Friday, January 29, 2010

Has it Really Been Six Months Since the Last Chicago Gift Show?

My visit to the Chicago gift show was split, taking a day trip with Boswellian Anne on Friday and another with Next Chapter's Anne on Monday. I wanted to make sure that I was at both weekend events, with John Schissler, Jr. on Saturday and Robert Goolrick on Sunday.

Just as well. The show is far less crowded during the week than on the weekend. I'm still discovering gift reps for our territory. The hope is that if we know the reps, we might find out about product that might otherwise go unbought.

I'm still on the fence about what categories to expand in, and by how much. The easy things are cards (loose and boxed) and journals, which both are expected in a bookstore and also sell well. Then we have things like bookends, which are expected, but have spotty sales, and the little impulse-y things, that generally sell pretty well and have an obvious place (the front and special order counters).

Likewise, I seem to have a handle on what I want in the kids' area--plush, puppets, toys, games, diaries, impulse, and the occasional home item, like our animal cushions we had in the fall.

But where should we go from here? Do we venture into the tabletop area that Schwartz played with? Can I sell tee shirts or bags? When I managed Mequon in the 90's, we had a poster rack (Remember those? They sure have disappeared from most retailers.)

One retailer told me she sold a lot of nightlights to bookstores. She's small artisan, out of Cleveland Heights (my mouth watered as we discussed Tommy's Retaurant) and her business grew out of greeting cards, which she also designs and sells. They were nice looking, reasonably priced, and fit my esthetic. The only problem? I have very few outlets, and it seems you can't really sell them well without samples and that involved buying a fixture and attaching it to the wall. Yeeks, my head started spinning.

So I can't tell you what I bought because...I didn't buy anything. But you should see the fruits of our labors in the next two months.


How are we doing? The American Booksellers Association polled member stores who joined in 2009. Two of the respondees were Lanora at Next Chapter and myself. We both had a lot to say!
Read it here.

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