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Before You Buy
| Jennifer Polanz
>> Published Date: 10/29/2013
Every year buyers make the annual trek to their local (or not-so-local) market to fill their gift department with all the non-plant goodies that will inspire customers to buy, buy, buy. So what will retailers find this year at market? We talked to a few people who are behind the scenes in the gift sector to find out what’s trending for 2014, as well as to get a few tips for shopping the markets.
Whether it’s for indoor or outdoor decorating, styles are still focusing on earth tones and natural vibes. We asked Beth Lorenz, vice president of product development at gift giant Midwest-CBK, to talk about trends she’s seeing for next year. Her answer: “Back to local and urban farming—honeybees, honey combs, produce, flowers and herbs that you’d find at the farmer’s market.
“Natural materials—burlap, wire, wood, glass,” she adds. “Classic garden and nature icons and motifs designed with a modern twist or point of view.”
She also sees decorative products with a function growing in popularity. Examples of this include yard stakes, stepping stones, lanterns and decorative containers, pots and accessories. Garden gift items that retailers can highlight in their shops include artisan or hand-made and handcrafted products, illustrative, hand-drawn icons and patterns and bold color-blocked product (examples include white paired with green or turquoise, or white paired with gray and raspberry or saturated brights like jewel tones).
Some decorative, non-functional popular items include glass orbs hung from trellises, stakes and trees, decorative sculptures, and typography and the use of text as a design element, Beth notes.
Take It Outside
Al fresco living continues to be a huge category for the manufacturers at AmericasMart in Atlanta, one of the country’s largest gift and apparel markets, according to Jill Ford, vice president of leasing for the outdoor/casual furnishings category at AmericasMart. She runs floors 9 and 10 in Building 2, which are called Living. Outdoor/Indoor. The Gardens. and features most of the garden-centric product at the market.
“Based on housing reports and real estate agents, they are saying one of the big things clients are talking about is the outdoor space and what that looks like,” Jill says. “Builders are adding outdoor rooms with kitchens, and people are entertaining at home.”
While this isn’t a new trend, it’s certainly one that continues to grow and expand into new product areas. Jill says several vendors at the market are now carrying outdoor pizza ovens, along with new styles of firepits and fire tables to cater to the American consumer’s love of gathering outdoors.
She, too, is seeing the return to growing and nature with the boom in veggie gardening and the popularity of farm-to-table. Those trends are translating into the giftware found at the market.
Jill recently walked a European trade show and saw trends of big, bright colors like what Beth noted above: tangerines, lime greens, ocean blues and fuchsias in containers, patio furniture and even lanterns. “How does it translate to what they’re going to see here? If there’s a distributor bringing in some of this, then they’ll see it this year,” she says. “I don’t know how much has translated yet, but I think that’s what’s coming down the pike.”
But the timeframe of trends making their way from Europe to the U.S. has reduced dramatically, and they tend to show up here faster than in the past, simply because there are more European companies breaking into the American market.
“So many Americans are traveling more, and distributors and U.S. exhibitors go overseas and try to help manufacturers break into the U.S. market,” she adds. “The channels have really opened up.”
Shopping the Markets
Okay, so now you know some of the things you’ll be seeing at this year’s markets. But how do you navigate the sheer amount of product you’ll be inundated with there? It can be rather daunting to walk floor after floor of product, after all.
Jill recommends going to your primary category first. If you have a gift department that focuses on gardening-related items, go there. If you have mainly apparel, make that a priority. “Walk the whole category—look for that diamond-in-the-rough new introduction you haven’t seen before,” Jill adds. “Introduce something new; buy from a new company or product category you haven’t bought before. Branch out to a new revenue.”
Jill recommends garden retailers check out the gourmet food products at the market, which can pair well with the grow-your-own and farm-to-table vibes we’re seeing across the country. This product line also tends to sell well with events that highlight the products, which can translate into more foot traffic for the garden center.
“There’s so much cross-over because it goes back to that outdoor living and patio,” Jill notes. “There are spices, pizza ovens, tools, housewares, smokers, big green egg and ceramic cookware.”
Those visiting the winter gift shows no doubt will be shopping for holiday products, as well. Beth had some great advice for those navigating the barrage of holiday material out there. “Select a unique holiday assortment for trimming trees, doors, patios, mantels and tables,” she says. “Focus on items that have good quality and interesting design details, colors and materials.
“Finally, be creative and imaginative with merchandising in your store. Consumers love to see how they can recreate vignettes or tablescapes in their homes—this will whet their appetites to purchase.” GP
Winter Gift Schedule
Check out this list to find a 2014 winter gift market near you:
AmericasMart Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market
Permanent: Jan. 7-14; Temporaries: Jan. 9-13
Dallas Total Home & Gift Market, Dallas Market Center
Permanent: Jan. 15-21; Temporaries: 16-19
Chicago Gift Market, Merchandise Mart
Permanent: Jan. 16-22; Temporaries: Jan. 18-21
San Francisco International Gift Fair, Moscone Center
Seattle Market Week: Seattle Gift Show, Washington State Convention Center, in conjunction with Pacific Market Center
Orlando Gift Show, Orange County Convention Center
Furniture, Home and Gift, Las Vegas Market
California Gift Show, Los Angeles Convention Center
Jan. 31-Feb. 3
New York NOW (previously NYIGF), Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
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