making the season and the upcoming Market merry and bright. 

What trend are you most excited about for Holiday 2016?

holidaytrends-merrimentartplanters_studiom_rgb Holiday décor for 2016 features lots of black, white and red color schemes and has a classic, homespun feel that we just love. Popular nubby knits, burlap and muslin give a warm, relaxed feel that’s perfect for the holidays. The red-and-white ticking stripe and large-scale buffalo check seen throughout this year’s holiday décor provide a nice pop of pattern. We’re really excited about all of the natural elements like birch, pinecones and antlers that are being woven into holiday décor for 2016. These characteristics can be seen throughout Nordic, woodland and forest themes that are very trendy this winter.

What are your tips for customers decorating their homes?

unexpectedholidaydecor-gypsygarden_studiom_rgbOur advice is to create something unexpected. The holidays are all about that sense of wonderment and joy, and your décor can reflect that. Decorate in unexpected places — put a small Christmas tree in your child’s room, add a fun holiday pillow to the bed in your guest room, or brighten up the space above your kitchen cabinets with Christmas decorations. Think of the areas in your house that you may not always pay attention to, and add a little something there for the holidays.

For outdoor holiday decorating, think of ways to create a welcoming front door statement that reflects your personality and is seasonally relevant. Many people are looking for outdoor décor to accomplish this goal, and that’s a huge reason why we’ve expanded our seasonal flag collections to include Art Planters, Art Poles and other outdoor décor. We encourage people to think beyond just lights and candy canes. There are so many unique ways to decorate — festive Art Planters and a coordinating MatMate at the front door, a holiday terrarium full of colorful mini garden items as a centerpiece — think outside the box!

What are your tips for retailers decorating their stores?

retailertips-gifts-to-go_artpots_studiom_rgbCreative merchandising is key to generating sales. Shoppers can’t resist stopping to “ooh” and “ahh” at a clever display. Welcoming seasonal décor and an attractive display in a window will draw people in, giving them an opportunity to see everything your store has to offer. That doesn’t mean you have to spend big bucks on extra holiday decorations — use as much product as possible to decorate your store. For example, use monogram garden flags to spell out a festive message like “Let it snow” or “Ho Ho Ho.” This way, your store showcases its own merchandise and helps to decorate it at the same time!

Another great way to approach a display is to use your products to tell a color story. Pull everyday red or green products into a Christmas display — they’ll fit right in and feel more like a holiday item when surrounded by seasonal products. Don’t underestimate the power of a little holiday ribbon to turn everyday items into Christmas gifts.

Special Tip: Many plain red and green items can move forward into Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day displays, giving those products a longer life.

holidaytrends-winterpalette_studiom_rgbWe also advise retailers to make shopping as easy as possible for their customers. Create pre-wrapped gifts-to-go for different recipients – mom, dad, friend, hostess, etc. Think about all the unique items you have in your store and turn them into containers to hold additional product. We find that our 6-inch Art Pots are great to fill with holiday gourmet treats or unique personal care items. Not only are gifts-to-go convenient for shoppers, they’re also a great way to increase the average sale for the retailer. Set some by the register or checkout area for those last-minute impulse buys.

Special Tip: Another great way to increase sales and help shoppers find great gifts is to create a “Staff Favorite” or “Item of the Week” that can be promoted and suggested by staff.

What trends do you see emerging for Holiday 2017?

Next year’s holiday trends will be somewhat of a derivative of 2016, but with lots of white-on-white and green-and-white color schemes. Textural elements will prevail and homespun, cozy-cabin themes will expand, but in a cleaner, more refined way — kind of a mid-century-modern-meets-cabin look. We’ll see more woodland animal elements like antlers and snowy owls as the wise, nocturnal birds continue to be a strong trend.

holidaytrends-shoplocalThe shop local movement will continue to have a large influence on trends for 2017. City and state pride will remain a popular theme in both décor and gift items, as communities’ support for independent retailers grows. We don’t want to give too much away, but retailers can expect to see some state-themed products from Studio M at summer markets in 2017!

