Purchasing with a Purpose

AmericasMart buyers can take good work to heart
By Mandy Roth

Today’s consumers expect more from the companies they buy from and the products they use in their homes. They desire attributes beyond function and beauty; they want to make the world a better place by purchasing products with a purpose. Many AmericasMart exhibitors include philanthropy as a major tenet of their businesses, offering end consumers an opportunity to contribute to a greater good.

Half United; Full Commitment
Half United founders Carmin Black and her brother Christian didn’t set out to better the world through their professional lives. Yet that is exactly the path they now navigate. Each purchase of one of their company’s apparel items or accessories provides food to hungry children. To date, their customers have made possible more than 200,000 meals for children in the United States and around the world.

“Everything we’ve been through in life led us to this point,” says Carmin, a former television reporter, who later worked as a public speaker for TOMS—the company that set new standards in corporate philanthropy by donating a pair of shoes to needy kids for each pair purchased.

All elements of her past coalesced during an enthusiastic speaking appearance. She recalled memories growing up as a pastor’s daughter in a family where every male member was in the clergy, as well as her mother’s endeavors in the fashion industry. She remembered the mission trips in which she and her brother participated. She was reminded of her service as her sorority’s philanthropic chairperson. The energy created by the combination of charity, business and brand passion fused for her in front of that audience. It was one of those moments that changed everything that happened next.

She placed a call to Christian, who was in L.A. trying to launch an apparel business, suggesting that they join forces to create a company with a charitable focus. They borrowed $200 from their mother and the venture has grown in the years since. They now sell a variety of goods, including jewelry and T-shirts. Some of their most popular items feature recycled bullet casings, turning a symbol of harm into a sign of hope, representing their fight against hunger.

TOMS, Carmin believes, cracked the code that unites business and philanthropy by communicating the impact each consumer has on the world by buying one of their products. For Half United, that unique formula means that each time a product is purchased, seven children receive meals. “Hunger is something every human can relate to,” says Carmin.

The founders closely vet the charities they work with around the world. On a trip to Haiti, for instance, they examined the operations of Papillion Enterprise, an organization that employs local artisans to make some of the jewelry Half United sells, providing a source of income so impoverished parents can feed their children.

Carmin insisted on accompanying one of the workers home, a journey down dirt roads and over a ravine filled with trash and goats. They eventually entered a shantytown, navigating four-foot wide alleys through the shacks. When they arrived at the worker’s home, the mother shifted a plywood door to the side, proudly showing off her kitchen, featuring charcoal on a dirt floor. “Where do you sleep?” queried the entrepreneur. The woman revealed a second room where her children slept on packing materials—the same ones used by the charitable organization to ship jewelry to Half United. “My heart hurt for them,” says Carmin, who purchased proper mattresses for the family before leaving the country.

While Carmin and her brother are literally in the trenches at times, she points out that the retailers who sell Half United’s products—and the consumers who buy them—are the ones making the difference. “You have no idea how much your purchase matters in the lives of people around the world. Ultimately, you are the ones feeding people; we just facilitate that transaction.”

Sari Bari: Rescue From the Red Light
When secondhand saris gain new life as accessories and home goods, the women in India who make these products secure access to freedom from lives in the sex trade. The extraordinary goods available through Sari Bari offer employment opportunities for women who want to escape the red light district of Kolkata, India, as well as young women in outlying villages, who are vulnerable to being trafficked.

Each blanket, handbag, accessory or baby item is sewn using the traditional Kantha stitch, unique to the creator’s personal style. No two pieces are identical. Living in India, Sari Bari founder Sarah Lance established the company a decade ago when she personally witnessed the plight of these women and determined she would do something to make a difference in their lives. Goods are sold in the U.S. through a non-profit organization.

Today’s consumers are interested in one-of-a-kind products and want to know the stories behind the things they purchase, explains Merilee Rowe, the company’s sales and operations manager. Sari Bari deepens that connection because the 120 women the company employs stitch their names inside the items they create. During their first year of training, they are known generically as “Mukti.” After the first year, each graduates to using her own name. Their “freedom birthday” is celebrated annually, and employees are given opportunities to rise into management, providing further opportunities for a better life.

“Sari Bari products are special because retailers and consumers know the products are directly tied to impacting a women on the other side of the world,” says Merilee. “That artisan is creating something beautiful, and you are empowering her to do that by purchasing her product.”

