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This Little Piggy Went To Atlanta

January 26, 2011
Ever since I began working with my dad at the store, he got me into the habit of going to gift shows. Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Atlanta: name one and between us we have shopped it, probably more than once just in case we had a headache the first time through. Many owners of outdoor furniture specialty stores don’t see the value of shopping these markets. After all, there are gift floors open during the Chicago Casual Market. But how many of us have the time to shop those floors? We barely have enough time to finish the permanent floors, much less the temps and then the gift floors.


I think what I buy at gift markets differentiates my store from big boxes, wholesale clubs, nurseries, department stores and other specialty retailers in my area. My store looks different than those because each table is set with anything from centerpieces, plates, glassware, napkins, to serving ware. So, when customers come into the store, they aren’t faced with a sea of undistinguished sets of furniture. Instead, they see individual sets looking just as they had imagined for their outdoor rooms. It makes selling furniture easier AND we also sell the accessories to complete the dream. Larger tickets? It’s a win-win situation.


Shopping gift markets is much harder than shopping the casual furniture show. There are way more showrooms and temp spaces, but way less product for outdoor furniture shops. That means I have to shop every space just in case they have one outdoor product I can use. Lots of walking for very few products. But, the products I find can create a look that makes my store special to a consumer.

I just got back from the Atlanta gift market and just in case you didn’t make it or you missed a product, here are some of the products I bought.

onehundred80degrees: “not paper” paper plates. These melamine plates have the nostalgic look of “Dixie” paper plates. The line includes a serving platter, dinner plates, desert plates, and bowls. Cute as a button.

onehundred80degrees "not paper" paper plateonehundred80degrees "not paper" paper plate


They also had hard clear plastic “go cups.” For those of you not from New Orleans, a "go cup" is a disposable plastic cup you have to put your drink in when you leave a bar. Having a drink on the streets here is legal, you know. (When you go to their site, you will have to contact the company to get a password to get beyond the home page. They make that simple and fast)

onehundred80degrees Clear Reusable Go Cuponehundred80degrees Clear Reusable Go Cup

Infinity Instruments: outdoor clocks with style and presence. Sure, they have 12” outdoor clocks; but, they also have 36” diameter clocks. Even the most near sighted guest will be able to see these. 

Infinity Instruments Small Slate Outdoor ClockInfinity Instruments Small Slate Outdoor Clock

Hen Feathers: outdoor clocks that look like they are made of bronze, copper, or aged iron but are acutally a man-made poured product invulnerable to the elements. Designs run from the whimsical like the Lily Pad Clock to the sublime. (Hen Feathers is now licensed to Giftwares Co., Inc. which doesn't show Hen Feathers on their site; however, they do have their contact info on the site. Call them.)

Hen Feathers 12" Lily Pad ClockHen Feathers 12" Lily Pad Clock


Slant: Insulated plastic cups made to look like the something you would get from a fast food company including a lid and straw. I found a product like this at the Chicago furniture market from Merritt, too. Slant offers many more designs and larger sizes. Drink up!

Slant Insulated Plastic Glass with Lid and StrawSlant Insulated Plastic Glass with Lid and Straw



Beatriz Ball: It may be premature for me to mention this product because they limit their distribution and I have not gotten final approval to carry the line. But, you know me, nothing as insignificant as lacking approval to carry the product is going to stop me from talking about it. This is a line of high quality Mexican make polished aluminum serving pieces. The best thing about the line is that it includes large scale pieces, ideal for outdoor entertaining. It has a high buy in, protected distribution, and long delivery times. Oh well, every silver lining has a storm cloud.

Beatriz Ball Vento Ice BucketBeatriz Ball Vento Ice Bucket

Regal Art: Just in case you haven’t heard, the Saints won the 2010 Super Bowl. Before the game, a sports announcer said on air that they had about as much chance of winning

as pigs flying. Regal Art has flying pigs. Guess how many I sold after we won? A lot! But they also sell other cute creatures for the garden. You know, kitsch sells; sometimes better than other things.

Regal Art Frog FamilyRegal Art Frog Family

Deco Breeze: It gets hot down here during the summer, duh! We are always on the lookout for stylish outdoor fans. Deco Breeze fits that bill. They have a line of fans U/L approved for outdoor use. They also have fans more suited for use in covered outdoor areas. Check out their universal snap-on misting system.

Deco Breeze Outdoor FanDeco Breeze Outdoor Fan

The Marshall Group: I originally went to this space to shop for standing hurricane and table top lamps. I liked them and ordered some. As the sales rep was writing up the order, I stumbled across a fireplace screen they had stuffed in a under a table. It was so good that I couldn’t pass up. You just never know what you are going to find or where. (They don’t show their complete line on their web site. Contact them for a catalog.)

Marshall Group Hearth ScreenMarshall Group Hearth Screen


The only thing left to say is that the Atlanta market is one of the most confusing I have ever shopped. I don’t know who designed the West addition for building 2; but, they neglected to include direct connections from some of the new floors in West to the same floor in the older part of the building.  On the other hand, The Atlanta Market makes it very cheap for outdoor specialty shoppers to attend because they give you free hotel stays for two nights Take the good with the bad.


Yours in confused retailing, Bruce