Service of Display

January 31st, 2013

Categories: Uncategorized


The Rise and Fall pillow case

The Rise and Fall pillow case

One of the owners of a favorite gift store, Lilli and Loo in Hudson, NY, once told me that she bought most of her stock at the New York International Gift Fair. As I strolled the halls of the Javits Center where over 2,000++ exhibitors strutted their stuff I was reminded how physically daunting it is to do this show justice, what an overwhelming road retailers must follow to fill their stores with wonderful things and at the same time how amazing it is that they can visit one place and see so much from here and around the world in a few days.

The Internet is a miracle but there’s nothing like seeing and feeling fabulous things.

General Impressions

Don’t be surprised if Aunt Poll shows up for dinner sporting a temporary tattoo. There were numerous glittery ones, faux watches and much more.

Expect to see a flourishing number of paper placemats in pads with all sorts of motifs.

In the home textiles section the bed ensemble patterns were subtle and pineconehillbedcolors muted with a few exceptions. If you wanted hot colors and patterns there were some from Jonathan Adler Designs, Roberta Freyman collection for Roberta Roller Rabbit, BlissLiving Home, Libeco and Pine Cone Hill [photo at right].

Are mustaches a motif to watch for? I loved The Rise & Fall‘s pillow cases [photo above].

I was puzzled by some exhibitors who inadvertently hid their names: One Lucite logo was unintelligible against its background; another company neglected to take into account the size of the booth and installed a tiny sign high up and almost hidden behind merchandise.

Speaking of hiding, a well known brand concealed some of its pieces in makeshift rooms so visitors had to commit to entering to see the displays. As this is a company that manufactures inexpensive takeoffs of more expensive looks, the sense of secrecy was a puzzle.

I’m amazed at how many manufacturers forget that they are marketing to retailers for whom the visual is essential. At the least they should spend the money to hire a merchandiser/stylist. Jamming everything that they stock in a booth using tired, unimaginative displays is not an effective way to catch a person’s eye especially when there’s so much else to see.

I remember a fellow slumped on a folding chair surrounded by knife sets in lackluster storage cases that dated from the 1960s. Placing the cases at a slight slant so you could see what was inside would help and designing wonderful boxes to house the classic knives would help even more!

Mary Lake Thomson towel set

Mary Lake Thomson towel set

I took note of some of the spectacular displays. Great lighting helped especially the smaller booths. You may want to check out the websites as I also admired their products.

  • The sun appeared to shine on Mary Lake Thompson‘s garden. The artist decorated napkins, paper placemats, towel sets and more with bees in hives and flowers on bright, white, crisp cotton ironed to perfection.
  • You couldn’t miss Daisy Hill‘s napkins, round straw placements and napkin rings for its graphic display that would translate to a retail space and transfix shoppers.
  • From Japan, Craftholic‘s stuffed soft creatures stole my heart. You could learn a lot about display and simplicity from the exhibitors in the Japanese Pavilion–Craftholic joined the JETRO exhibition area as well. It included standouts such as Maison Koichiro Kimura.
  • Bloembox in a teensy space with diminutive boxes topped by silk flowers [with seeds inside] mesmerized me.
  • There was genius at work on the Pinch Provisions booth. This was a large space selling personal care kits the size of an iPhone. You couldn’t miss the handsome oversize black and white wallpaper pattern backing the booth and curiosity drew you to the counter with the small kits.
  • Pearhead‘s animal shaped frames and the charming crocheted Maileg characters [below] were artfully on parade.
  • And there was so much more.

Does wonderful merchandise overcome poor display? Will great display help sell lackluster merchandise? Are you doomed if you don’t have both? Have you ever thanked a retailer for selecting a creative assortment of goodies that are a joy to see and to gift?

Maileg characters

Maileg characters

11 Responses to “Service of Display”

  1. HG Said:

    FABULOUS questions! I have no answers, but it makes me wonder!

    I guess you need at LEAST one element! And BOTH would make your wares that much more attractive!
    Maybe also add a bit of . . . . . ”MYSTERY”?

  2. Lucrezia Said:

    In a show of this nature, there should be an infinite range of reviews. Take the “Maileg characters” shown above. I see them as a small crowd of stupid looking creatures The next person who comes along might be enamored enough with the entire collection to buy it on the spot. The old maxim “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder,” applies here and for each and every kind of exhibit held on the planet.

