Atlanta: Land of Opportunity, or What’s Yours Is Mine…

Find a bunch of timeworn phrases on the internet, stencil them onto all shapes and sizes of wall plaques (wood, metal, burlap, ceramic or what have you), then maybe add a few chevrons and anchors here and there. Multiply that by a few hundred companies, some indistinguishable from others, and you’ve got the recent Atlanta gift market.


Obviously there might be a few additional items to be found among the 7 million square feet of showrooms, but the place is overrun with words on walls. It just can’t last, people, so if you are working on yet another “words on walls” project you may want to ponder how yours will be noticeably new and different, or even head in a different direction. IMHO.

We spent 3 long days covering A LOT of those 7M square feet. The doom and gloom of Dallas (see the previous post) was not so evident in Atlanta, perhaps because it’s a better show even on its down days, but traffic was definitely slow. We found ourselves alone on elevators in the gift building four different times, and that’s notable because it NEVER happens, normally you can barely get on them at all (and these are big elevators). Easy parking in the ramps, empty corridors and escalators, no lines in the ladies room, leftover free lunch in the showrooms and Market Clubs – all are reliable signs that the retailers went missing. And as always, clients were having varied results – some reported good business, some not so good, but most landed on “it’s OK”. That was definitely the word of the week: Okay.

 The move into accessories by the gift companies has not only continued but expanded into apparel products. Seems like everybody has sparkly stuff, and now some of them are showing jackets and tops too. It also seems like celebrity licensing has lost its luster – whereas the last few years had us tripping over appearance announcements on easels and shaking our heads over weird product endorsement combos, this year most of that was conspicuously absent. (And, as in Dallas, Duck Dynasty is pretty much nowhere to be found). Perhaps we’ll be heading back to good design and quality product ideas again? What a novel idea…

One disconcerting trend is the increased number of “me too” collections found throughout the Mart. It has always been routine for companies to produce a line similar to what is successful at other companies, but we spotted many that were SO close we had to go examine them for artist credit. (Which is not there of course…). Bad news for all concerned but there just is not much remarkable among the new intros, so they are resorting to what has been proven elsewhere. The good news for designers, as I have said before, is that there is a BIG deficit in the market – the opportunities for fresh, original thinking partnered with market-wise execution are huge. Put your thinking caps on.
People tend to try and judge a show as either good or bad, while in reality they are ALL good to some degree. Stuff gets sold and shipped out to the stores, and we get to talk with clients, see loads of new product and stimulate our idea machine just by attending, so it’s always worthwhile. The market may have been a little quiet for the showrooms, however we came back from this trip buzzing with what-ifs, and now is the time to set those ideas down on paper and start work. January will be here before we know it!
6 replies
  1. Boon Cartoonist
    Boon Cartoonist says:

    Interesting. I was just commenting to my wife while in some small beach town’s small hodge podge store where they had the full compliment of things with sayings painted on them, “do they really sell a lot of these? You see them everywhere. I need to get out my paints and find some junk to put my pithy comments on, rather than trying to sell through” Now I know better. Thanks

  2. jane maday
    jane maday says:

    I noticed that about the words on walls too-they were everywhere! I wonder if some companies are just resorting to doing that because it is easy to do in house and they don’t have to pay an artist?

    By the way, huge apologies for stumbling in on your talking to that client in Big Sky. I didn’t see you, but as soon as we did I made a hasty retreat! I was actually shopping for my son’s store, but it was easy enough to go back later:-)

    • Jim Marcotte
      Jim Marcotte says:

      Hi Jane, no problem at all, we were winding down anyway but thanks. Words are easy and definitely the flavor of the month but a lot seem to be licensed collections; I only wish more were based on original writing, not seeing enough of that.


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