Hotty Toddy Homecoming

Creating hospitable promotions inspires customer loyalty

From an early age, Douglas Self knew he had a creative and an analytical mind. Oxford, Miss., nourished both. He earned a degree in accounting from the University of Mississippi and got his start in retail working for Oxford Floral during his college years.

“Oxford Floral was one of the premier gift shops in Mississippi and I learned as much from owners, Bette and Jeff Butler, as I did my general education. Together, it was an incredible base for my career,” says Self, owner of jdouglas, with showrooms in AmericasMart and High Point.

Loving to put collections together and to be in front of customers, Self had long thought of opening a retail store. “Visiting Oxford for SEC game weekends, I realized I had to carry all my tailgating and dinner party supplies with me. There was a void in the market,” he says.

He opened Provision Oxford in October 2014, near the historic downtown square. The lifestyle boutique features his personal blend of home furnishings, tabletop, gifts, personal care items, jewelry, some ladies apparel, and original art. “It’s a gracious, hospitable place to see and buy beautiful things. But it’s more than great lines. We strive to offer an extraordinary experience, to treat customers as if they were visiting our home for a party,” he says.

Building Loyalty
The name says it all. “Provision means to provide things not readily accessible, and I wanted to give back to this university and community,” says Self. The shop helps residents and weekend-condo owners furnish their homes, buy gifts, or entertain with style, but Self also hosts Fridays This Fall events during home football weekends.

“We showcase Southern artisans or designers (preferably someone with a Mississippi or Ole Miss connection) and invite guests to attend a lecture, trunk show, or book signing,” he says. Last year, the store brought jewelry artists Elizabeth Wise Hannon, Gresham Hodges and Taylor Miller; floral expert and author, John Grady Burns; Mississippi born painter, Marilyn Mulherin; Ole Miss alumnus and Editor-in-Chief of Veranda magazine, Clinton R. Smith and author/designer James Farmer to town.

“We support a charity with each event by donating about 10 percent of the proceeds,” he says. In the past Provision Oxford has contributed to Peyton’s House (a youth ministry); Love Packs, Chucky Mullins Fund, Alexa’s Team (childhood cancer) and the St. Jude marathon.

Giving Back
The events help artists and charities, engage customers and increase sales. “People want to know who is coming, and we let them know by social media and e-mail,” he says. “This is a cultural town and people look forward to learning about and meeting talented artists. It gives them another activity to share with guests on football weekends.”
He also hosts special brunches or cocktail parties in the store for local sororities and fraternities during their parent weekends, allowing the group to choose their charity. A recent Derby Days event made more student customers aware of the shop, and they, of course, told their parents. “It’s the extra things you do to cultivate a business and build a brand that makes people want to work with you,” says Self. “You have to create the right environment.”

For additional information about the store, visit www.provisionoxford.com or like the store on Facebook.

To learn how to boost sales surrounding seasonal events and holidays, attend our upcoming Lunch Seminar: Spring Into Sales on Wednesday, March 8, during the Atlanta Spring Gift, Home Furnishings & Holiday Market®. Join flower magazine founder and editor-in-chief Margot Shaw and retail and merchandising experts Kristin Alber of Restylesource, Dina Woodruff of Peridot, and Pacita Wilson of Pineapple Park as they share visual merchandising tips, product picks and seasonal tabletop displays that are sure to inspire and make your sales bloom. Complimentary lunch is included and begins at 11:30 a.m. in the Building 1, Floor 15, Designer Workspace.

Images courtesy of Joe Worthem

Sunshine Slowdown

By Chris Gigley

Somewhere on South Florida’s vast and clogged network of roads, routes and highways, Carol Adams is on her way to one of her four interior design and home decor stores. But the owner of Excentricities says her life is a lot easier than it used to be.

For about 28 years, Adams owned and operated another Excentricities location—in Long Island’s gilded Hamptons area. On paper, the Hamptons was a natural fit. The place has lots of vacation homes, disposable income and the kind of irrational high demand for redesign projects that keeps a business like hers flush with work.

Adams herself, however, lacked the one thing her business was known for—balance.

“Our business is spread equally between interior design and retail,” she says. “Our customers can buy anything in our showrooms right off the floor, which often happens. We also try to find one-of-a-kind items to create an interesting mix for our customers.”

Excentricities has been that way since 1986, when Adams opened her first two stores. One was the Hamptons location. The other, in North Palm Beach, is now the flagship store. In 2003, Adams opened a showroom in Delray Beach, Fla. The West Palm Beach location debuted in 2012, and the fifth showroom, in Jupiter, opened its doors two years later. With business booming in South Florida, Adams did the only sane thing this year and closed the Hamptons store. While she still does a lot of running around, at least the distances are commutable by car.