  3. Peggy Shippin Said:

    As a consumer, I am as innately suspicious of retailers that display lavishly and artfully, as I am one of those that indulge in expensive, slick advertising. After all, in the long run, I am the one who will be paying the expense involved.

    The worst is when manufacturers put their names or logos prominently on the clothing they sell you, and then expect you to pay for the privilege of advertising their merchandise when you wear it. I refuse to buy such stuff.

    However, to answer your question, I care far more about the quality, attractiveness, individuality and serviceability of what I am buying that how it is displayed. But then, I’ll admit I’m a little odd.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I may have selected a poor image…the hand crochet Maileg characters are darling–I have always been more of a stuffed animal than doll lover, and still love them.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    With tongue in cheek, I can only say that if I paid $10,000 for a handbag I’d want you to know I got it at Hermes.

    Truth be told, I wouldn’t pay that much for one item of clothing or accessory as it’s against my religion….but if someone gave me such a thing, I would hope it didn’t have such telltale elements. I’m with you on that.

    I have a hard time finding golf shirts for my husband as he won’t wear anyone’s logo or symbol. I think LL Bean sells plain shirts, colors or stripes only.

    I also agree with your last paragraph and as a veteran discount shopper, I have always picked gold from junk but there’s nothing I like more than entering a beautiful boutique or antique shop with wonderful things handsomely displayed.

  6. Rhona CF Said:

    Yes, I have thanked a retailer for splendid choices and displays. When I go into that store, I often feel as though I am going to a museum of “wearable art”. The things are expensive, but they do go on sale (I wait) sometimes for as much as 50% off.

    Good displays can make poor merchandise look better than it is, but it does not take too long to find out that it isn’t as good as it looks. And great is the excitement of finding a store that has “hidden treasures”! Poorly designed showrooms and shown merchandise can mean good stuff hidden away and discoverable. And, ideally, inexpensive.

    I have stopped going to stores where things look great and aren’t like Macy’s. It makes going to local stores a pleasure. Many thanks for sowing (or sewing?) these seeds of thought.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Good for you! My guess is that most retailers hear a bunch of complaints and not too many kudos.

    I’d love to know the name of that store!

    I’m with you. I went to a boutique upstate with great prices, handsome look and merchandise that at first glance looked spiffy but on second glance was junk. Given the quality, there were no bargains there! It has stayed in business for several years which always surprised me.

  8. DManzaluni Said:

    I have been to that show, the merchandise is amazing and I have often subsequently wondered why all gift stores seem to have the same sort of VERY limited interest dross on display when I want to buy a gift.

    You are right, inadequate attention is paid to display. They think that the merchandise speaks for itself at trade shows

    As a practical aside, I was once walking past one such large stand and noticed a book I had written on prominent display, by itself, on the wall at the back. When I enquired, perplexed, as to what it was doing there, I was told by some junior salesman that the cover was so beautiful that it was someone there’s personal copy and they had just brought it along to brighten up the stand!

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I can only guess at the answer to why so many gift stores have the same old boring stuff when such amazing things are available. Minimum order requirements add insult to no space to hold inventory. On top of this, there’s an unsupportive demographic that doesn’t buy enough to risk the minimums….and voila.

    Small businesses today have a very hard time and boutiques are no exception. Most of the good ones have gone out of business in our small town. The owner of one of the defunct ones told a story I’ve written about before. An extremely well-known wealthy woman in the area spent 15 minutes finding a gift for her nephew, selected something in the $20-range and as he was about to write up and wrap the order she said, “Forget it. I don’t want to spend $20 on my nephew.”

    I love the story about your book! I hope the display helped sell many copies. I’ve represented manufacturers who use items they don’t sell to spruce up their showrooms and photography. During markets, countless buyers would ask, “How much is that desk lamp?” when the lamp was just a prop. Same thing with a tieback on a curtain: The stylist would use a fabulous ribbon on the client’s standard curtain and the editor who used the image would get letters asking where to buy the tieback.

  10. Pinch Provisions Said:

    Thank you for the kind words about our booth! It is very much appreciated, and we’re glad you enjoyed the show.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Pinch Provisions,

    The affect of the empty space and the oversized pattern behind the booth was magical. I don’t know what the visual trick was, but it did what you wanted: Created curiosity. I wanted to know “What else is there to see?”

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