Optimism in Atlanta
By Sharyn Bernard
If retail and vendor optimism here is any indication, the economy's tenuous recovery should continue well into the fourth quarter and next year. Exhibitors at the International Gift & Home Furnishings Market--both those in the permanent and temporary showrooms, veterans and newcomers alike--reported strong traffic, even in the first few days, and heavier than expected order writing.
"We are getting last-minute orders in significant quantity," said Dennis Wood, vice president of sales for Lenox, noting that retailers were buying a lot of gift items from the Lenox and Kate Spade lines. "Our giftware business is on fire with Kate."
"We will exceed projections," for the first day, which is a good sign, said Rick Fencel, vice president of sales at Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton. "People are coming in with a purpose and they are ready to write," particularly in the gift side of the business.
"We're optimistic about this market," said Orlando Gencarelli, sales manager of Dartington Crystal, which re-entered the U.S. market a year ago and unveiled new lines in a new showroom, shared with other brands Prouna, Oleg Cassini and Cacharel.
R Squared, a company led by former Zrike executive David Zrike, also unveiled a new showroom and new lines, including new Disney, Muppets and Bombay-branded tabletop and giftware, and reported surprisingly strong sales even on opening day. "I have had more sales appointments than I have hours in the day," said Gary Darwin, vice president. He attributed it to retailers' expectations for a strong holiday and 2013. "Retailers had a pretty good spring and I think they are realistic but optimistic for the rest of the year."
"The first day, I was stunned," said Livia Cowan, president of Mariposa. "People are coming earlier and buying with vigor."
Richard Kaplan, chief sales and marketing officer of Tervis, said Atlanta has always been a critical market and continues to be so, especially as the company continues with double-digit growth. "We've been fortunate that Tervis is still very affordable to almost everybody," he said, noting that the company's show business was already up more than 30 percent over last year's show. He attributed that to new products, namely the Hello Kitty license, jewel coffee mugs and a water bottle design, as well as retailers' improvements. "The good retailers continue to be optimistic."
Scott Bial, division president of Lifetime Brands, said the company has had a strong year - it is already at 75 percent of the total for 2011--and had a strong show even from the beginning. He echoed other's sentiments--while business has been difficult, the retailers that have weathered the storm are in a stronger position and are poised to have good, healthy holiday. "Some business is still difficult, but we are optimistic."
Retailer sentiment was indeed optimistic. Meggan Sulfsted, owner of Carmargo, a high-end specialty store in Cincinnati, said her business is good and continues to improve. She was looking for holiday items from Mariposa, Vietri, Company C, Midwest for Holiday and others.
Exhibitors in the temporary spaces, including first-timers, said the show was strong even in the early days. "The first day sets the tone," said accessory designer Mark Edge. "[The market] came roaring back."
Designer apron company Heavenly Hostess made its debut at the show. Owner Cynthia Wadell had designs on getting to the Atlanta show for a while, as many of her retail customers are based in the area, and "customers are doing better, which is why I'm here."