24 June 2008

Revving Up for Market

The packing dreams* haven't yet begun, but our summer trip to Market in Atlanta is just a few weeks away. I can almost close my eyes and feel myself there. This is the time of year retailers plan for with all of the expectation, stomach fluttering, copious list-making, and heartfelt strategizing that most people plan for their holidays with (See? This time of year even causes a former English teacher like me to end a sentence with a preposition).

*Ah, the packing dreams. You know how just about everybody has a recurring dream of some type? For me, they're packing dreams, and they usually start arriving a couple weeks out from a major trip. The general plotline is that I'm at home with an open, empty suitcase and my plane leaves in one hour. I don't have a ride to the airport, and worst of all, I don't know where I'm going or how long I'll be gone. You fill in the rest.

Before we depart for The Big Trip, though, we've had a few loose ends to tie up closer to home. Sunday, I ventured down to our regional Market in Columbus for a buying trip with my buying partner/shop stylist/mom Debbie. What we thought was going to be a quick jaunt through the seasonal showrooms to quadruple check our Holiday orders turned into a twelve hour round trip, including driving time. It was a long day, and in keeping with the theme of every other seasonal-themed Market I've attended this year, we were underwhelmed. What's happened to product design and manufacturing this year? One rep shared with me his theory: vendors are streamlining their offerings as retailers streamline their buying as end customers cut back on their shopping due to fears about the economy, so therefore fewer risks are being taken in design, leaving us with more middle of the road products. Hmm. As I crouched down in a showroom and debated between twenty styles of antique silvered Christmas bulbs (none of which were really singing to me), I told our rep, "I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around our Christmas look this year. I'm just not seeing the product I want to find." She confirmed that she's heard the same from other buyers and other showrooms.

In my last post from this Market, I shared how every season, you see a similar look reinterpreted fifty different ways across fifty different showrooms, just with varying degrees of style, detail, and execution. For instance, this year, if I've seen one metallic pine cone ornament, I've seen a hundred. The key as a retailer is to find the fresh new look that's not so dramatic of a departure from the traditional that most customers won't be able to work it into their existing decor (because, really, how many of us throw away all of our Christmas decorations every year and start from scratch with what's trendy?). In a year of design that's decidedly safe, uninspired, and status quo, it can be very difficult to discern that fresh vision amidst so much sameness.

But lest you think we came away with nothing new for you, think again. One secret to uniqueness in retail (and in designing your own home) is often not so much what you're selling (or what you have at home) but how you combine the elements into a fresh story that hasn't been seen or experienced by your customers or your guests before. It's not in the goods, it's in your eye. So yes, Virginie, we DID end up finding what we were looking for--those singularly compelling and beautiful adornments that we'll use to create our holiday tableaux. It took many hours and months of searching, but we're finally excited about what's spinning on the loom and we hope you will be, too.

Most interestingly, our whole vision for Holiday '08 changed on Sunday at that show. We're no longer going in the direction we thought we were. The intended color story has been scrapped, the previous theme has been dismissed, and we're embracing a whole new vibe. It's very modern, very cool, almost edgy, yet tied to the European design heritage that we love. And it's not so far off the mark of the traditional, cozy Christmas that many of us remember from childhood (at least in the movies) and want to keep alive in our own homes. In fact, we're planning for three different Holiday looks this year, each with a different color palette, feel, and point of view. Our hope is that you'll get a kick out of one or all three! Yesterday, our first day back to normal at the shop after the triumphant end of our Make Way for Market Sale, we spent all day faxing off cancellations of our previous Holiday orders. It felt good to get those ideas out of the way and start keying in the new purchase orders.

Meanwhile, back at the shop, we're zhuzhing everything and changing things around in the aftermath of our big sale. Many, many items continue to be marked down all throughout the shop, so it's a great time to stop in.

Some customers have been telling me they're starting to stockpile our discounted goodies for Holiday gift giving.

One highlight of our ongoing summer sale: most of our art on canvas is marked down between 25%-50% OFF. Come in and see what else!

See you soon.


denise @ feather your nest said...

so, turns out I had a "blissful" encounter and didn't know it... remember the gal buying the snowflake ornament for her open house and you helped her calculate 12 dozen? ME!! after you left, got to talking with the rep and turned out she knew your shop and I knew your blog and then I said 'well just right me up whatever they ordered cause she has such good taste" freaked them out a little as they started hemming and hawing and I laughed and said not to worry, I'm JUST KIDDING! But, I have to agree with you, I went in a little different direction than planned also with my xmas buying and was also underwhelmed and had to laugh at your comment about the pinecones - and also the mercury glass orbs... EVERY showroom had them. So, we're off to Chicago in mid July hoping for a little different than Columbus. One rep I talked to - maybe the same ones - he repped the Settings line - felt that only the shop owners that move with the times and can weather the economy by being a little more edgy and differnt will survive - hoping he's right. and that our customers like what we do this season. Next time I see you at the show will have to introduce myself officially instead of being the gal that couldn't calculate 12X12 - it was a long day!


Hey, Denise--

How wild is that??? We spoke on Sunday and didn't even know it.

In my opinion, we both chose one stunner of a snowflake ornament. I really dug the handmade, kind of indie quality of it and the crystall-y, pewter-toned beading. At least that's how I saw it. I'm sure your Open House customers are going to walk away very pleased. :)

All the best to you at the Chicago Mart. Hope it's a fun and productive trip. And yes, if we ever cross each other's paths in Columbus or anywhere else again, hopefully we'll recognize each other to say hi!

Take care.