SHOPPING THE RIGHT VIBE

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Adams says she is careful not to streamline the way she buys for each Florida store. Her philosophy is simple. “I just buy whatever I like, frankly,” she says. More specifically, she buys what she likes for each store’s particular customer base, and that makes for a lot of walking when she comes to Atlanta.

“I can’t tell you how many different vendors we have,” she says. “It’s probably anywhere from 500 to 700. I’m not saying that they’re all repeat orders. If it doesn’t sell we don’t buy it again.”

Each store carries several furniture lines with plenty of accessories lines mixed in. Adams says on her most recent trip to The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market®, she was pleasantly surprised by how much she found.

“The market has changed dramatically,” she says. “I used to go there to buy little gift items, but there is a lot more furniture now. I found a lot of new vendors. It was great, and it was easy.”

CREATING A STORE IDENTITY
Adams deserves as many breaks as she can get, because even with a more concentrated business she still has plenty of challenges. Above all is maintaining each store’s unique identity per its clientele. “In West Palm Beach we get a lot of wealthy people from Palm Beach, while Delray is more of an eclectic, funky town. It’s very charming,” she says. “In North Palm Beach we get a little older crowd, and Jupiter is a mixed bag.”

Her newest location just might become the most lucrative. “The community is a bit older, but a lot of young people are moving in,” she says. “It’s just booming. It’s unbelievable. I’m a native Floridian, and when I was growing up no one would go to Jupiter. Now everyone wants to go.”

A customized buying strategy is just half the secret to maintaining each store’s character. The other is having the right staff. Adams has 14 employees spread among the four stores. She says she’d love to have more, “but we’re always short of staff.” That means Adams is always on the road to one of her locations to work with staff and clientele. Then, it’s off to the next store. Then the next.

“I’m like the energizer bunny,” she jokes. “I’m always on the go.”

The difference now is that she feels more grounded, and Excentricities is better for it.

For more information, visit excentricities.com.
Images: Steve Tutterow Photography

A Welcome Wagon

Texas retailer hitches her fortune to AmericasMart
By Poormina Apte

Sangeeta Gupta, the owner of Modelli Creations, was just starting out and Carley Seale, then a rookie retailer, fell in love with the products. Today Modelli is one of the many wholesalers that anchors Seale’s The Gypsy Wagon, which has two locations in Texas: Dallas and Austin. An additional operation, ROAM Fine Goods, makes up the vibrant retail selection in Crested Butte, Colo.

A STEADY RIDE

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The Gypsy Wagon got its start in 2007 in the middle of the Great Recession. But the economy did not faze Seale who was bitten by the retail bug in high school. Seale left her job as vice president of a sales team for a medical devices company and opened the first Gypsy Wagon in Dallas. Since then, the business has grown, employing 31 people across all three locations.

The stores’ vibe is “very wanderlust and free-spirited,” with just hints of the South. Not having a “lick of retail experience” Seale wanted to create a store that stocked reasonably priced goods for everyone, not realizing how difficult that would be to implement. The name The Gypsy Wagon has given her room to grow and Seale, whose husband Johnny, is operations chief, says every product is selected to incite an emotional response. Starting with home decor and gifts, the stores have added apparel and footwear under the guidance of three full-time buyers including Seale.

Selling a variety of home, gift and apparel items from Paddywax candles to Flying Bird Botanical teas and dresses from Show Me Your Mumu, The Gypsy Wagon has a dedicated customer base and devoted fans on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

ATLANTA, HOTLANTA
An AmericasMart fan, Seale is particularly partial to Handmade and HIGH DESIGN
and believes AmericasMart has the most to offer in one stop. “I shop Atlanta, New York and Dallas but if I had to pick one it would be Atlanta because it has everything—the southern feel, the latest products. It has the most to offer in one location,” Seale says.

Seale’s competitive streak means that she’s always an early bird at Cash and Carry. “If there’s something that’s one of a kind I want to be the one to get it,” she says. Seale doesn’t have a set strategy for shopping at AmericasMart and appreciates the sense of discovery that comes from just taking it all in. “I like it to be a little unstructured because that’s when your mind is open to seeing new things,” Seale says.

That’s how Seale discovers great product finds including Modelli at AmericasMart years ago. “Sangeeta keeps bringing awesome stuff, and it’s neat that you can cultivate that kind of relationship,” Seale says of Modelli’s owner.

“That’s why you have to keep going too, because you don’t know who will be there
for the first time,” Seale advises, “You really don’t want to miss anything.”