Imagine Home: Third World Artisans; First World Designs
When interior designer Staci Lantz toured South Africa with the founder of TOMS Shoes in 2007, she was inspired by his company’s commitment to social responsibility. She returned with a new plan for her life, an idea to add a greater sense of purpose to her profession and an approach to American consumerism that would contribute to the betterment of others.

She’s spent her time since touring the world, meeting artisans in communities where she could source creations conceived by her, along with her design partners. The result is Imagine Home, a collaborative effort between third-world artisans and first-world designers.

The company takes first world product designs and commissions impoverished people in artisan communities around the world to handcraft the items. “By using our industry experience in design, we create a product that is desirable to consumers; by commissioning people in need, we create an income-generating opportunity for them,” according to Imagine Home’s website. The 2016 collection includes lighting, rugs, tabletop, upholstery and bedding from Haiti, Peru, Africa and India. Many items feature 100 percent organic and recycled materials. Also in the line-up: hand-knitted baby alpaca bedding and handsome horn and bone products.

“Staci has spent time in each of the communities we work with, as well as with each artisan, developing the product with them,” says Katie Gable, Imagine Home’s showroom manager at AmericasMart. “Instead of purchasing a product that is mass produced, each item we offer is individually created by someone’s hand. The buyer may never meet the artisan, but there is a connection back to them and you are contributing to the economy in their communities across the world.”

Stephen Joseph: A Connection with Kids
When Rick Taylor, president of Stephen Joseph, returns home each evening, he has a wonderful reminder of the good things his company is doing in the world. His daughter was adopted from a Russian orphanage that his business supports through its philanthropic efforts.

Giving back is something this company takes seriously. Established 30 years ago as a sorority products specialist, it grew and diversified over time into a variety of businesses. Stephen Joseph is the parent company, as well as the name of its successful kids lifestyle brand. In 2013, executives decided to bolster the business’ charitable endeavors, and sought to support organizations that focused on kids. One recent initiative raised $250,000 from the sale of certain products, with donations contributed to No Kid Hungry, Children’s Scholarship Fund and Little Kids Rock.

Stephen Joseph

Stephen Joseph

Karma, the company’s lifestyle brand, which features popular handbags, accessories, home and travel products, gives five percent of its gross sales to numerous charities, including the Russian orphanage. Other endeavors include providing filtered water in Nepal; paying teacher’s salaries a school in a poverty stricken area of Cambodia; and supporting Food Backpacks for Kids, which provides weekend food to kids in need. In addition to special projects, the company makes ongoing donations to organizations such as the American Diabetes Association.

“Given the choice between two similar products, if one has a ‘give back’ component, it affects the end-consumer’s buying habits,” says Rick. “It’s a selling point for buyers to communicate information about where a portion of consumers’ money is going.” While the executive is enthusiastic about all the charities his company supports, the ones that tug at his heartstrings are focused on children. “We love kids,” he says. “They don’t have the ability to help themselves, so we are passionate about helping them.”

For more information: Imagine Home; Half United – halfunited.com; Sari Bari – saribari.com; and Stephen Joseph – stephenjosephgifts.com

Images courtesy of Stephen Joseph, Sari Bari and Half United

Pillow Talk: Tips for Success from National Small Business Award Winner Eric and Christopher

By Adam Wisniewski

In 2012 when artists Eric Fausnacht and Christopher Kline began making canvas pillows by hand in Doylestown, PA, (about 40 miles outside Philadelphia) their basements housed the design, production and sales departments.

baby-goat_medium-pillowDuring their first six months together, Eric created the pillows’ monochromatic animal designs, while Christopher handled printing duties. After selling 1,000 pillows at regional craft fairs, the pair realized their business could scale nationally, but not from their basements.

As their eponymous company grew in sales and size, it moved production into a 7,000-square-foot facility; added tote bags, wall art and custom printing jobs to its product line; and wholesaled to customers like the L.L. Bean flagship store in Maine, The Plaza Hotel in New York City, Pine Cone Hill and the White House Historical Association. All while still making products by hand in Bucks County, PA.

The duo capped off four years of tremendous growth with the 2016 Outstanding Encore Entrepreneur Award from the national SCORE Foundation, a nonprofit network of business experts who volunteer free time and expertise to mentor small business owners.

