Monday, July 25, 2011

"To Market, to Market . . . "

The pictures below are some I recently took during my trip to market in Atlanta. This was my first visit there as I usually go to Dallas (it's so much closer). However, a fellow retailer at the last Dallas market told me that I just HAD to see AmericasMart in Atlanta. I still might not have ventured that far away if it weren't for two things: 1) I had no one to cover the store during the Dallas show, and 2) I was able to get a great deal on airfare. So off to Atlanta I went.

I admit I had a mixture of nerves (hate traveling alone), and excitement; what if I found just fabulous things at great prices! I was going to arrive in time to check out the "lay of the land" on the first day, and then hit it hard first thing the next morning. Well, you know what they say about "the best laid plans . . . ". My flight was so delayed that I got to my motel around 5:00 pm. The market closed at 6:00 pm so I dejectedly realized that I wouldn't get there in time to really see much before they closed. So, I made an early night of it and planned to head out first thing in the morning.

I awoke early the next morning, made a cup of coffee in the room, and congratulated myself on remembering my "Breakfast to Go" bars. I made it to the AmericasMart by 8:00 am and checked right in - no long lines; everybody else must have slept in, I thought. Up the elevator I went to the floor I was most anxious to see - Vintage and Antique Decor. I first noticed I was the only one in the halls and then, that the showrooms were all closed. I did find one saleswoman frantically working on a display who informed me that the showrooms didn't open until 9:00 am. I felt quite sheepish. Oh well, an in-house Starbuck's saved the day.
I had a great time the rest of that first day. I slowly perused all the wonderful items in the showrooms; noting as I did that the prices were a little steep. I checked out luxurious linens, sumptuous lotions and to die for furniture pieces. There was fabulous chandeliers, beautiful pottery and glassware, darling home decor, artwork, etc. I finished my first floor around 2:00 pm and had lunch, then began to check out the next floor. I was starting to see the same things I had seen before, but at different prices. Was that more or less than the last place? I decided I better start taking notes. Long story short - by the end of the first day I had seen one and a half floors. I had learned from looking at my map that AmericasMart consists of three buildings, two of which have over 20 floors! I was going to have to step it up the next day.

Day two and three went along much like the first. I started to feel a little overwhelmed, and disappointed. Yes, there was some great stuff. But would a customer really want to pay $250 for a beautiful 4" x 6" wall tile, or $1800 for a coffee table? At the end of day three, I still had not placed ANY orders, and felt I had more decisions to make than I had time or brain capacity to make!
Day four and five I made myself focus just on the showrooms that I thought had items that would work in The Old Oak Cottage or The Cottage Showroom. My last day I finally made decisions and placed orders at seven different places. Mostly, I ended up ordering from places I always order from that also have showrooms in Dallas.

I did walk away with many thoughts and ideas, and wishing I had done a customer survey before I left. I want my customers to know that I really do work hard to find things that I think they will love, at the best possible price.
I try to find something different than what they carry at the box stores or discount chains. Sometimes, however, a product still shows up at one of those places. I have heard "I got that at _______ for only ____" more times than I can count. Many are just stating a fact, while others seem to imply my prices are too high. Well, I also want you, my customer, to know that while I am trying to make a profit; I never, ever try to price gouge. I spend days comparison shopping, trying to find you the best at the best possible price. Usually, the price you can get an item for at one of the discount stores is less than my cost - they just have sooo much more buying power.
Anyway, I am EXCITED about the many items I ended up buying at market. Most are unique pieces you won't find elsewhere (I hope). New items should start trickling in as early as this week, and continue coming in up to our Christmas Open House (mark your calendars for November 4th & 5th).
We have several pieces in the works in our shop, and I will be pricing and putting out finds from two different estate sales and an auction that I recently attended. I also plan to start surveying my customers now as to what lines they would like to see me carry, or items that they want but can't find other places. Please leave a comment if you have any ideas, or visit my Facebook and leave your thoughts there. Thanks.

Hope to see you soon,

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