The farm-to-table movement is picking up steam and the desire to grow food at home is increasing. As more people spend time in their outdoor spaces and learn about gardening, gifts for gardeners will become a big part of the holidays for 2017. These can range from decorative gifts such as mini garden items or a festive Art Planter to functional products like a birdhouse or birdbath.

 What are your Market shopping tips?

newproducts-kaleidoscopemobiles_studiom_rgbOur biggest tip for retailers is to come to market with a Buying Plan. Take stock of all your current inventory and future needs. Then determine your budget by deciding how much product you need to buy to reach your target sales volume for the season. Identify every product category that you need in order to drive business in your store, and then allocate dollars to each area. This will ensure that you are purchasing the right mix of products for your store and save you from buying too much of one category and too little of another. Make sure to hold back some reserve dollars for hot new items or product categories you find at market that weren’t in your plan. Your Buying Plan will be a huge help in figuring out when you’ve purchased enough of each category and make it easy to see what areas still need to be filled in.

Special Tip: Ask vendors if they have any best-seller lists that they can show you. While best sellers do not work in every region or store, they can be a good place to start!

Do some research before market and decide which vendors you’d like to visit. Look through trade publications and the Market Magazine to see what catches your eye and make a list of vendors you can’t miss. Once you have your list, map out a schedule of when to visit each showroom. Don’t forget to leave time to look for new items or to stop by vendors that weren’t on your initial list. When making your schedule, plan to get your essential items first. There will be lots to see and you don’t want to get distracted by too many new products and leave market without ordering the necessities.

Special Tip: Take advantage of showrooms like OneCoast that open early in the morning and close late in the evening. This way, you can visit more vendors per day.

newproducts-cambriaartplanters_studiom_rgbAnother thing many retailers find very helpful is working with their local rep whenever possible. Reps know the product well and are a great source of information. They can tell you what has been selling well in your area and help you make better-informed purchasing decision to help round out your offering. They also may be aware of special incentives being offered on products.

Special Tip: Schedule your showroom visits by floor so you don’t waste any time waiting for the elevator in order to go up and down the building throughout the day.

You’re going to see some amazing merchandising ideas and unique ways to display product as you make your way through the mart. Bring a camera to photograph anything that inspires you or that you may want to replicate in your store. Not every vendor allows photos to be taken, so make sure to ask permission first. At Studio M, we love when retailers take photographs! While flattering, it is one of the biggest reasons we spend so much time planning out and creating our displays, We want retailers to get inspired and take ideas home that will help them be more successful.

We hope these tips ensure that you have a smooth and successful market! Stop by and see Studio M at our main showroom in The Gardens (9-B-84, Bldg. 2) or in the OneCoast showroom on the 18th floor of Building 2.

In addition to our five floors of Holiday and Floral merchandise in Building 1, retailers and designers can also find holiday merchandise in The Gardens®. Shop the collection at The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market, January 10 – 17, 2017, and use our Market Plan to create your budget and plan your visit.

Images courtesy of Studio M.

Party at Their Place

Creating the destination for holiday and seasonal décor in North Carolina.
By Chris Gigley

The celebration never ends at Seasons at the Lake, a seasonal home décor store in Davidson, N.C., near Charlotte. Despite being open for less than two years, owners Gary Skaggs and Frank Schuster have created a strong demand for holiday décor that extends far beyond the Christmas season.

Demand is so strong that one season barely ends before customers are shopping for the next one. Skaggs says it all starts with buying décor and accessories their customers want, and sourcing it takes work. Their buying odysseys begin on the floral floors. “Floral drives our approach for everything from style, color and mood to the spirit of the particular season,” says Skaggs. “It gives us the inspiration we use to take to the rest of the shopping we do.”

And they go everywhere—literally. “Even if we think a floor is not for us, so many times we find a new vendor or something that will round out what we’re doing,” says Skaggs. “Being thorough is key because every market is different. Even if I come to a small market in March, I’ll spend the time going to a floor where I don’t think there’s anything I need because I might be inspired or find that one thing that makes the market exciting.”