Join us for The Atlanta Fall Immediate Delivery Show® – A Cash & Carry Event, November 1 – 3, 2016 at AmericasMart. From jewelry to furniture, and everything in between, restock your inventory instantly with products your customers need for the holidays and beyond.

Carley Seale is the owner of The Gypsy Wagon which has locations in Dallas and Austin, Texas. Husband, Johnny Seale is operations chief. For more information, visit www.the-gypsy-wagon.com. Seale has a third store, ROAM Fine Goods in Crested Butte, Colo.

Images: Scott Light Photography

Room to Grow

Step by step success with a Florida children’s retailer
By Jessica Harlan

When Kelly Leigh couldn’t find the clothing styles she wanted for her son, she did what any entrepreneurial-minded mom might only dream of doing: she opened her own children’s clothing store.

Getting started
She opened Kelly and Kayden in Windermere, Fla., in fall 2015, and quickly discovered that running her own store was far different than managing others. “Working for other industries, I knew my customer and I knew what our brand and focus was,” says Leigh. “But when I started this new adventure, it was unknown.”

But not entirely unfamiliar: she’d been dressing her niece, now 12, as well as friends’ kids for years, and as a new mom herself, she had a specific idea of what design aesthetic she wanted in her shop. “My approach is fashion forward and sophisticated,” she says. “Nothing too frilly, no cartoon characters and no visible branding. It’s clothes that you could buy for great family photos.”

She also has to take into account Florida’s unique climate and customer base. “We have so many people from all different backgrounds,” says Leigh. Plus, she has to choose comfortable fabrics for the hot, humid Florida weather: cotton or other soft fabrics and sleeveless styles are an emphasis. Because she likes to be able to touch and personally inspect everything she carries, most items are bought at AmericasMart and other gift markets.

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Finding the right mix
Leigh has worked hard to finesse her assortment of merchandise. Her layette department is 10 percent; baby products such as toiletries, towels and diaper bags is 5 percent; boys’ and girls’ clothing is 50 percent; jewelry and accessories is 20 percent; shoes is 5 percent; and toys is 10 percent.

Originally her vision was to stock clothes in sizes from newborn to size ten. “Kids have such an opinion around the age of 10, and I didn’t want to address that.” But her big girls’ area has already doubled, and she’s buying sizes up to 16 at the request of her customers, who are looking for cute age-appropriate clothing.

Another area that has grown was hair bows. As a mom to a boy, Leigh was skeptical when her sales rep extorted her to carry them. “She told me that stores can pay their rent just on hair bow sales.” But she listened and now her famous “hair bow bar” stretches seven feet.

Planning for the future
As far as pricing goes, Leigh describes her range as “fairly priced.” Merchandise starts at around $5 and goes up to several hundred dollars for higher-end items like formal wear or communion dresses. “I think if you have a wide range of prices, you don’t single out a particular buyer,” she says.

While toys only comprise about a tenth of her merchandise assortment, they’re an important component. “Toys are easy gifts, and they complement the buying people do here,” says Leigh. She carries educational and high quality brands, such as Melissa & Doug and Jellycat plush animals. And the toys make for fun cross merchandising.

Currently Leigh is her store’s sole employee, but she has big plans for the future. “I see our store becoming one of the leading children’s stores in central Florida,” she says. She’s hoping to have an online shopping platform up and running this summer. Other than that, she plans to “perfect what we have” before taking any more steps to grow.

Read more about Kelly and Kayden in the July 2016 Market Magazine.

For information visit kellyandkayden.com or call 407.217.6902.
Photography by Forever Wild Images.

Going Global: 7 Tips

What you need to know about working with international vendors
By Jessica Harlan

Crossing the borders and exploring the offerings of manufacturers and distributors from all over the world is sure to give your store a distinctive product mix. But it can be daunting to work with a supplier from another country where the currency, language, customs and standards might be different from yours.

But establishing an international roster of suppliers is worth the extra effort to find unusual products and to incorporate trends into your assortment even before they start catching on in the U.S.

Insider Info
AmericasMart is the perfect place to find international suppliers; you can travel the world while staying on one interconnected campus. We spoke with some of the global exhibitors at The July Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market to get their best tips on how American retailers can best work with suppliers from other countries. Here’s what they have to say:

Image courtesy of Eightmood

Image courtesy of Eightmood

1. “A vendor who has gone through the hurdles of entering the U.S. Market is determined,” says Fredrik Axelsson, sales director for the U.S. for Eightmood, a home furnishings design company based in Sweden. “If you see what you like, start a dialogue, establish a partnership, place an order, and grow together.”

2. During an in-person conversation, be sure to ask questions if you don’t understand, and don’t be afraid to summarize or restate the discussion to make sure everyone is on the same page.

