• Caroline Kennedy
  • Bessie Nestoras Knoblauch

Direct From Market- Atlanta

Colonial  CandleThe mood is definitely upbeat at the Winter 2012 Atlanta Gift & Home Furnishings Market as buyers began crowding into showrooms early. Many new showrooms and showroom expansions stimulated a lot of buyer interest, adding to the buzz with the increase of product offerings and fresh presentations. "We've been jammed since Tuesday!" Jamie Chauss enthused at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Appelman Schauben showroom for his newly rebranded company All For Color. By the end of Thursday, the company's sales had surpassed total sales of the entire 2011 Atlanta winter market and had also outpaced those of January 2010. George White of Up With Paper remarked his company had really good holiday sales, especially for its pop-up snowglobe holiday cards and that his customers were reporting respectable 4th quarters. Every retailer that Gifts and Decorative Accessories spoke with has reported an upbeat trend in their holiday sales and at least cautious optimism for 2012.

It's not just the upper floors of the Building 2 Gift Mart that are seeing busy halls and crowded showrooms. The opening of many new showrooms and expansion of others on floors six and eight has brought more buyers to the lower floors earlier in the market than in previous years. The 6th floor Noelle showroom was packed by midday on Wednesday - and continued to be on Thursday - with retailers enthusiastically checking out the extensive selection of fashion accessories; the showroom's holiday décor line that looks like jewelry for the tree and home is also a big draw. 


GiftcraftGiftcraft's Retroflection line

Sailing into Sales
Nautical themes are front and center this market. Everything from seashells to seahorses to fish and more. Two's Company showcased a new collection called Watercolors that focuses on the sea. And going hand in hand with this theme is resort looks. Mud Pie's latest fashion collection, Beach to Bar features over 250 SKUs of cover-ups, tote bags, flip flops, espadrilles and hats, some with UPF 50 protection. Alexa's Angels introduced new tote bags in its Resort Revival by Emma Rose collection. The bags come in black, aqua, orange, pink and green. Andrea by Sadek's nautical collection to grow with platters, chip and dips, mugs and more, in turquoise, white, yellow and this year's hot color - coral. Oceanic Paisley is a new bedding collection by April Cornell for C&F Gallerie.


Everything Old...
Vintage looks continue to be popular and this market Wild & Wolf has introduced a series of games like The Illusionist, as well as new Trim phones in bright colors. Giftcraft's Retroflection line features ceramic gift items such as a vintage blender and radio. Jessie Steele, known for her quirky and vintage inspired designs, debuted her Cherry Cupcakes collection for C.R. Gibson. It features a vintage-inspired pattern in a robin's egg blue base with, what else, cherry cupcakes. And there were several vintage-inspired gifts at Fred & Friends, including a cassette tape iPhone case.



We Dream in ColorWe Dream in Color

Jewels in the Aisles
Fashion jewelry continues to explode in the industry and is really driving a lot of sales. There were many line extensions, as well as new vendors spotted around the show. We Dream in Colour has been around for 10 years, but has only just started to exhibit at the gift markets. The handmade collection designed by Jane Gideon is made from brass and copper and often features the green patina that occurs when the metal is exposed to saltwater. The line has an earthy quality. The latest collection is inspired by the designer's native Trinidad. Mary James Jewelry uses original medals and medallions, such as war metals, in its jewelry designs. The pieces are found around the world, but primarily from England, Belgium and France. The company offers reproduction pieces as well. Enesco has expanded into the fashion category, launching a new division Global & Vine. There are five collections, including Soul Chain, Soulfully Worn, Culture Club, OSM (awesome) and OTM (of the moment). The collection is made up of jewelry as well as some fashion accessories like scarves, sarongs, ponytail holders and headbands.


Kidding Around
Children's toys, gifts and apparel continue to be an important focus. Taking the whole kids' collect, trade and personalize trend to the next level, Gutzy Gear offers both licensed and general patch designs to collect, trade and Velcro on to backpack strap-wraps. Also notable for children is Aurora's Miyoni collection of plush, debuting at this market, which combines the realistic visuals of the company's high-end Signature collector's line with the cuddle appeal and affordable price points of its play plush. Lifeguard Press introduced a number of items in its Jonathan Adler line, including games and giant animal-shaped erasers. Brownlow Gifts introduced a new elephant plush baby blanket that makes a charming baby shower gift. At C.R. Gibson, the new Jill McDonald and Emily Green licensed lines give children's toys and gift items a lot of play. Happi by Dena is a new children's line at Two's Company; the collection features everything from backpacks to wall art. Up With Paper's Jumping Jack Press is introducing a Toy Story pop-up play book that is really a toy story book; it has character figures that pop-out of the book and can be played with as the child interacts with the story.

Mary James JewelryMary James Jewelry
Kitchen and Gourmet Giftables
Since consumers are spending more time at home and entertaining more, it's no surprise that housewares, gourmet products and entertaining accessories are growing categories in gifts and much in evidence this market. Studio Oh is one company focused on giftable kitchen items and has added textiles to complement its line of recipe keepers, take-out menu organizers, and paper placemats and coasters. While many of the hostess aprons around require the same kind of elaborate care lavished on the party dress underneath, Just Perfect offers aprons that are both pretty and practical - they combine modern graphic patterns with waterproof material that can be simply wiped clean. The company also offers zip-off towels as the base of aprons and gloves made of toweling for drying power that's always at their fingertips. Brownlow has introduced a kitchen tool gift set comprised of a brightly colored silicone spatula and matching silicone trivet that doubles as a pot holder.


