Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday Gift Post--Ornamentapalooza.

All this panicking about a late Thanksgiving and mixed retail messages led us to set the store for Christmas a bit earlier. We have two trees up and snowflakes hung, though we still haven't gotten our front window together. But one of the reasons the trees are up is that we have ornaments to sell and even though many of our ornaments look nice in baskets, they generally look even better on trees.

When I started buying nonbook (or gift items) for Boswell, I really didn't know that Christmas ornaments would become a big part of our mix. But Amie and Jason both spurred me on, based on Schwartz sales (which I had not even paid attention to) and with a good first year, we've increased our assortment every year since. I think we are now at our peak, not because we couldn't sell more, but just because I'm not sure how much more display space I want to allocate.

I try to buy an assortment of price points, and look for ornaments that fill various niches. Some of our lines are design based, others have a fair trade appeal, and at least two of our lines are made in the United States. We've got wooden ornaments made in a Wisconsin studio and metal ornaments from a workshop in Rhode Island, both of which are celebrating their second year at Boswell.  I originally picked them both up at the temporary booths at the Chicago gift show.

From the Minneapolis gift show, I picked up a new fair trade line, predominantly felted, which replaced a South American line that either disappeared, or forgot to recontact us. Sales on that line were spotty (do you remember the ceramic bells and owls?) so I let it go. I tried one traditional line for a couple of years, but I wasn't thrilled with the sell through, and they cut back on product from my favorite designers. Similarly one of the core lines that I carried over from Schwartz, whose core business is tableware, seems to revamped a bit, cutting their ornament assortment, and getting out of the "fox and friends" winter home goods, which were a big hit with customers.

I keep tweaking our assortment.  After playing with glass ornaments, I decided we have to be particularly careful with anything fragile. We had a good amount of breakage on our icicle assortment and the porcelain cranes had to be handled with great care. '

We have one particularly fancy line, Roost, and that's the only line that isn't completely on the floor. Anne and I are going to reset the tables and get their fabric trees, brush squirrels, and a couple of other things on display. I noticed we have two bowls of wooden crosses (not from Roost), so that can be consolidated. Last year we blew through these crosses, by the way, so we went back and got more.

My favorite thing from Roost are these very silly foxes and mice. In the catalog, they were posed as if the animals could actually stand up, but it turns out that they have to be hung, or else I'd need special stands. No matter, as they look equally cute in a basket.

The heart of our assortment was first shopped for its bookends, but it turns out the bookend business is tough going, even in a bookstore. I'll talk about that in another post. I had some success with their home goods, but this year I narrowed our focus to ornaments. This line doesn't really seem to have much penetration in our area until you get to Whitefish Bay.

I like these nutcracker ornaments, though I am always a little wary of that motif, since one particular discounter seems to go aggressively into silly Nutcracker variations. The nubby deers are also nice, though I'm usually not a fan of something with a foam base. One year we had these beautiful and rather expensive feather trees, but at their core, they were paper cones, and the equivalent ornaments were foam based. Beautiful yes, but they felt cheap to the touch.

This is just a small assortment of what we have to offer. Altogether we have close to 200 different ornaments in stock. If you come a week before Christmas, don't expect the same variety.

I promise we won't start playing Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving.

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