Make a List – Check it Twice
With so many holidays to consider, they follow a strategy. Skaggs keeps a list of must-have items and vendors they don’t want to miss. He also keeps a list of the holidays he wants to build on for the coming year.

“The pre-market organizing is just as important to me as the show,” Skaggs says. “It’s important for me to sit down with my calendar and look at the history from last season and decide what worked and what didn’t. All that goes into my pre-show prep; otherwise, I’d be wandering aimlessly through a huge market.”

Pretty Packaging
After finding the right products, Skaggs says merchandising is easy. He focuses on the holiday with a strong color story and continues to pull together merchandise in cross-merchandised displays.

“We always like to include something in each display that’s a surprise, something people wouldn’t think about,” he says.

For the spring season and holidays, Skaggs created a display of women’s clothing on a series of round tables, but with an assortment of tulips—the surprise—bursting from the top of the display. A number of customers bought scarves, looked up to see the tulips and bought them, too.

Homes for the Holidays
Customers are so enthralled with the merchandising at Seasons at the Lake that the store has started offering home decorating services.

“It just snowballed from one Christmas to the next,” says Skaggs. “Even during other seasons people come in and ask us to do the entrance of their homes. We’ll do a custom wreath for the front door, put floral arrangements in urns and create an entrance scape for them.”

Who could blame them for wanting the Seasons touch? Skaggs and Schuster have captured that festive feeling in their store year round. Now customers want it for their homes, too.

Gary Skaggs and Frank Schuster own Seasons at the Lake in Davidson, N.C. For more information, call 704.655.2533 or visit seasonsatthelake.com. Images courtesy of Davis Turner Photography.

Hosting a Seasonal Open House with Larry Lucas

Larry Lucas has been a familiar face on the AmericasMart campus since the 1970s. Lucas recently retired from his eponymous showroom, Larry Lucas, Inc. after nearly 40 years. Prior to his wholesale career, Lucas owned a successful 10,000-square-foot gift and floral shop in Sandy Springs, Ga.  He will periodically share his expertise with us on the AmericasMart blog.


With the holidays quickly approaching, get your business and customers in the spirit by hosting a seasonal open house. This can be something as simple as snacks and beverages during the day or a great sale after hours. This is an opportunity for you to thank your customers for their business, as well as successfully gain new customers for the holiday season and months following.

AWH_PHOTO-9231TIMING IS KEY

Planning an event around the holidays can be stressful. With new merchandise coming in, busy store hours and even busier customers, it can be hard to find the right time. Planning in November with Thanksgiving approaching is a great time. Christmas shopping is on the customer’s mind and it will help them begin planning early, without worrying about other holiday events. Sunday evenings work well for events such as these with shoppers already around town after morning events or breakfast.

SET YOUR THEME

Set a fun theme as the basis for your event, such as a classic Christmas song like ‘White Christmas.’ Carry the theme throughout your in-store decorations, window decorations or food items. Don’t forget the holiday music! This is a great idea to help get customers in the mindset of the holidays while shopping.

INVITE PARTICIPATING GUESTS

Invite other vendors to participate in your open house, overall attracting more guests to the event. Contact your favorite local photographer to document the event or set around a few Polaroid cameras for customers to use on their own. You can use the photos on your social media accounts to promote your event for years to come. Looking for something for the kids? Invite Santa and his helpers and have your photographer there to take photos as needed. These can be sold through packaging deals and will make great gifts for parents.

OFFER REFRESHMENTSAWH_PHOTO-0771

Collaborate with local caterers, bakeries or cooks to offer refreshments at your event. Donated samples of their items offer a chance for them to promote themselves and sell items if they choose to do so. If local customers have cookbooks, welcome them to bring a few samples made from their book and offer them the chance to sell their cookbook in store during the event. You can have signs made to promote the event or advertise your event on social media and include the local food options that will be available.