Sharing space in the gourmet section with Abbiamo Tutto is the unique product Le Nez du Vin. Literally translated as "the nose of wine," the kits contain aromatic essences allowing customers to learn and remember the scents of fine wines without having to order a whole bottle for trial and error. Coffee kits are also available, and beer is coming soon. This would be a great foundation for an event to sell wine accessories as well.

According to Stonewall Kitchen, donuts will be the next hot food product, taking over from cupcakes. The company has introduced donut mixes that can be baked in its donut maker appliance. Other new food items of interest: Salem Baking's heart-shaped raspberry chocolate-covered Moravian cookies that are perfect for Valentine's Day gifting but available year-round; and Robert Rothschild Farms' new chocolate sauces in four different flavors.


QRQR Code use is incresing
Tech Trending Up
QR Codes are achieving ever-greater penetration of the marketplace. Not only are they seen on window stickers for passersby to download digital catalogs, they are also appearing displays at vendors such as C.R. Gibson to get more information about a particular assortment and more. Midwest-CBK has printed them throughout their catalog, and Bridgewater Candle Co. is putting them on the back of free sample products which are given to retailers to pass along to their customers. 

Technology is making headway behind the scenes as well. Eric Dean of Whereoware shared that his company had recently been selected by major gift vendor Ganz, who will use Whereoware's Spotlight Enterprise iPad app for both its U.S. and Canadian sales teams.



Change is Good
This market buyers were treated to several new and exciting changes and additions. C.R. Gibson added new licenses and partnerships this market, including Dena Home, Michael Healy, Jessie Steele, Jill McDonald and Emily Green. Buyers can hit several target audiences with just these few lines, including home accessories, fashion accessories, tabletop and serveware, kitchen accessories and children's toys and gifts. Dena Home features home accessories as well as fashion items; Michael Healy has introduced wood serveware and accessories; and within the Jessie Steele line, buyers can pick up paper goods and other kitchen accessories.



GibsonCR Gibson
Natural Life has a new home at One Coast. The company introduced several new pieces, including a collection of wall art by a local Florida artist Wyann. It's the company's first partnership in several years. Also new to the OneCoast showroom is Patience Brewster, a line of artist-designed, whimsical holiday characters that are all handmade. The company's business model is as unique as its offerings; each piece is made to order, meaning the company never has leftovers that might have to be sold to discounters and dilute their collectible value - but it also means orders must be placed four months in advance. Brand new for this market, in addition to ceramics and textiles, Brewster has reinterpreted her characters in blown glass ornaments as well.

In addition to its brand-new president, who is already in the showroom meeting and greeting customers despite just joining the company a few days ago, big news at Midwest-CBK includes a dramatically revamped Colonial Candle showroom, echoing the saturated colors and upscaled, more youthful tweaks they have made to the line itself. 

Take a Deep, Cleansing Breath
The show also served as the debut of the Soyveda line, a new line of Ayurveda-inspired candles and a few coordinating home pieces (called Soulveda) designed by a longtime yoga instructor and employee of MVP (Midwest-CBK's new parent company). More home offerings, bath and body and yoga accessories will follow. Also big news is that company is deemphasizing home decor and refocusing on giftable items.

Also drawing inspiration from the Eastern culture, Om Iota is a new yoga collection from Iota. The line includes a yoga mat bag, journal and more, and everything features a mantra like "Begin" or "Simplify."


Demdaco DogsDemdaco Dogs

Fun Finds
New at A Cheerful Giver are hand-painted jar candles for holidays and special occasions, complete with a reverse painted hidden message on the inside, which is revealed when the candles burns down and leaves the reusable jar empty.
Spinning Hat at Road Runners offers fun giftables for the tech-savvy, including coffee and tea mugs featuring the iconic Facebook thumb's up sign, a "Social Shower Curtain" where the showerer's face shows through onto a mock Facebook page like a profile picture, retro arcade ponchos and much more.
Notable at Demdaco is the Dogs Rock theme, which features retro-looking artwork of dog breeds doing human-style activities such as listening to headphones and drinking coffee, and the Lyricology line of wall art featuring catchy phrases from well-known rock songs. Both would appeal to men as well as women - such as for the increasingly popular "man cave" - and are well-priced for their perceived value.


Dana GibsonDana Gibson
Fashion Shorts
Lindsay Phillips' theme of the market is Catch the Wave. The company is celebrating five years and introduced a new platform wedge that was based on Phillips' original ceramic wedge that started the business. The company is also expanding deeper into fashion with beach cover-ups and tote bags. Cinda b introduced two new patterns - Jet Set black and Scala. Oka b. introduced an assortment of jelly ballet flats - perfect for those wet days in the spring and summer. Silvestri by Demdaco is mixing everyday items like jewelry into its holiday themes such as Fantasea and A Gilded Life, and says the retailer response has been strongly positive. 

The early signs here point to a successful Atlanta market and an upbeat buying season ahead. The traffic in the halls, the busy showrooms, the buzz of buying and smiling customers all bode well for a good year ahead.

Colonial Candle's showroom
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