Record-Breaking Buyer Attendance at Atlanta Gift Market

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“Designers, specifiers, online merchants, independent retailers, trend setters, tastemakers and high profile buying groups from every U.S. state and 82 nations worldwide registered at the Atlanta winter market,” said Jeffrey Portman, President and CEO of AmericasMart.

By Dasha Morgan- Local retailers returning from the Atlanta and Dallas markets were amazed at the high attendance and excitement they experienced this January at the winter market. The hallways were packed; the parking lots were full, and it was difficult to get the attention of a salesman to place an order. People had come quite a long distance and at great expense to make it to Atlanta for the Gift and Home Furnishings market to buy for their retail business.

According to Cynthia Gillooly of B.B. Barns, “It was unbelievably crowded, in fact, packed. In the fifteen years that I have been going to Atlanta, I have never seen it so crowded.” Optimism about the economy abounded. According to Peggy Yarborough of Yesterday’s Tree on Hendersonville Road, “People are excited about the future of the economy. It is all about the economy, which affects all of us, every one.” Even in Dallas at the Lightovation market held a week after Atlanta, Catherine Shealy Sinclair of Shealy Electric Company and Lighting Gallery in Hendersonville said, “The activity was amazingly brisk with high hopes for the coming year.”

Peggy Yarborough had already experienced an incredible December at Yesterday’s Tree. “My December was the best December in the 31 years of being in business, and this of course was after the election.” Peggy went to Atlanta to buy primarily accessory items for her store. She spoke to a number of people while there. “They all, every single one, every sales rep or owner, attributed this optimism to the new administration—the promise of de-regulation and a renewed focus on business. They see that the U.S. economy is at the forefront. Some showrooms you couldn’t get in; and once you did, some items were already sold out.” This is the market where retailers are buying for Christmas, so buyers must buy their merchandise way out. They must look ahead to the end of the year. Even with this much lead time, some items were sold out. “I haven’t seen this much activity in years, ” Yarborough said, “I have been to markets which as I walked down the aisles of the MerchandiseMart, made me feel like I was walking through a ghost town. The halls were practically empty. It will be interesting to see what happens at the High Point International Home Furnishings Market in April—really will be interesting.”

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Cynthia Gillooly, the floral designer at B.B. Barns, said, ”Traffic for the January show was surprisingly strong with vendors reporting excellent sales in holiday as well as gift categories. I was primarily in Building 1 with the florals. To me, this was the largest turnout since pre-recession. Getting to Atlanta from Asheville is easy for us, as it is only 3 1/2 hours away by car, but there were a number of buyers from the midwest with four or five buyers from their business. They obviously had to spend a great deal of money to be there. Most buyers come with a plan and a budget and know their ‘open to buy’. They must be feeling confident about the future, or they wouldn’t be there. During the whole market, one felt a contagious sense of optimism about the future.”

Capel Rugs, a wholesaler based in eastern North Carolina, is celebrating their 100th year in business this year and has the license to produce rugs for the Biltmore Estate. They apparently had an incredible Atlanta market too. According to Cameron Capel, vice president of National Accounts, “We had a terrific market. Sales were up 35%, and attendance was up more than double!! We had great new introductions: Ankara, New Biltmore and COCO’s new collections too. It was exciting to kick off our anniversary year with such a bang.”

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According to Jeff Portman, Sr., of AmericasMart Atlanta, there were record breaking new buyer registrations and international attendance increases, all achieved in the face of weather impediments around the U.S. Atlanta’s January advances produced a climate of resurgent business optimism and vitality in the first of the U.S. winter market season and set a precedent for a radically redefined and reimagined AmericasMart July Market experience. According to Kim Higgins, AmericasMart Gift & Home Furnishings Advisory Board chairman, “Customer confidence was strong and sustained across every category and floor. The buyers were here ready to buy, and they bought big.”

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