Upbeat and in A Holiday Mood in Atlanta
By Sharyn Bernard
The mood was decisively upbeat at the recent Atlanta Gift & Home Furnishings Market here as vendors reported increased traffic, more and higher orders and an overall positive and optimistic mood among buyers at the show.
On a day-to-day comparable basis, "We've had a great opening day, more than double the business from a year ago," said Rick Fencel, vice president of sales for independents for WWRD. The company opened its new, expanded permanent showroom here, signaling its commitment to the Atlanta market as well as confidence in overall business. "Everyone is still guarded but they are more optimistic." He added that the company had more appointments with international buyers, reflecting where companies may see significant growth.
Exhibitors throughout the tabletop and gift areas were optimistic and positive about both the market and the retailers' willingness to write orders for the key fourth quarter.
"I think that stores as well as American consumers are looking for opportunities to say things are getting better," said Charlie Breslin, president of sales representative group Howard Charles.
"Even in what's not the best of times, people are coming in upbeat," said John Lunt, vice president of sales and marketing for Romanov.
If showroom traffic was any indication, the mood as well as business is markedly improved, as exhibitors reported heavy traffic even on the first day, if not before. "The show has been fantastic," said Kim Livingood, marketing manager for Tervis Tumbler, adding that the showroom was busy even before the market opened.
Livia Cowan, president and creative director for Mariposa said the first day of the market - traditionally the slowest - was full with appointments. "I feel we are going to be way up," in sales and traffic.
The positive trend at the show reflected several companies' overall growth. "We are projecting [business will be] up for the year 12 - 15 percent," said Scott Bial, division president for Lifetime Brands.
Vendors focused heavily on gift items and holiday pieces, whether individual pieces or sets, as major stores and independents sought to ramp up their inventory for the holiday season.
Prouna debuted My Noel, a bone china line adorned with Swarovski crystals, which comes as single gift items or five-piece place settings, while Meissen unveiled Holly, sold in open stock. Meissen also launched a line of pure silk scarves featuring the top Meissen patterns, retailing for $327.
Key gift items such as frames, vases and decorative accessories dominated Mariposa and Mikasa, as well as the temporary exhibitors showing at the AmericasMart's High Design area.
Still, moderately priced goods continue to make a statement in the gift category, including new designs from Tervis Tumbler and so-called novelty items such as Lapper serving trays.