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Warren Shoulberg

More From Less

July 18, 2011

So, what have the first few stops on the summer gift and home show schedule shown us so far?
First off, as if anybody needed any further proof, holding trade shows in the middle of the summer in such hot weather cities as Dallas and Atlanta - with Las Vegas looming - is one of the screwiest practices around. When is somebody going to put trade shows in Maui in January and Kennebunkport, Maine in the summer? That's when you'll find me volunteering to get to these markets.
In the meantime, you'll still find all of us at all the usual places doing the usual things...mostly. It's still largely anecdotal and there are no statistics credible enough to back up the theory, but it looks like we are starting to see a fundamental and critical change in the nature of the gift business.
Again, proof is hard to come by, but it sure seems as if retailers are concentrating their business more and more with fewer and fewer vendors. When you walk the aisles of the big trade centers, it sure seems as if the larger showrooms, often multi-line rep organizations, are proportionately more crowded than the smaller guys. Some of that is scale and size, but some of it is simply that many stores are consolidating their ordering with these bigger suppliers.
And once inside these showrooms, they are placing larger orders with fewer lines. Once again, it's just talk but more vendors are telling you that even though their customer counts may not be up, or are only up slightly, the average size of the orders placed and therefore their overall market business is up substantially, often double digits.
All of this is to be expected. The whole Darwinian theory that the strong get stronger and the weak perish applies just as well to gift companies as it does to species and phylum.
And we're seeing it all up and down the food chain. Big shows are getting bigger. Big suppliers are getting bigger. Big retailers are getting bigger.
You may not like the trend and you may think it's a product of the times and not necessarily a permanent state of affairs. But you can't argue with the process.
And I think there's more to come.