Thursday, January 13, 2011

America's Mart - 8 million square feet and I'll feel everyone of them...

So, tomorrow is the big day.   Back to America'sMart for our twice yearly walk-a-thon.  I look forward to this trip every time, it is very exciting to see all the new stuff everyone is bringing to  market.  Of course, I think I might like the July market a little better, walking around downtown Atlanta in 20 degree weather is not  my idea of fun.  Plus, now that I've learned how to get on the roof of one of the mart buildings, I like to hang out up there a bit and peruse the city from 20 stories. Believe me, it is cold and windy up there in January.

I'll be staying at the Hyatt Place again. It has turned into one of my favorite budget hotels in downtown Atlanta.  The rooms are clean and decent, and you cannot beat the staff anywhere. I've stayed in hotels the world over, costing many times the price of this one but never, ever met a friendlier, more helpful staff.  Literally, every time I go there I am impressed all over again.  They never let me down.

Last January when we went to the Mart, I saw a lady carrying a tote bag that I designed.  I was so excited, I tried to discreetly snap her pic but it didn't come out so good.  My camera phone kinda stinks anyway.

Anyway,  AmericasMart is the  largest show of its kind in the country.  It takes place twice a year, in January and again in July. Basically, it is a very large trade show, showcasing all the latest products in Gifts, Clothing, Rugs, Furniture, Paper Goods and more.  Thousands of retailers flock to this show to buy good for their stores. It is the premier show in the US to highlight the latest products, trends and the hottest things coming in retail.  What we see at the Mart for these two gift shows is what we will find at retail in the coming months.  How exciting is that?

AmericasMart is 8 million square feet of fantastic, spread out over three buildings, about 18-20 stories each.  Each floor houses dozens of showrooms, and these are broken down into the permanents and the temporaries.  The Permanent showrooms are open and staffed year round and their buyers can visit to shop any time. Of course, these showrooms are not open to the public, but anyone with a retail store, either a brick and  mortar or online market can register free to attend the markets.

There are also several floors of Temporary showrooms.   I really look forward to perusing the temporaries, I can usually find at least one brand spanking new, never before even heard (to me) of it item in the temps.  It is amazing to me to think about some of the items that caught my eye years ago that have developed into big brands today.  Take Lolita glassware for an example. I first noticed her painted wine glasses because she painted sexy girls on them. (wonder why THAT caught my eye - LOL).  I've paid attention to this brand over the last several years, and what started as a side line in the Santa Barbara Ceramics showrooms (best I remember) has blossomed into a huge brand, offered by any number of showrooms now.  No longer just painting cute ladies on a wine glass, Lolita has expanded her brand into a household name (to those in retail).

Then again, we've seen things that we just knew were going to be phenomenal in the giftware market, only to watch them spiral into nothing. Remember the Red Hat Ladies that exploded into the market mid decade?  Suddenly they were everywhere, closely followed by hundreds of red hat or red and purple products - both officially licensed items and simple red and purple items offered with the hopes of banking on the huge popularity of this club.  What happened?
We bombed with it.  With so many licensed and knockoff products flooding the market, it was hard to make your mark in this line.  Then, just as quickly as they skyrocketed into the national consciousness, the Red Hatters shuffled back to obscurity, taking their dreams of licensing millions with them.   Shame, really. Lots and lots of companies poured out thousands of Red Hat products, only to sell them off at pennies on the dollar.    Just shows, you never know. Some things that look  smokin' hot, well they just spark then fizzle.

  This business is hard. Hard to know what people will want. Hard to guess what they will buy.  Hard to know what the american consciousness will pay attention to in 12-18 months, the average time it takes to get a product from the initial sketches to actually showing it at market.

Anyway, I'll be in Atlanta this weekend, walking AmericasMart, looking for the next big thing.  If you wanna hang out, you can find me on the roof of the merchandise mart.