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Bling bling: Your registers will ring

Bling blingOK, NOW THAT I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION, let me tell you a little historical story to back up what I'm about to say.
     In the early '90s, I was president of a wholesaler that was primarily in the gifts business. Our salespeople started letting us know that the gift stores they were calling on were starting to ask for "better" items of home décor. The stores seemed to be looking for frames, portable lighting, bookends and other décor items for the home that weren't exactly gifts, but of a price range that fit nicely into gift shops.
     Long story short, we jumped all over that trend, flipped our company from a gift company to primarily home décor and rode the wave.
     Throughout 2010, I had a lot of the same kinds of thoughts as I watched women's accessories, defined as jewelry, handbags, shawls and footwear, absolutely explode into the gift industry. And when I say explode, I mean at a pace that far exceeds what my colleagues and I saw in the early '90's on home décor. What we are seeing is a seismic shift in the product mix that stores are going to be carrying moving forward because of consumer demand. Indeed, I have talked with some of the most successful retailers in this industry over the last two to three months, and every single one of them is planning on carrying more and more of this type product in their stores next year.  And, that means less shelf space for you as a home décor vendor if you are not reacting to this shift.
     So, what are you to do?
     If you are a wholesaler, what can you learn from this? Don't be one of the vendors who waited too long. You get the picture ... you snooze, you lose. This merchandise category is growing at a pace as rapid as anything I've seen in 40 years. Don't miss it.
     If you are a home décor vendor, you may be saying, "So what? I don't sell gifts or women's accessories, this won't affect me." Wrong. All great home décor vendors know that women's fashion definitely affects home décor at some point. Whether it is color trends, fabric styles or whatever, women's fashion has always sooner or later shown up in some form in home décor.
     So, your question is, how do you transfer the "bling factor" that is so prevalent in today's shoppers' tastes to your product line? Does it mean brighter colors; does it mean home décor pieces with more precious stones and added "pop"? I think so. I think you also must strive to show you are noticing this in the marketplace and creating product lines that will also catch the shopper's desire for something that makes them smile.
      If you are a retailer, you too must think through this strategic buying shift. How much space should you devote to this type product in 2011? How do you decide which vendors to approach from the hundreds of new ones that are popping up? How do you move quickly to catch this wave and benefit? I really think that for you, it is as simple as actively reading the trade magazines and staying current on the online blogs. You can also attend the various seminars at the upcoming winter shows. All of these are on fire with success stories from retailers who are getting magnificent performance from these products.
     For those of you who are prone to always fight change, don't resist it this time. Our stores in this industry need help, our vendors need help, and we are being given a once-in-a-decade or so moment of light when the end consumer is actually voting with their pocketbook on what they want to buy. Big time.
     Sometimes vendors like to put themselves in a box. The product developers want to do what they like instead of what is current. Some companies decide no matter what, we are what we are and we will stand on what we do. Sometimes retailers do the same thing. They decide that their store is ____ ____ (you fill in the blank) and that is what they are going to remain.
     To both constituencies, I'd like to say as respectfully as I possibly can, ignore the consumer at your peril. The consumer is the real ultimate customer to our industry. A vendor's product is not a success because the salespeople can write a lot of orders on it; it is only a success if it sells off the counter in the stores to the consumer.
     In a tough economy, which we will continue to have for a while, the consumer is queen. And for right now, she is looking pretty good in those new sandals, that new necklace, and the new handbag on her shoulder. She is proving there is still a lot of money to be spent, if only we will listen. Have you got your bling on?

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