3. Bring a tape measure – basic measurements might be different in other countries. Outside the United States, most countries use metric measurements, so having a tape measure (or downloading a conversion app on your smartphone) will allow you to translate sizes for your market.

4. The way products are designed or constructed might differ too, says John Goumas, sales and marketing vice president for Australian company OneWorld Collection. “In America, lampshades are mounted with harps and finials, and in Australia, our lamps are done the English way, with the shade that attaches to the base of the bulb.” While OneWorld has adapted, redesigning its lamps to reflect the American market, some products just might be different from what’s expected – and that’s part of what makes it unique.

Image courtesy of Evelyne Prélonge

Image courtesy of Evelyne Prélonge

5. Double check details about financial transactions to make sure there are no unexpected costs associated with your orders. “Make sure the price includes transport and duties,” says Marylou Altounian, brand manager for Evelyn Prélonge. She also recommends retailers make sure they can set up payment in U.S. dollars via bank transfer or credit cards.

Image courtesy of Tissage Art de Lys

Image courtesy of Tissage Art de Lys

6. Plan for longer delivery times. One of the challenges to working with an overseas source is that getting goods might take longer. Aureline Maillard, spokesperson for French company Tissage Art de Lys says her company typically proposes DDP delivery (Delivery Duty Paid) and does everything possible to limit the time it takes for orders to be delivered. Altounian also recommends double checking that quoted delivery time includes transport time, since sea freight can be as long as four weeks.

Image courtesy of Moe's Home Collection

Image courtesy of Moe’s Home Collection

7. Take advantage of a vendor’s offerings. At Moe’s Home Collection, a Canadian/American home furnishings company, the company can sell a retailer a whole room package, from the rug to the furniture to the lighting and decorative accessories, and even has available photography for retailers to use in promotions. Inquire about promotional materials and bundled assortments to help give your imported merchandise a boost.

Read more tips for working with international vendors in the July 2016 Market Magazine.

For more information: Eightmood, Inc. – eightmood.com, 561.801.5400; Evelyne Prélonge – evelyne-prelonge.com, +33 1 85 08 59 55; Moe’s Home Collection – moeshomecollection.com, 800.967.9942; OneWorld Collection – oneworldcollection.com, 630.870.4799; Tissage Art de Lys – artdelys.com, +33 3 20 75 42 10

Get the Blues

Boutique Denim Sales Thrive with Smart Retailing
By Laura Raines

Beija-Flor Jeans

Beija-Flor Jeans

“Women came late to the jeans market, but now they are driving its explosion and innovation—new technologies, processes and fibers,” says Kathy Moca, co-founder and owner of Beija-Flor Jeans. “Denim is here to stay.” If you’ve been avoiding selling denim, it’s time to jump in.

Here are some expert tips:

Know your customer
“You need to know ages, lifestyles, demographics and what they value,” says Marlo Williams, sales director at Level 99. Are they interested in cutting-edge trends, comfort, fit, durability, price, eco-friendly products?

Deliver a premium shopping experience
“Denim is about individuality and finding that perfect style and fit. To survive, a retailer has to make a connection with the customer and establish a rapport,” says Moca. “Be prepared to educate them on the product’s uniqueness and how it is made.” Make it easy, fun and satisfying to shop for jeans to beat the online competition. “It’s important to be knowledgeable,” says Linda Del Percio, marketing director, French Dressing Jeans. “Trained fit specialist staff can save a shopper a lot of time by suggesting the silhouettes and styles that complement her body type.”

French Dressing Jeans

French Dressing Jeans

Research companies before you go to market
There are many options in every price point. You might try several price points to see what sells. Compare manufacturing technologies, range of styles and sizes, your initial investment and the level of customer service. What support will you get from a brand’s in-store collateral materials (posters, tags, signage), advertising and use of social media?

Start small
Buy the basics and manufacturers’ top sellers that work for your customers. “We make dark denim, black and white without a lot of destruction and bling year round, because those are wardrobe staples,” says Moca. “You can make mistakes with colors. Play it safe to start.”

Inventory often and reorder
Jeans are a replenishment item. Make sure you have all sizes in stock.

Display flat
“Hanging and storing in cubbies is denim suicide,” says John Williams. “Place jeans half-folded on a table, so that shoppers can touch and respond to how great it feels.”

For more information: Beija-Flor Jeans – beijaflorjeans.com, 864.631.1563; French Dressing Jeans – frenchdressingjeans.com, 404.523.3267; and Level 99 – level99jeans.com, 404.749.4655.

Images courtesy of Beija-Flor Jeans and French Dressing Jeans.

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?