CREATE AN INVITE LIST

Check out your customer email list for a start on creating the invitation list. Of course, all customers and the public passing by will be welcome to your event, but getting the word out ahead of time will be essential. Send invitations via email or through traditional mail to whomever you have information for. Reaching out to men will be helpful on their end, as well. Let them know that employees will be available for any shopping assistance they may need.

HELPFUL TIPS

Here are a few other helpful tips for planning and organizing your seasonal open house event. We recommend not trying to gift wrap that day, as the store will be busy and require attention. Instead, offer a redeemable ticket for them to come back the following week to have their gifts wrapped. This will give them the chance to return to the store AWH_PHOTO-8686for a less crowded, more personable experience. Not only is a seasonal open house event a great way to draw in more business, but it also sets you apart from other businesses around town. It gives you the opportunity to get the store decorated prior to the holidays and see what pieces in your store sold well, giving you enough time to reorder before the holiday season really begins.

The holidays are such a fun time for business owners, so why not share some of the fun with your customers?

The Sky’s the Limit for Blue

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This gallery contains 7 photos.

Everyone immediately recognizes the iconic shade of blue associated with the famous jewelry store. Well, that same sophisticated hue is showing up across all channels of home and gift for the coming seasons.    From Gatsby-inspired holiday décor to crisp linens … Continue reading

Ghouls and Ghosts Can Mean Money

By T.J. Reid, Editor of Fashion Advantage 

ming wang 257The first days of October have brought cooler weather across the country. Driving through my rural southern area, I already see the Halloween flags; the pumpkins and straw scarecrow decorations out in celebration in my neighborhood. My friends love the spooktacular holiday, and can’t resist participating in the fun of costume, decorations, and candy corn. (And there is no scarcity of trick-or-tweet sweet goodies already on the shelves.  Unfortunately, It is also being purchased and eaten now, long before the kids show up at the door!)

According to NRF’s Halloween Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, nearly 158 million consumers will participate in Halloween activities, slightly less than the survey high of 170 million people last year. Those celebrating will also trim their budgets, with the average person expected to spend $75.03 on décor, costumes, candy and fun, down from $79.82 last year. BUT Overall, average spending on Halloween has increased 54.7 percent since 2005, with total spending estimated to reach $6.9 billion in 2013.*
halloween-witches-jpg
Since 43.6 percent of people plan to dress up for the evening, money will be flowing for both children and their adult counterparts and even the family pooch.  Totals for adult costumes will reach 1.04 billion dollars, and $330 millions will be spent on outfits for pets!

Although some shoppers have already begun (32% before the end of September), there are still lots of folks out there searching for just the right thing; 36% won’t event start until the last 10 days prior to the big day.  It is estimated for the entire holiday, shoppers will spend $2.08 billion on candy and $360 million on greeting cards.

Whether you are a children’s store, a gourmet store, or even just a ladies apparel shop, there are so many ways for you to participate and profit from this holiday! Why not offer a discount to anyone who shows up in costume? Offer a prize (a small gift certificate) for the best costume.  Then, Even after the day, have them bring in their Halloween photos for your bulletin board and have customers vote on the best, the scariest, the weirdest. It’s November by then and your Christmas is out!  Make them look.

I used to dress up as a witch – long black wig, pointed hat, tattered dress, white make-up with even the warts added.  Shoppers came by just to see, but also have their picture made with the witch. It was more fun that photos with Santa and the ladies participated, not just the kids!  On the counter I had a basket of tiny pumpkins and a promotion called “Pick a Pumpkin.”   Each pumpkin had a discount on the bottom (sort of like pick-a-duck at the county fair), and shoppers loved the surprise of an extra bargain. And I was then acknowledged as the “Good Witch of the South!”

T.J. Reid is editor of Fashion Advantage magazine, and author of several books on successful retailing.  She presentsBe Your Own Publicist” with a lesson on creating an effective advertising and promotional campaign on Saturday, October 19 at 10 a.m. at the October Atlanta Apparel Market.

(*The survey discussed above was conducted for NRF by Prosper Insights & Analytics. The poll of 5,290 consumers was conducted September 3-10, 2013. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.3 percentage points. )