• Lauren Davidson

Retailers Tell All in Atlanta

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Retailers from the Retailer Roundtable sponsored by Mud Pie. From left: Aimee Dodd of Silver Steer, Franklin, TN; Katie Schaefer of Katterman’s Sand Point Pharmacy, Seattle, WA; Kim Williams of Polka Dot Press, Tallahassee, FL; Vearnail Herzog of Montage Marketplace, Greenville, MS; contributing editor Becky Tyre; Rosalind Creager of The Green Boutique, Valrico, FL; Tracy Cranley of Pine Straw of Wellesley and Waban, MA; Lori Greene of Elizabeth Richard, Inc., Woodbury, CT; and Karin Bennett of Cornerstone Shop & Gallery, Lake Geneva, WI.

On the morning of Wednesday, January 11, 2017, a group of seasoned retailers and industry players gathered in an ornately decorated room at Capital City Club of Atlanta for a Retailer’s Roundtable, hosted by Becky Tyre, Contributing Editor, Gifts and Decorative Accessories and author, Retail Details blog.

Retailers included Aimee Dodd of Silver Steer, Franklin, TN; Katie Schaefer of Katterman’s Sand Point Pharmacy, Seattle, WA; Kim Williams of Polka Dot Press, Tallahassee, FL; Vearnail Herzog of Montage Marketplace, Greenville, MS; contributing editor Becky Tyre; Rosalind Creager of The Green Boutique, Valrico, FL; Tracy Cranley of Pine Straw of Wellesley and Waban, MA; Lori Greene of Elizabeth Richard, Inc., Woodbury, CT; and Karin Bennett of Cornerstone Shop & Gallery, Lake Geneva, WI.”The event was moderated by Tyre and sponsored by Mud Pie, who provided gifts to all in attendance.

After breakfast was served, Tyre opened up the floor with welcoming statements and introductions. “Retail is my passion,” she told the participants.

The retailers then introduced themselves one by one, each with an interesting story, starting with Creager.She explained that she has been in business for 35 years and owns a store called The Green Boutique. What started as a plant nursery grew to include antique furniture and shopping, evolving over the years into a full gift store. “We carry Alex and Ani, Pandora, chandeliers… A really eclectic mix,” she said.

Williams of Polka Dot Press cited her store’s tagline as “we make it personal.” “I started backwards,” she laughed, by first developing an online presence, and then morphing into a brick and mortar store. She carries wedding invitations, spa robes, gifts and “anything that you can monogram!” In fact, Williams estimated that “80 percent of what I buy, I can monogram.”

Herzog described her store, Montage Marketplace, as a lifestyle boutique. “We have apparel, accessories, gifts, lighting and occasional furniture, like side tables,” she said.

Bennett also has a lifestyle store, The Cornerstone Shop, which carries a broad range of price points and categories. “The actual population of my town is about 5,000,” she said. “We have a lot of second-homers and seasonal business.”

Aimee Dodd’s store focuses heavily on local products. “People want state things,” she said. “Lots of realtors shop there.”

Tracy Canley’s store is located in a suburb of Boston. She just opened it six years ago with her husband due to her “culture shock” upon moving to the Northeast from Chicago. Her store focuses on entertaining, but when she began to include fashion pieces, the business skyrocketed and the company has already expanded their initial location and opened a second. “We had an amazing Christmas,” she said.

Schaefer manages a pharmacy in Seattle, where her mother is the pharmacist. “She’s back of the house and I’m front of the house,” said Schaefer. She remarked that the business sold many puzzles, and even though they’re located near University of Washington, they don’t service students, instead focusing on alumni and professors in the neighborhood. The pharmacy’s tagline is “you never know what you’ll find at the drugstore!”

Greene’s store, Elizabeth Richard, is located in the antique capital of CT. Like Bennett, Greene focuses on seasonal clientele and second-homers. “For the way you live your life” is Elizabeth Richard’s tagline. “It covers all aspects,” said Greene. “We carry everything from Waterford and Mariposa to $10 stretchy bracelets.” Greene remarked that she felt strongly about trying things out before carrying them in her store: “It must be useful, beautiful and of really good quality.”

After getting to know more about one another, Tyre opened up the forum. Her first question drew a unanimous answer: “If you could add $10,000 to your budget or 2,000 square-feet to your store, what category would you expand?” The roundtable participants answered by and large “clothing” and “personalization.”

The next question asked was, “What categories have increased for you other than apparel in the last year?” Herzog answered “lighting,” and Bennett said, “artwork,” noting that the margins are good on artwork. The Cornerstone Shop carries artwork in a wide range, from $50 to $7,500. What sells most, she said, are pieces in the $259 to $600 range. Herzog added that the $800 to $2,000 range was most popular at her store. Bennett’s comment about margins led to a conversation about what Williams dubbed “the Amazon effect,” a modern-day concept that retailers are all too familiar with: competing with big-box online presences. The retailers became heated on this subject, sharing stories empathetically about price-comparing customers. Cranley remarked, “They’re paying for experience and knowledge.”

The retailers related to one another and compared notes well into the breakfast and beyond, covering topics including locally-made items, how to work with local artisans, visual merchandising, men’s gifts and more. Of particular interest was centered around store events—if they are a must-do (yes!) and how to arrange them.

Sip and Shops were a big moneymaker for Herzog, especially one called “Wine and Wish List.” The retail associates received phone numbers from the guests’ family members and texted them over the holiday season to let them know their loved one had a wish list there that they could fulfill. Herzog said that when making their wish lists, women also did their Christmas shopping, and reported that 80 percent or more of wish lists were fulfilled.

Cranley recalled a similar event called a “Sip and Style,” where three pop-up vendors showed at once. She said that approximately 50 people were in attendance. Creager talked about how a fundraiser she organizes, Plaza Bella, led to people shopping before the 5K walk.

The retailers wrapped up the conference with a talk from Ellen Fruchtman, Director of Public Relations, Mud Pie. She discussed current trends and the larger role that fashion is taking in the gift industry moving forward.

We hope that the retailers learned as much from the roundtable as we did, and we look forward to more of their insights in the future.

Lauren DavidsonLauren Davidson | Assistant Editor
ldavidson@giftsanddec.com

Lauren covers Holiday, Gourmet, Bath and Body, Candles, Fashion and Stationery, and keeps up with the latest gift industry news and trends.

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