Greetings from the Gift Show

Josie Leavitt - August 22, 2012

I spent the last three days in New York City at the International Gift Show. I combined this trip with seeing old friends and it turned out to be great. I really like the Gift Show. It’s interesting that I went because I’m not the sidelines buyer, but I think have a sense of what we could use for the fourth quarter. I overspent my self-imposed budget, but I fell in love with a few too many unique things.
I’ve never been to the Javits Center for anything other than BookExpo and I must say, I really liked it. The entire convention center was full of gifts and gifty things. I liked that it was spread out. There was never a crush of people like there can be at BookExpo. In fact, there was never an aisle I felt claustrophobic walking down.
The best part of the show was the Handmade Designs. This was on the fourth floor and it was full of mostly Fair Trade items. Sure, a lot of these items were scarves, actually 80% were textiles, but there were goodies to be had. Wool spun by women earning a livable wage in various parts of the world seemed to what I gravitated towards. The wool came in the form of Christmas ornaments, finger puppets, pen toppers and even bird nesting houses. They were all adorable. I resisted my urge to buy all the owls. I made a grievous buying mistake last year with owl ornaments that will likely plague me for years, as co-workers periodically come across them and shriek at their hideousness. The one great thing about being at the show is actually being able to see things up close. Not every catalog photo accurately represents what the item actually looks like. It’s often been my experience with sidelines that it’s best to hold them in your hands before buying them.
The aisles were full of colorful things. And, unlike the book show, where I know what to gloss over because it just doesn’t fit our store, here I had to look at more. Looking at more means making eye contact and that can always led to a longer booth visit than intended. I couldn’t help but find humor in the sexy items booth being right next to the shofars and special knives used at a bris. To their credit, the booth occupants seemed to get along swimmingly.
One thing I noticed was the actual lack of swag and large bags that dominate BEA. Almost no one had a bag from a booth, and there was certainly nothing to be given out. I did hear haggling, though, which is something I’ve never heard at the book show. With books, no one argues about price. They are priced what they are. But here, folks were bargaining and I loved overhearing that. It gave me hope that commerce is alive and well.
I hope when my purchases come in at the beginning of the fourth quarter, I see nothing but things that will sell and not owls that frighten staff.

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