Learning to handle that growth was one of the most important lessons Eric and Christopher took from their SCORE mentors.

“We experienced explosive growth as the business took off – 50 percent and 70 percent year-over-year,” says Christopher. “We needed to take control of it because things could have spiraled out of hand, but we learned not to be fixated on the numbers, slow down and reevaluate our positions.”

“Our mentors helped us recognize the point to invest more in equipment and people and management,” says Eric. “Christopher and I were doing everything. At some point, we had to stop doing that.”

Erpaco_chihuahua-toteic and Christopher never envisioned wholesaling would be an evolutionary force for their product line. When they first displayed at shows like The Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market®, some buyers were reluctant to pull the trigger on a large order because they didn’t know if the company could fulfill that type of volume at its current size. But returning in following years and reconnecting allowed those relationships to bear fruit.

“Now our vendors ask us to expand our line,” says Eric, who describes new offerings like aprons, tea towels and other textiles. “And up to 30 percent of our business now is custom jobs. I didn’t foresee that. We are actually being approached to print yardage, and because we manufacture here in Pennsylvania, we may not be cheaper than their overseas manufacturers, but we can do smaller runs with quick turnaround to get them to market faster.”

What advice would the duo give their past selves about attending Market?

“We spend so much time and effort on the product that market often sneaks up on us,” says Christopher. “We need to set aside more time to prepare and really dig into the retail sales cycle.”

On a more practical level, Eric recalls driving his truck down from Pennsylvania stuffed to the brim to stock his first AmericasMart® booth. “I didn’t know about direct shipping or that AmericasMart could store our booth. We should have done that from the start and put extra effort into making our booth presentation more professional and clean.

“We love our products and respond to what our customers love about them,” says Eric. “People like the cleanliness, the simple images and the quality of construction. Cute, but not kitschy. Sophisticated – that is us.”

Congratulate Eric and Christopher in the newly integrated Home Accents, Home Furnishings, Fine Linens & Home Textiles and Rug collections in Building 1, Floor 7. ANTIQUES in Building 1, Floor 2 closes at 6 p.m. on Sunday, January 15. Temporaries in Buildings 1, 2 and 3, including Temps for The Atlanta International Area Rug Market® featuring The National Oriental Rug Show sponsored by ORIA are open through 2 p.m. on Monday, January 16.

DÉCOR | Light and Lifestyles

An encore event coming in January 2017
By Laura Raines

In July 2016, AmericasMart created a new, juried collection of top-tier makers of lighting, textiles, and occasional furniture. DÉCOR | Light and Lifestyles comprised 20 sophisticated and cutting-edge manufacturers in a gallery-like space with spacious booths, hard walls and superb lighting on Building 1, Floor 8. The mix was surprising, but complementary with quality its bedrock.

“We know that buyers’ time is valuable. We wanted to give designers and home furnishing retailers a place to meet unique exhibitors, start conversations, spark creativity, and form relationships… to add a new dimension to the buying experience,” says Katie Inglis, director of sales, AmericasMart.


In January, DÉCOR | Light and Lifestyles will be back for an encore performance. The dialogue will continue with returning and new exhibitors with fresh product lines that speak to the latest home trends, because, as Inglis notes, “Everyone found value in this section.”

The intimate, juried collection was perfect for Austin Allen James, founder of Lawrence and Crane, Inc., who believes that art is energy. He expresses his love of color, movement and lyricism in paintings and occasional furnishings. “People buy these pieces for the way they look. They’re house jewelry,” he says.

“This was my first Atlanta market and DÉCOR was a magnificent platform,” says James. “I needed the hard walls, and lighting is so important to art,” he says. “I wanted to introduce my work to the Southern market, and Atlanta’s show does that in spades.”

He had three goals: to land with a splash, to articulate his style (he works in a neutral
palette with resin, beeswax and satin finishes), and to sell well. Having checked off all three, he’ll return in January with new stackable trays and small tables with artwork floating under glass tops.


Shadow Becker of Cozy Nomad Designs brought his one-of-a-kind, hand-made throws and pillows fashioned from distinctive textiles found all over the world. He backs them with faux fur “to make them cozy, because people are investing in making their living spaces places where they can feel their best,” he says.

