• Caroline Kennedy

Direct from Market: Boston

Boston Gift Show at BCEC

Boston Gift Show at BCEC

The recent Boston Gift Show at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center got off to a bright start with buyers crowding the aisles early on the first day. Although the show has seen shrinkage in the number of exhibitors and buyers in recent years, Urban Expositions is working hard to rebuild the show as a strong regional buying destination. And if you think that there is nothing to be found at a regional show that you can’t find at one of the major markets, think again.

Regional shows are often where smaller companies make their wholesale trade debut. These closer-to-home shows are a way for new companies to introduce their products, gauge buyer interest, get feedback and grow their business without outstripping their ability to manufacture and fulfill orders. The Boston Gift Show is proof of that. We met several new companies showing for the first time sprinkled in among veteran exhibitors. The enthusiasm of these newcomers is infectious, their product lines fill a need and their business plans seem well thought out.

Keysmo

Keysmo

Notable Newcomers
Among the companies new to the show as well as new to the industry, is Keysmo with its purse accessory device that keeps keys from disappearing into the depths of a handbag. The Keysmo is a cylinder like device that hooks onto the zipper pull on the interior of a handbag; the Keysmo tag attaches to the keychain. The tag on the Keysmo tag drops into the Keysmo and keeps the keys ready and easily found in the purse. It is lightweight and keeps keys secure in the purse interior rather than hooked over the top of a bag.

For the customer who hates a bulky wallet that becomes ever bulkier with all the stuff that gets carried in it — credit cards, photos, membership cards, etc. — there is the Big Skinny.  The Big Skinny offers a collection of different wallet and card case styles made of thin microfiber that are strong but not bulky.  They come in a variety of classic and bright colors for men and women and stand up to years of use.

KYSS (Keep Your Stuff Safe) Bags

KYSS Bags

Larson Product Development showcased its KYSS (Keep Your Stuff Safe) tote bag, which is the perfect carryall for the beach, the gym or for park outings. The tote has an attached lock and chain that can secure it to a beach chair, bench or other large object to help keep the tote secure when unattended. When not in use, the chain stores discreetly away in its own compartment in the bag.
 
Something to Bark About
In the Handmade and Made in New England sections of the show, gifts for pets and their owners were of interest. Locally made and all-natural pet treats drew interest from buyers looking to expand their gourmet offerings to our four-footed friends. Natural treats for dogs were offered by North Woods Animal Treats and Chasing Our Tales. And our feline friends were not forgotten: Chasing Our Tales debuted the Lickin’ Our Chops line of all-natural cat treats, and North Woods offered the Nip ‘n Toy, sheep’s wool felted ball surrounding a bell that comes nestled in a premium cat nip.

Elmo’s Closet helps dogs and their owners “put on the dog” with matching dressed up gear. Webbing leashes and collars are covered in an extensive variety of different fabric patterns for everyday and holidays. Fido’s owner can coordinate the look with a matching belt, hair band and other accessories. 

And New England Bells offered classic sleigh bells to attach to a dog’s collar for a festive holiday addition or everyday way to keep track of Fido’s location.

For Our Well-being
If you are looking to help give customers a good night’s sleep, consider Sleep Scentsations’ aromatherapy pillow liners. Rather than spraying a pillow with a soothing fragrance, Sleep Scentsations are peel-and-stick liners with encapsulated fragrance that adhere to a pillow under the pillow case. There are ten different sleep scents to choose. They come in single packets or in a gift box of eight liners.

In other personal care, Green Tea Goods are remedies crafted with ancient Chinese herbs. The line includes lip balm, body balms, a cuticle cream, pulse point elixirs for calming and energizing and a natural hand refresher. And Northwood Naturals, a family-owned company, created all-natural skincare from certified organic ingredients. The line includes body lotion, goat milk soap, sugar scrub, lip balm, anti-wrinkle cream, tub teas, facial cleanser and more. The Cranberry Cravings scented soap and lotion are luscious and soothing.

On the food front, Cape Cod Provisions has gone all natural on some of its offerings, including Harvest Sweets milk and dark chocolate-covered blueberries and cherries, Cape Cod Cranberry Candy milk and dark chocolate-covered cranberries and Cranberry Bog Frogs.

Ann-Made jewelry from recycled soda can tabs

Ann-Made

Handmade Creations
The Handmade section of the show offered up a lot of product to pique the interest of buyers. Two jewelry lines of particular interest were Ann-Made and Lazuli. Ann-Made takes an eco-friendly approach to jewelry creating bracelets, earrings and necklaces out of post-consumer soda can tabs. Artist Ann Skydell Harmon combines the tabs with beads, wire and elastic to produce “conversation pieces with a conscience.” Lazuli’s designer Lana Barakat works in more traditional media: copper, silver, gold and resin to create her original, eye-catching, contemporary jewelry designs.

