Monthly Archives: February 2014

Winter 2014 Denver Mart Show, part 5 – Calling Wolf


Call of the Wolf

Call of the Wolf, pack 20

Westland Giftware announced the winter 2014 Call of the Wolf pack back in January, but we have not had an opportunity to see it first hand until the Denver Market show. The Call of the Wolf series has been one of the cornerstone lines for Westland since its release in July 2004. That’s right, the winter 2014 pack is the 20th set, adding to a total of 103 wolves in the series.

Western (European) lore of the wolf paints it as an aggressive predator and an opportunistic killer. It is a villain in childhood tales and a shape shifter in the night, stalking humans. The ironic truth is that even though wolves are accomplished predators, very seldom do they attack humans and never because they view humans as food. Wolf aggression against humans is defensive or territorial as the animals fight for their own survival.

Howling Moon

Howling Moon

American Indians have a distinctly different view of wolves, one of admiration and respect. A wolf is a protector, representing power and courage, and a member of a strong tribal community that acts as one and takes care of their own. It is this Native American view of wolves that Westland Giftware used to inspire the Call of the Wolf product line and it is this view that the public used to embrace the very successful series.

The Denver Mart show was also an opportunity for us to sit down with the product line representatives to discuss the series and the direction it is taking. Westland has high hopes for the continued success of the Call of the Wolf line. In the discussion we mentioned that what we would love to see in the future of this line is a “Paint Your Own Wolf”, akin to the popular Paint Your Own Pony, Paint Your Own Mustang, Paint Your Own Cow and Paint Your Own Weiner sets. Call of the Wolf is the last of the Westland major product lines that does not have a Paint Your Own kit and we firmly believe that this would be a very popular expansion of the series. In the very least, the idea was popular. A lot of eyes lit up in the room when the proposal was made.

We look forward to more great products to come from Westland Giftware in this popular line.

Winter 2014 Denver Mart Show, part 4 – Using Your Senses

One of the opportunities that a trade show gives us is the ability to catch up on the news about our popular product lines and see previews of what print advertising is promising. Astonishing as it may sound, news from manufacturers can be hard to come by and trade shows are a great opportunity to corner product representatives and get some up to date gossip.

Horse of a Different Color, Winter 2014 Herd

Horse of a Different Color, Winter 2014 Herd

We mentioned in a previous blog that we saw the new set of Horse of a Different Color at the WESA show in January and at the Denver Mart show we had the opportunity to see these pieces again, ahead of their official release in March. Retailers and shopkeepers are very much like consumers. We’ll get a glossy flyer from the manufacturer or, these days, a matte digital photograph in e-mail, and we are left wondering “what does that thing really look like?” Until you actually hold the piece in your hand, you don’t know what it really feels like, what the true colors are and rotating the piece to face the other way provides a completely different perspective.

Advertising images lack general sensory input. We’ve had customers complain because a piece they bought was not colored the same way as the one shown in the advertising. It does not happen often, but sometimes a manufacturing decision is made to change the color of an element in a figurine and the final product does not have the same look as the original. Bells or beads attached to a figurine make sound and create a completely different sensation than a picture. Even touch is a significant factor as the texture of the figurines varies widely, from gloss to smooth to rippled to textured. We have seen the surface of a figurine be the deciding factor in a purchasing decision. And there is smell. There are paints and glues that make items far less desirable until they have had a chance to fully air out. And then there are general differences in pieces that no one has any control over. Remember, while the figurines are all machine molded, they are also all hand finished. Fine detail may vary. The placement of accessories may be just a touch different. Even things like feathers or flare may be oriented differently, based on how they were attached, how much glue was applied and how the piece was set down to dry.

In the age of internet shopping, we understand consumer concerns about making a purchase. We always talk about judging a book by its cover, but in reality an element of the purchase is the deep desire to flip the cover open and read a few lines.

Trade shows provide us an opportunity to see new releases ahead of their official street date and gives us a chance to more clearly speak to what our customers are interested in purchasing. In a way, this is an opportunity for the retailers to do a little window shopping and develop a sense for the products they intend to carry.

Winter 2014 Denver Mart Show, part 3 – Training Opportunities

Attending the Denver Mart is not just an opportunity to identify upcoming market trends and place orders for new merchandise to carry, but also a chance for retailers to grow personally through seminars about various aspects of the retail business.

Merchandise Magic … Three for One by Laura Lee Ullrich

Merchandise Magic … Three for One by Laura Lee Ullrich

At this show we picked two training sessions to attend in between appointments with vendors. The first was Merchandise Magic … Three for One by Laura Lee Ullrich, an experienced retailer from Montana. Laura’s presentation was on display merchandising. Very much like anything else, the first glance at a store makes an impression and if the display is a disorganized mess, the customer may simply chose not to shop there. First impressions in retail can very easily make or break a sale and those first impressions are not of the sales people. Those first impressions come from the window display or a first glance inside a store. We’ve all been to stores that immediately attract you by their display and to stores where peeling paint and debris are the highlights of the display window.

Laura’s presentation included a single set of merchandise and focused on three different ways to display it, augmenting the display with seasonal items that made the merchandise attractive and current. It was an interesting and innovative way to look at displays, but as we were walking out of the presentation, we were joking that this was a lesson on repackaging last season’s unsold merchandise for the upcoming season.

Getting Started with Constant Contact by Zak Barron

Getting Started with Constant Contact by Zak Barron

The second seminar was by Constant Contact’s Zak Barron, titled Getting Started with Constant Contact. Zak spoke about the benefits of using Constant Contact, an internet mailing list solution, to stay in touch with customers. This was really a lengthy infomercial about what Constant Contact has to offer and how it’s used, complete with a software demonstration. We’ve seen Zak speak about social media in retail a couple of years ago and it was a very sharp, well thought out presentation. This round did not come close to matching the existing expectations.