Already sold in 180 boutiques and furnishing stores, Atlanta’s DÉCOR re-inspired him,
says Becker. “It helps to be around more artistically-driven vendors. There were so many creative, unique things, yet the energy was cohesive. I’m getting high hopes that this will be the place to be. It was one of our best shows ever,” says Becker. In January, he’ll show a new line of benches and stools made from reclaimed wood and covered in his signature blue and neutral patterned fabrics.

It was the first trade show that Nick Geimer and Lawson Ricketts, founders of Ngala
Trading Company, had attended as exhibitors. “There was so much to learn, but we loved the feeling of community in this section. And we found new interior designer and retail customers,” says Geimer.

The two started an interior design and home furnishings store in Johannesburg in 2013,
sourcing indigenous African pieces made by local artisans from horns, skulls, leather, hides and other natural materials. Finding a demand for high-quality, contemporary African works, they opened a showroom in New York City.

“With one Atlanta show under our belt, our next will be larger,” says Geimer. He plans to introduce new chandeliers, ottomans, leather and porcupine quill boxes, and zebra skin inlaid trays. “As that floor evolves, we know it will be juried and that it will bring together really interesting companies.”


Shop DÉCOR | Light and Lifestyles in Building 1, Floor 8, during during The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market®, Thursday, January 12 – Sunday, January 15 from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Monday, January 16 from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

For more information:
Lawrence and Crane – lawrenceandcrane.com; Ngala Trading – ngalatrading.com; and Cozy Nomad – cozynomaddesigns.com

An Antiques Primer

Learn to make the most of the myriad available collections
By Poormina Apte

Both retailers and designers are always looking for on-of-a-kind pieces, which is why the ANTIQUES Temporary collection and one-of-a-kind showrooms at AmericasMart offer an unparalleled opportunity to explore and find interesting treasures. The category brings together top dealers from across the country in one location, making it more convenient to source impressive, diverse collections.


These items add a layer of warmth and history that’s unique to each piece or project but you need to be a savvy shopper to ensure you find what you really want. While it’s both invigorating and challenging, the world of antique sourcing can be a bit intimidating for the novice buyer. Where does one start and how? We talked with some of the experts and offer a basic primer on buying and working with antiques.

Ask Questions
Be prepared with what you want to learn about the antiques you’re buying. Of the pieces they source from France, designers Ann Huff and Meg Harrington of Huff Harrington Home will find out what kind of wood is used, what region did the piece come from and how the specific style is defined. If a dealer tells you a piece is 100 years old, ask them how they know that, advises Huff. It’s always better to ask and confirm so you can pass along that knowledge to your customer.

Build Relationships
Building a working rapport with reputable dealers is a reliable way to know you’re buying a genuine product. “Buy from a group of dealers at venues such as AmericasMart. They don’t just let anybody into the show. These exhibitors have been vetted so they’re selling a good product at a good price,” says Kenny Ball of Kenny Ball Antiques.


Change It Up
Mix and match. “It’s never a good idea to have a one-note interior,” says Susie Quillin of MiNTY, “It’s the mix of eras, materials, and colors that creates a sophisticated look. If you sell new furniture, have your lounge chairs flank an age-worn table; use antique bookends to corral a collection of new books,” she suggests as ideas for retailers and designers. Start small and don’t go crazy when creating retail displays, advises Janice Palmer of Palmer Design Group, “You’re not creating a museum; you’re replicating a lived-in space.” Finding a common theme like color between a set of disparate pieces from different periods helps things not get too frenetic, says Meg Harrington of Huff Harrington. Vendors and designers recommend buying functional products for display purposes—working chests of drawers and mirrors are great examples.

Display Their Socks Off
Since antiques are great conversation-starters, they can be displayed in more interesting ways that spotlight multiple items. Ball placed an antique African mask atop an armoire to draw attention to both the mask and the furniture. Huff believes antiques are best complemented by contemporary art because each dramatically highlights the other. Huff Harrington has used sinks from an Italian church to display soaps and a painted armoire from the south of France to hold baskets in their retail store.

Educate Your Customer
“Point out the tongue and groove joints on that Harvey Probber cabinet, show your customer the pontil mark of a mouth-blown Murano ashtray; run your finger over the artist’s signature,” suggests Quillin, reminding buyers to inspect an antique thoroughly and learn all its flaws and damages. Learning the story behind each piece can really help sell it. “Antiques marry the past, the present and the future,” says designer Connie Seitz. Quillin agrees. “Every antique has a personality, a history, a story. It’s what makes them so beloved and interesting.”