Lazuli jewelry

Lazuli


Nautical and coastal looks were very much in evidence all over the show — not surprising for a show that caters to many coastal town gift shops and summer shore resorts. To bring the nautical look to holiday decorating, Hestia Creations added a Nautical Santa to its annual Santa collection. The 8½” hand-cast figurine is dressed in a fisherman’s jacket and striped sweater and watch cap with pine sprig. And to add a little shore to home décor, She Sells by Kelley Interiors presented a stunning selection of lighting crafted from large mollusks: Conchs, Tritons, Whelks, Helmets and more. The shells are wired and combined with hand-wrought copper.

Modern German Lace introduced a new, more contemporary lace design in home textiles. Design Graz takes its inspiration more from the art of Joan Miro to produce a more free-form filigree look that will blend with today’s more relaxed lifestyles. And in a move from home fashion to fashion accessories, the company is now offering a selection of lovely lace scarves.

Handcrafting Justice recycled phone book handbag

Handcrafting Justice

And did you ever think when looking at the phone book, “Gee what a nice handbag this would make?” Artisans in the Philippines are recycling old phone books and crafting attractive handbag totes out of them for Handcrafting Justice, a fair trade organization. You have to look at the bags very closely to realize that they are not straw or cane.

Creativity, Comfort and Communication
Drawing a crowd to The French Stationery Co. display were the Tampominos rubber stamp sets for youngsters 3–5 years old. There are several different collections of animal, vehicle and character soft rubber stamps, as well as an alphabet and numbers, for kids to create and color their own scenes or stories.

Ryan Treft, VP of marketing/sales for Zoobies noted that the company was having a good show and a good year so far. The new licensed Zoobies Very Hungry Caterpillar gift set containing the Eric Carle board book and Zoobies caterpillar has been very well received and new licensed sets may be in the works. Zoobies are plush animals that open into a pillow and a blanket.

Penny Stones

 CMD Gifts Penny Stones

Tammy Gentry of CMD Gifts showed us the new signage and display for her Penny Stones conversation starters, which continue to grow with new conversation sets. A corporate version and a family dinner version are in the works. Current sets include a Love & Marriage Edition, perfect for bridal showers, and a Slumber Party Edition perfect for summer camp and BFF get-togethers.

Bloomin’ Flower Cards presented several new offerings that have a dual purpose: communicate a message and grow flowers from the seeds embedded in the paper when planted. For the eco-conscious hostess there are new Bloomin’ Invitations in both fill-in and printable format. Also new is the gift kit of Self Growth Bloomin’ Wish Cards on which a person writes a goal/dream/wish/prayer on the card, plants it and watches it grow.

Northeast Market Center
While in the Boston area, we also hopped over to the Northeast Market Center in Billerica. There has been some down-sizing and the showrooms are now consolidated primarily into two wings of the building. But Julia Ripa, director of the Market Center, noted that the showroom building had had a very strong show in January and they were looking forward to an equally good summer show in July (July 10–14). Showroom principal Ron Gilefsky is spearheading a surprise event for the show that should be a big draw and G&DA’s editor-in-chief will be on hand to give a seminar presentation. Although there was no official cross-cooperation between the Market Center and the Boston Gift Show, the showrooms were seeing some show-related buyer traffic, more so than they would see on a normal Monday Market Day. And both managements, NEMC and BGS, are trying to work out ways to work together to create an even stronger Boston/New England market.
 
In the Ron Gilefsky showroom, Silly Bandz piqued the curiosity of a couple of buyers. Silly Bandz are brightly colored, shaped rubber bands that are a hot item with tweens. They wear them as bracelets, collect them and trade them, and according to Ron Gilefsky, they sell like crazy. Silly Bandz come in themed shapes: animals, fantasy figures, dinosaurs, the alphabet and more. 

In the Baron Associates showroom, a buyer was happily writing an order for Hebert Candies, locally made gourmet chocolates that are a new line in the showroom. A sample taste was all it took to understand the buyer's enthusiasm.

From showroom to showroom, our brief visit revealed reps busy working with customers whether over the phones or directly in the showroom. And for a regional market center at a between major market period, that is a very positive sign.

Caroline KennedyCaroline Kennedy | Editor in Chief, Gifts and Decorative Accessories
ckennedy@giftsanddec.com

Editor-in-chief Caroline Kennedy has been with Gifts & Decorative Accessories magazine for more than 23 years. Her long association with the gift industry gives her a broad perspective on its trends and the ever-changing landscape of gift retailing. She brings her veteran's-eye view to the highlights and sidelights of our everyday world. When asked why she has stayed on the job for so long, her answer is, "It's like going shopping every day!"

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