Seminars, by their nature, come with hits and misses, but it’s important to remember that retail is a much diversified field and specifics are not universal across all retail businesses. One of the important takeaways from these sessions is to think critically about how the business is being run and what efficiencies can be found to make it a better place.

As a rule, customer response is the key benchmark to running a great business. Customers have a way of telling retailers what works and what doesn’t. The goal for retailers is to learn to listen to their customers and deliver the services and products that customers want. It’s a very old lesson in the retail world, but one that is always topical and always important to retail success. We do believe this message and our goal is to respond to every single comment and concern from our customers. It’s a promise that we have to keep in order to continue to serve all of you.

Winter 2014 Denver Mart Show, part 2 – Products at the Mart

Bustling Mart Floor

A flurry of activity at the Denver Mart.

Attending the Denver Gift, Home, Jewelry and Resort Show is akin to being at a carnival. There is a flurry of activity all around – demonstrations and education, sales presentations and product rollouts, vendors and buyers haggling over goods. It’s not at all unusual to see people – especially vendors – in costume, to stand out in a virtual sea of motion. A three ring circus has far less momentum to it. If you blink here, you will miss a lot.

It would not be an overestimate to say that well over a million distinct items are represented at the Denver Mart and if you spend just one second looking at each, you will easily consume a half month worth of time. It is simply impossible to see each individual item. Add to this retail services such as web design, social media outreach, marketing opportunities and financial services and you are left scrambling for time to get the best of the best into the narrow window of the six day conference.

Glass Blower

A glass blower makes creative designs in front of your eyes.

Looking for food? Not a problem! If you think you can make a meal out of tasting samples at your local supermarket on a Saturday grocery store outing, the Denver Mart can feed you just as easily, although not necessarily with food that is any healthier. A vacuum cleaner salesman in the corner will dump household debris on the floor and proceed to do a live demonstration with a variety of vacuums, showing what works best and giving you an opportunity to test the equipment yourself. A glassblower will allow you to stand by and watch as a masterpiece of art is created in mere minutes. And you can place an order for these and thousands of other items on the spot, some available for you to simply load into your vehicle and take back to your store there and then.

Denver Mart Fashion Show

Denver Mart Fashion Show

On Saturday, fashion is the word at the Mart. The day culminates in a dinner setting with a charity auction, music and a fashion show sponsored by the Denver area apparel retailers. This is a fast paced program showcasing dozens of outfits with the help of professional runway models. The apparel and accessory market is not something to ignore. It is a massive component of the show that introduces fashion from up and coming artists to lines produced by world famous designers.

Sunday you can see the addition of a special program. A floral component is added to the show and the regular programming is supplemented with fresh cut flowers and the opportunity to learn how to incorporate them into the retail business, both as display decorations and as floral retail components.

From flowers to clothes to food to toys to books to furniture to jewelry to gifts, about the only thing that the Denver Mart does not offer is the opportunity to purchase live animals, although animal products themselves span a list as large as that of available human products. Even a savvy retailer must pick and choose the opportunities presented at the show.

Winter 2014 Denver Mart Show, part 1 – About the Mart

Denver Mart

Denver Mart

This past weekend was the annual winter Denver Gift, Home, Jewelry and Resort Show, together with the Denver Apparel and Accessory Market, a six day long retail show bringing together a thousand manufacturers with thousands of regional, national and international retailers. Featured were the late coming summer 2014 products, together with brand new end of the year merchandise. Commonly known as the “Denver Mart” show, the winter show is a roll-out of many products that will be in stores for the 2014 holiday season and is the primary show for the Rocky Mountain Region.

The Denver Mart was built in 1965 and expanded over the next five decades into the huge campus that it is today. The facility now includes more than a half million square feet of showroom and exhibition hall space, consisting of four connected buildings, a nine story hotel and a conference center. The facility hosts some two hundred public and retail events every year.

Fallout Shelter

Fallout Shelter at the Denver Mart

Having been built in the era of the Cold War, this building still sports signs of this time, one of them being clearly visible fallout shelter signs, in the event of nuclear war. And it’s easy to believe that these signs are fully realistic. The inside of the building is a virtual radio dead zone, the walls heavy and thick enough that mobile phones are little more than expensive paperweights inside the facility.

Today the Denver Mart is home to 350 permanent showrooms with the ability to host over a thousand additional temporary exhibitors and well over ten thousand show attendees. The campus includes a full kitchen with a staff capable of providing full catering for the massive events the facility is famous for, an on site private security team for all types of events and a substation for the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. In the summer it’s perfectly normal to see horse mounted sheriff’s deputies patrolling the area. Fire and rescue services are provided by the North Washington Fire Protection District from a station located across the street. The fire marshal and a fire crew are a common site at the Mart during large events.

In the next few blog articles we will talk about our visit to the 2014 winter Denver Market. We look forward to having you follow us through this event.

It’s Groundhog Day!

Stormy Marmot at Colorado State Capitol

Stormy Marmot at Colorado State Capitol

This is just too cute not to pass along. And it’s local to us here in Colorado, so it would be a crime not to mention our own famed prognosticator, Stormy Marmot. Looks like Stormy was up early this morning to check the weather and he’s predicting six more weeks of winter. Looking out the window here, we agree that winter is most definitely here and the short term – one week – forecast is supporting this theory.

Old weather sage Punxsutawney Phil in on board. There’s more winter to come.

Don’t forget, a great cold weather pastime is to play games at home. We can help.  And we of course carry a selection of groundhogs and marmots.