In addition to the one-of-a-kind showrooms, visit the ANTIQUES Temporary Collection located on Building 1, Floor 2, January 12-15 from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. during The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market. Items purchased with the ANTIQUES exhibitors may be picked-up at the Distinguished Transport warehouse. Distinguished Transport also can ship items directly to the purchaser via white glove delivery service. Rates apply. Learn more about how purchases work, here. Find helpful answers to frequently asked questions about ANTIQUES, here.

Connie Seitz Interiors – connieseitzinteriors.com, 985.630.7102; Huff Harrington Home – huffharrington.com, 404.467.0311; Kenny Ball Antiques – kennyballantiques.com, 434.293.1361; MiNTY – loveminty.com, 404.863.9220; Palmer Design Group – palmerdesignllc.com, 470.375.2506

The Top 10 Most Anticipated Trends for 2016 National Prom Market

Style expert Carson Kressley might not have attended his prom, but he sure does know a thing or two about what we can expect to see on dance floors and pageant stages this upcoming spring. The charming TV personality was the resident tastemaker at the 2015 WORLD OF PROM Market at AmericasMart Atlanta.

Carson scoured the Market in search of the best new looks and hottest trends for prom, pageant, quinceañera, homecoming and social occasion in 2016.

Bring a bit of Carson’s je ne sais quoi back to your store with these style suggestions inspired by the style expert’s favorite items from the 2015 national prom Market:



Fashionistas of a feather flock together. Feather details add a delicate whimsy and tons of movement to gowns. Look for them in a variety of colors on the skirts of both long and short styles.

Geometric Patterns

geometric patterns (6)

The WORLD OF PROM runway looked like the world’s most chic math class with geometric prints appearing throughout the show. Whether as an accent piece or the dominant design of the dress, these bold prints solve the equation for a memorable prom gown.


florals (3)

While a floral frock may be a mainstay for spring fashion collections, the look is a fresh for social occasion. The floral representations are as diverse as the blooms they portray ranging from printed fabrics, to appliques and beading.


metallics (3)

No spotlights are needed with these shiny and shimmery dresses. New shades such as rose gold, pewter and platinum join classic sparklers gold and silver. Bold ladies go head-to-toe shine while others use it as a show-stopping detail.


fringe (2)

The ready-to-wear fringe trend has made it to social occasion. When this dance-floor-friendly element is paired with posh fabrics and the right accessories, there is no doubt the look is just right for a special evening.


white, crop top

The wedding day is not the only opportunity for a show-stopping white gown. Youthful silhouettes, fun embellishments and party-ready accessories confirm that the wearer is going to the dance rather than going to the chapel.

Crop Tops

crop top, pastels

The crop top has been on trend for a while now and continues strong for 2016. Designers are updating the look with a crop top/cut outs hybrid that still shows some skin, but keeps the dress as one continuous piece.

1970s Glam

70s glam

Disco fever abounds with 1970s-inspired looks. Dancing queens make a statement with cut-outs, sparkles and party-ready pants-suits. Make sure the styling is modern to keep the look classy instead of costume.


new lace

Ladies are turning to geometric patterns in lieu of the traditional floral lace that has dominated the social occasion run way for the past few seasons. Blooms are used in a color-on-color technique that adds an interesting texture to gowns of all styles.


Pastels, lace

These sweet and feminine shades take it up a notch with head-turning elements. Crop tops, embellishments and even head-to-toe sequins in these heavenly hues yield modern looks that are perfect for spring celebrations.

The WORLD OF PROM market will take place from August 4-8.

Design Resource Debut

DÉCOR │ Light & Lifestyles Temporary collection opens in July
By Laura Raines

Building on the success of HIGH DESIGN and HD Home, AmericasMart unveils DÉCOR │ Light & Lifestyles during The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market®, July 12 – 19, 2016. On Floor 8 of Building 1, the temporary, juried collection gives manufacturers of design-oriented home furnishings and accessories a showcase for fresh lines and ideas. Expect to discover a mix of lighting, furniture and a plentiful variety of fine linens and textiles, which are a fast-growing sector in the home market.

