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Garden business remains strong as wave of new product introduced

Rainy weather in many regions and economic challenges haven't dampered the spirits of those in the garden industry. Vendors at the Atlanta Gift & Home Furnishings Market last month remained upbeat and positive about the new year, moving forward with a wave of product introductions in the garden and home decor industries.

"Our garden product sells better than anything else," said Wendy Collins, sales manager for Country Originals.

So much so that the Jackson, Miss.-based company is honing in its focus on garden centers and florists with a new direct container program of Vietnamese pottery, in addition to the plethora of new product found in its Atlanta showroom, from a line of modern black zinc planters to whimsical tin and clay umbrella plant stands in bold, beach colors.

Several manufacturers took their first step into the garden market recently, including giftware and collectible manufacturer Enesco. Enesco Home and Garden features birdhouses, statuary, hoseguards, lanterns, stepping stones and more, from notable designers like Karen Hahn and Jim Shore.

"We began to see the trend to move from gift and collectibles into home decor," said Jeannie Heth, an account executive for the company.

New Creative Enterprises wowed buyers with a redesigned Atlanta showroom, as well as six new themed collections of decorative outdoor products, like Summer Picnic, Geo Flower and Gardener's Journal.

"Our goal is to be the leader in the outdoor product business, not another 'me too' company," said Thomas G. Bowles, CEO of parent company Decorative Concepts. "We are differentiating ourselves with concept, color and innovation that tie items together into unique concepts that are easy to replicate."

Patio Living Concepts, a first-time exhibitor in The Gardens, introduced its Gardenglo Illuminated Planters to the market, expanding its line of outdoor lamps and lighting.

"We want to attract a different market," said President Dale Klaus. "It's definitely getting competitive."

As a whole, vendors were pleased with recent trade shows, and are facing the challenge of coming up with new product.

"Nobody wants to see the same stuff," said Tommy Kedzierski, vice president of sales for The Nantucket Collection. "The garden industry is still hot, but you have to constantly change."

About 40% of the company's product is turnover, with the line changing every six months.

Many noted the popularity of garden product that further blurs the line between indoor and outdoor — transitional pieces that can be used inside, but when brought outdoors, can weather the elements of Mother Nature.

Barnstorm, for example, is busy "filling in the gaps" with a more design-focused line, including new birdhouses, ceramics and even textiles, said Peter Kotowski.

Punchy colors, better price points, new product and upbeat attitudes are sure to carry the garden business through 2005.

"People are stepping up," said Scott Woods of Woods International.

Lynn Felici-Gallant, left, and Diana Kirkpatrick, both of Churchill's Gardens & Gifts, Exter, N.H., with Dave Mix, Pacific Home & Garden.

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