As most retail store buyers will attest, going to Market is physically punishing, mind-boggling work interspersed, if you’re lucky, with moments of entertainment and fun. You have to gear up for it, get yourself in the mindset, and be organized to search for specific types of products, know where you’re likely to find them and recognize them when you do. We have been to the International Gift Market in Atlanta at least once a year for 15 years, plus various jaunts to Dallas and New York. Some years it seems that the entire world has taken a break from creativity while other years it is as though everyone has been on creative steroids. From the ridiculous (who in the world buys that stuff?Why do they even bother to come to Market with that?) to the amazing to the sublime, it is there in 5,000,000 sq. feet of showroom after showroom awaiting discovery.
We like to fly out early (5:30 a.m. early) to arrive in Atlanta before noon, check into the hotel and run over to the Market on the first day before most buyers arrive. We almost have the entire place to ourselves, the reps are fresh and eager to be helpful; what else do they have to do? For the past few years we have stayed at the Omni in the CNN Center; it is comfortable, within easy walking distance to Market, and the information hub of the universe. This is our breakfast spot each morning, the Starbucks in the CNN food court complete with 24 hr. newscasts on the jumbo screen.
Across the street is the Centennial Park where there have always been interesting urban cultural events open to everyone. The National Black Arts Festival occupied nearly the entire park this week with perhaps 100 tents full of bright African-American creations and great bands throughout the day and into the night that we could hear on the eighth floor of the hotel.
The International Gift Market in downtown Atlanta includes four 20 story buildings conveniently connected at various levels by glass walkways. The views of downtown Atlanta from these walkways are impressive.
We usually browse three of the four buildings. We began our search at Noon in Building 1, floor 20, and worked our way down to the ninth floor by 6:00 p.m. I wore a pedometer that registered 7017 steps from the time we left the hotel to the end of that day. Products that stood out this year included extremely large clear or colored glass containers, aged mercury glass, and live and faux succulents; colors were more subtle earth tones with occasional outbursts of orange, lime green and purple.
In The Gardens, two floors in Building 2 West Wing are specifically geared to garden decor and gift products; a huge two-story fountain occupies the open center of the two floors. It is very impressive and really loud; when the water is flowing, nothing else can be heard in the vicinity.
Somewhere in there we found the garden”Cottage Lady”. Since Market was using a Christmas theme, most of the showrooms were in a Christmas decor. Each little cottage was sprinkled with snow and was accented with tiny conifers, red berries, and the occasional tiny faux snowman. These cottages are going to be much more well-known nationwide this year.
Since this Market had the Christmas theme, there were carolers dressed in Dickens garb strolling through The Gardens singing loudly and well. The center court two-story fountain was the setting for a Christmas Feast.
Caterers served sliced roast turkey, pear salad, whipped sweet potato in martini glasses, and bread pudding for dessert.
In Building 2 we came upon a showroom with this young lady dressed in a body suit illustrated by “Billy the Artist”, a celebrity artist who illustrates a line of urban gifts and clothing. He looks like a biker with a good sense of humor and a hearty appetite. His art has been shown in NYC’s Forbes Gallery, in Miami, London and Zürich, and he painted a mural in Venice in front of 30,000 people. Since he wanted to have lunch that day, we just missed having him personalize our shopping bag.
At the end of the second day, they literally rolled out the red carpet and invited buyers to “Dig for Diamonds”! Everyone lined up to wait their turn. At last it was our turn! They handed us soil scoops and we scooped sand from the sand table and they sifted it for semi-precious stones and diamonds. Christy mined two citrine!
On our last day we ventured through the mass of temporaries, temporary showrooms where unique items can be discovered. Throughout the week as we rode the escalators up and down, we passed by these smaller companies constructing their spaces from the ground up and stocked their little spaces. Entire floors are dedicated to these temporaries by theme: Gourmet, High Design (our favorite), Outdoor Living, Nature and Coastal Living, and Home Furnishings.
High Design is filled with wonderful, unusual, shiny and bizarre objects AND people. We file through the rows looking left and right so we won’t miss anything, perhaps discovering that special new something that we know will make a great gift buy or garden accessory for you. Among the items that stood out this year were realistic looking books carved out of wood in various finishes. Just put them outside and let them weather! Another outstanding creation was a miniature terrarium made from a repurposed restaurant wine bottle with the neck removed and filled with either Sedum seeds or moss. That was designated as a great gift item by the celebrity gift guru; it will be an interesting conversation piece as well.
Market is fun when we see friends that we’ve made over the past 15 years, visiting and going out for dinner with them, talking about upcoming trends. We are very excited about our purchases: the new candles, diffusers, hummingbird feeders, doormats, French tablecloths, furniture, statues, containers and unexpected items that will be arriving in the coming weeks and months. Come in and see it all!