“Quality is the strong-point of this space,” says Marie Knight, vice president of Tradeshows. “We have found that grouping exhibitors in like-minded neighborhoods is a good idea. They often share similar buyers and complement one another.”

Madison Chair by TAILORED Taylor Burke Home

Madison Chair by TAILORED Taylor Burke Home

The new space creates an entirely fresh buying experience. “The collection is an expanded expression of what is new and next in lifestyle and lighting design,” says JoAnn Miller Marshall, AmericasMart executive vice president of Tradeshows. “The spacious booths, hard walls and floor layout give these top manufacturers the ultimate venue to showcase their sophisticated mix of the hottest trends in home furnishings design and décor.”

Exhibitors will be able to showcase their best options in a unique space. “The 8th floor is the perfect opportunity for us to show buyers a new mix of products,” says Julianne Taylor, founder and creative director for Taylor Burke Home. “We will create a beautiful cross-merchandised space to provide a fun shopping experience for our buyers.”

All the elements
French Market Collection has a permanent showroom of furniture, linens and rugs on Floor 14, but Peggy Richardson will show products from her new lighting company, Get Lit, in the new temporary space. Her venture with J.M. Piers took off in HD Home last year. This year, she’ll bring more designs in alabaster, glass and ceramic, a blend of traditional shapes with contemporary shades and colors, in low, medium and high price points. Having just returned from China, she plans to introduce muted colors (celadon, turquoise, pinks) to coordinate with French Market’s textile collections. “White will be back—it was a surprise hit last year,” she says. Designers exploring white’s range of warm to cool tones have made it a hot decorating trend.

Bamboo lamp by Get Lit

Bamboo lamp by Get Li

The new Décor │ Light and Lifestyles section allows Richardson to cross market. The booth floor will display one of her rugs and she’ll show Get Lit lamps in her permanent showroom. “With lighting, we have a new niche and revenue generator. Most homes need at least eight lamps,” she says. “We expect this area to be a must-see for stores and designers looking for something new and exciting.” She knows she’s in good company with quality manufacturers of lighting and soft goods. “Lighting, textiles and linens are growing because they are an economical way to change the entire look of a room,” she says.

Sophisticated mix
The new area is an opportunity for Taylor Burke Home to showcase the company’s new TAILORED by Taylor Burke Home line. “It’s perfect for designers working on a budget,” says Julianne Taylor, founder and creative director. “The styles are classic everyday chic designs and include gorgeous Lacefield and The Blush Label patterns among many other solids as part our standard fabric options. Best of all, the fabric is included.”

Glory by Callisto Home

Glory by Callisto Home

Gerry Nichol, co-owner of Callisto Home, sees the space as an excellent match for his elegant and sophisticated pillows, bed linens and window treatments in pale colors and neutrals, including designs featuring the latest demand accent, subdued gold. “Textiles are always in vogue, because people use them ubiquitously, and styles generally evolve faster than in furniture,” says Nichol. “We are excited to have the opportunity to showcase our work here. Our aim is to display our products beautifully and give our customers a pleasing experience.”

For more information: Callisto Home at callistohome.com or 201.866.0122; French Market Collection at frenchmarketcollection.com or 985.646.0678; Taylor Burke Home at taylorburkehome.com or 800.860.5821

Shop the new DÉCOR | Light & Lifestyles collection July 14 – 18 on Floor 8 of Building 1.

Classic Revival

Incorporate antique pieces to drive creative sales
By Jessica Harlan

The world of antiques might seem daunting to the uninitiated, but it also offers an unparalleled opportunity for home furnishings and giftware retailers to give their stores a reputation for truly unique and one-of-a-kind merchandise.

If you’re looking to incorporate pieces into your merchandise mix that have a history or the patina of age, you don’t necessarily need to become an expert in period furnishings. You can rely on the knowledge of experienced exhibitors who’ve spent a lifetime learning the business. A sense of what will incorporate well into your store, and an eye for value will serve you well and enable you to dabble in this realm.

Antique horse statue from Acanthus Studio

Antique horse statue from Acanthus Studio

“If you walk into different stores these days, you’ll see the same tables and chairs because everything is mass produced,” says Misty Fowler of M. Fowler Antiques. “They might be beautiful but customers realize they don’t have anything unique that won’t be found in the house down the street. The appeal of buying antiques is that you’re buying something that was handcrafted during a period of time when they took care in handcrafted construction.”

