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Contagious optimism spreads at winter markets

Atlanta Report

Retro Chic Collection bird feeder
Color-drenched tulips spring to life on the Retro Chic Collection bird feeder from Rosso's International. A charming bird perching atop a branch completes the whimsical design.

Despite a record-setting cold snap and icy weather, vendors and retailers proved ready for an optimistic start to not only a new year, but a new decade at last month's Atlanta market. Vendors had a colorful palette of product introductions to dazzle marketgoers, and many showrooms buzzed with retailers ready to write orders.

“I think the buyers are finally ready to buy, and we are welcoming them with open arms,” said Amy Kimmich of Mariachi Imports. This was a key sentiment expressed by many vendors at market and an upbeat way to kickoff 2010.

“It's definitely been busier than last year,” said Rebecca Price, sales and marketing manager of Uwharrie Chair Company. “I just hope it continues. We've done really well with the Westport Collection sectional, which we tested at the last show. It is a larger ticket item for us. We were pleasantly surprised when we wrote three orders for it in one day, which is a really good sign. Maybe people are ready to buy larger ticket items going into the new year.”

Retro aluminum loveseat glider and tables from Windham.
Brilliant splashes of kiwi and blue saturate the Retro aluminum loveseat glider and tables from Windham.

“Traffic for us has been gradually increasing,” said Christina Sehn, sales manager of Scheurich. “It's hard to say with the weather, but it seems like more people are coming. Buyers are really gravitating toward bright colors this time around. We are getting a good reaction to our lilac, wild berry and plum colored pots.”

“I don't think the weather will keep people away,” said Michael Contreras, sales manager of Shade Depot. “It started off slow, but traffic seems to be picking up. I'm really happy with our new location. We are getting a lot more traffic because now we are right off from the elevators so people can't miss us.” In looking toward the future, he added, “I think people just need to quit dwelling on the state of the economy and move forward.”

“We have been slammed,” said Elaine Smith of Elaine Smith Pillows. “We try not to leave our booth so we don't miss anyone. Our new location on the temporaries is great and so is the traffic. We are seeing a lot of our repeat customers, but we are getting new customers as well. Buyers really seem to be drawn toward color this market. Our turquoise and green pillow collection has been received well.” Texture is also important along with mixed media and embellishments, she said.

Napa Home & Garden FireLites
Napa Home & Garden FireLites combine form and function, spotlighting textural surfaces and glazed finishes.

“We are having a record-setting show,” said Martyn Fernambucq, director of merchandising and marketing for Napa Home & Garden. “We have been slammed with people wanting to see our new Napa FireLites. We had to get special permission from the fire marshal in order to have a lit display. The FireLites wholesale from $6.50 to $35, and we've written a $6,000 order just for FireLites. The only problem is we don't know how we are going to be able to top this next January.”

“Color is really coming back,” said Dirk Burghouts, key accounts manager of Esschert Design. Esschert Design introduced a whimsical Butterflies Collection and a Russian Flowers Collection, which features vivid, eye-popping hues and flirty floral motifs. “Another trend we are noticing is kitchen gardening,” said Burghouts. “The herb garden and mojito set have been getting a lot of attention.”

Many vendors opted for cheerfully bright color palettes to draw in buyers, while others selected uplifting motifs or a combination of both. Oversized botanical prints made statements on everything from outdoor rugs to upholstered cushions. Chubby birds flocked in as a must-have motif going forward. Whether perched on the side of fountains, etched in glass or adorning garden pots, birds exude uplifting energy and are here to stay. Other motifs generating buzz were insects of all sorts. Bees, butterflies and ladybugs topped the worthy of note style chart.

Across all permanent product centers and temporary categories, robust January buying affirms the confidence of retailers and designers and signals the promise and potential of 2010 consumer demand for new value and selection, according to an AmericasMart press release.

“We are very pleased with the results, and we're going to build on the success of these markets,” said Jeffrey L. Portman Sr., president and COO of AMC, AmericasMart's parent company. “We're very excited for what the future holds for the markets and for AmericasMart.”

With many exhibitors reporting record sales — some breaking 20-year-old totals — the January market gives strong evidence to the power and reach of the collaborative efforts linking AmericasMart and its exhibitors in common mission to set a solid business foundation for 2010 and beyond.

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