Friday, August 29, 2008

We try to always be ready

It is hard to believe that we are once again awaiting arrival of evacuees from New Orleans. Gustav is bearing down on the Gulf Coast and already New Orleanians are making ready to flee the Crescent City. As I packed things into drawers at the store and tried to remember what exactly I needed to do to get ready, I had to stop and take a deep breath. Out of nowhere comes the threat once again. It is easy this time as the store is here in Baton Rouge with me instead of 75 miles down the I-10. But New Orleans is home to so many of my family and beloved friends. I am anxious for all of them, as well as for us here in Baton Rouge. I find that I am holding my breath and beginning my singular trait of "pacing in circles" to calm my mind and runaway emotions. I know that we will all come through this once again, but it is so hard for those who have spent the last three years rebuilding homes and hearts. There have been far too many casualties as a result of Katrina. I am not sure any of us can take another round of disruption of life for all those who will be displaced - even if only for a few days. Please take the time to think of them, and offer a prayer or wish for safety and well-being. I hope to be back in this space over the week-end and to celebrate Labor Day with a light heart and full laugh!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fifth Avenue and Beyond

Yes, it is time to scramble to the airport while still jamming last minute notes into my bag, and head for Manhattan and Fifth Avenue. The last of the summer markets is about to happen, and this is the one we all plan to attend, even if we have to cancel at the very last minute! Just thinking about all the things that are possible is enough to cause a mild burst of visual overdose.

This time next week I will have been through the Javits Center at least once, and will be visiting the Piers to see what new and exciting things there await our attention. It is like a bazaar, a huge flea market, an organized garage sale, and Christmas morning under the tree all rolled into one time and space. Trying to sort through all the thousands and thousands of exhibits can cause mental meltdown and necessitate a stop at the nearest Starbucks for mega-doses of pure caffeine. And then it's back to work. This time I will be attempting to resource new lines and entire categories of items to fill the shelves of the store for the upcoming Fall Football Frenzy that just goes and goes until we cry Uncle at Christmas time. Shopping for a store located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana is still somewhat of a mysterious process. I have yet to figure out the universal appeal of some things that do quite well here. They all seem to be those things that were absolutely ignored and passed up by shoppers in the store in New Orleans. Now, I know that the perspective of the generic shopper of each area is quite different, but I would have expected that there would be some overlap. Perhaps I need to rethink this entire process - again!

Monday, August 4, 2008

And then there was Atlanta

"Going to market" is such an exciting phrase - it just fills your mind with pictures of all kinds of exciting adventure. In reality, it is just another name for "work"! Truth be told, it is exciting, fun, and fast-paced - as in Mardi Gras, carnival time, and the circus. After the trip to Dallas it was time to repack the suitcase and head to Atlanta. This time it was Delta Airlines and not the new car that provided the transportation.
It is always fun to be at Americasmart in Atlanta. Right across the street from the hotel sits an entire world of innovation, experimentation, creativity, and madness. Walking the halls is the usual agenda for the first day as that gives me the opportunity to get the feel of what are the "newer than new" items that everyone will want to have on their store shelves when the Fall season rolls in. While almost everything that I can see in Dallas is also here in Atlanta, this market has lots more going on as well. There are many vendors who do not "show" in Dallas so I have the chance to find some new resources that just might not be all over town at home. And it is fun to see the folks in the showrooms and catch up on what has been going on since the last visit.
This time around the halls were a bit less crowded, well actually they were a LOT less crowded. Of course that makes seeing things a lot easier, but it is a telling indicator for business in the coming months and perhaps into the coming year. If the merchants aren't there buying the new merchandise, it won't be on the shelves. Perhaps the reason it won't be on the shelves is because the retailers have already seen a slowdown in customer purchases. And of course, the customers are having to endure the same things the stores are -- higher costs of energy, slowdown in employment, the threat of rising taxes, grocery prices going through the roof, and around here the hot weather keeps us all inside as much as we can manage it!
There are always bright spots in any situation, and in Atlanta it was no different! Almost every showroom I entered had something new to show us and some of the things were obviously going to be big hits for the holidays. It is sometimes hard to think Holidays when it is in the high 90's outside and the sounds of Jingle Bells seem a bit out of place.
All in all, it was a good trip, and I can't wait for the UPS truck to start delivering. I will have lots to show you in the coming months -