Adds Gayle Baker, co-owner of Acanthus Studios, “Carrying antiques will give a depth and quality to your inventory and will attract new clientele. And when designers can find both new and antique items in the same place, it makes it easy for them to shop.”

If you’re looking to dabble in the wonderful world of antiques, these words of wisdom from antique dealers will help smooth the way.

Don’t attempt to learn it all

Mix antique and modern pieces into design. - Blue Ocean Traders

Mix antique and modern pieces into design. – Blue Ocean Traders

If antique and vintage items are only going to be a small portion of your assortment, don’t even try to become an expert in the industry, says Jason Mulvene, president of Blue Ocean Traders. Just evaluate items on whether they seem like good quality and value for the money, if they’re on trend and sellable. “We’re trained to source it for you, so you don’t have to take too much time to buy vintage,” he says.

Fowler notes that the antiques dealers themselves can be your best resource for information and advice. “Most of us got into this business because we have a passion. [A dealer will] be able to tell you the history, the lineage, what it’s made of. Use them as your resource and when you find an antique dealer whose style you really like, keep in contact with them.”

Start small
Mark Weinstein of Golden Oldies Ltd. suggests that smaller decorative objects that aren’t highly collectible can be affordable options to incorporate into your merchandise mix. Jess Baker of Acanthus Studios agrees. “Smaller items such as lamps or jewelry boxes will blend in with the items you’re currently selling, and they’ll fit into a consumer’s home a lot easier than, say, a large piece of furniture.” As you start learning more about buying antiques, you can then progress into larger pieces or more specific items that make sense for your brand.

Antique lamp from Kenny Ball Antiques

Antique lamp from Kenny Ball Antiques

Mix old and new
Increasingly, designers and home furnishings retailers are finding success with a mix of both old and new to create an inimitable look. “It’s as simple as taking old china and putting it on a new table,” says Fowler. “Mixing eras, mixing materials like brass and Lucite. It’s an extreme mix, nothing matches anymore.”

Adds Mulvene, “Mixing vintage with more contemporary furniture, makes it a lot harder to reproduce what you’re doing.”

And Kenny Ball, owner of Kenny Ball Antiques, says, “Shelter magazines are a good source for getting ideas on how to mix. An antique chest with modern art: incredible!”

Know what will sell
When you start adding antiques or vintage to your mix, choose items that will mesh nicely with what you already have in your store. After all, your regular customers already like your aesthetic and may even have a similar look going on in their own homes. “One of the best lessons I learned early on is, buy what you love,” says Fowler. “If you love it, odds are your clients will love it too.”

Also look for functional, useful pieces. “People want pieces they can use,” says Ball. “Chests of drawers, mirrors and lighting always sell. Pieces that people can collect such as boxes and porcelain sell well too.”

Gayle Baker says that it’s important to get an idea of what might be popular in your market before you start acquiring pieces. “Educate yourself by reading magazines or blogs,” she says. “Know who you’re buying for and know that every market is different.” As an example, Jess Baker points out that a primitive cabinet might not sell in Miami, but it would in the Rocky Mountains. Midcentury modern and industrial pieces, say the Bakers, are particularly in demand right now.

Play Up the Story
If you’re making the effort to carry antiques, it’s crucial to convey their history to your customers, so they’ll easily be able to differentiate your new merchandise from your vintage assortment. Create hang tags and signage with as much information as possible about the piece: where it’s from, what it’s made of, what it was used for, and how old it is. While signage is good, “nothing beats training your salespeople, having them on the floor and engaging with the customer,” says Mulvene.

With these considerations in mind, adding antiques to your store will help you distinguish your brand and will give your customers yet another reason to return.

For More Information: Acanthus Studios – 877.886.8673, acanthusstudios.com; Blue Ocean Traders – 502.637.1840, blueoceantraders.com; Golden Oldies LTD. – 718.445.4400; Kenny Ball Antiques – 434.293.1361, kennyballantiques.com; M. Fowler Antiques – 850.496.6304, mfowlerantiques.com.

In addition to the one-of-a-kind showrooms, visit the all new ANTIQUES Temporary Collection July 14 – 17, 2016 during The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market®. ANTIQUES will be located in located in Building 1, Floor 2.