Retailers Discuss Their Dreams and Strategies at Atlanta Roundtable

Held from 8-10 a.m. at the beautiful and elegant Capital City Club in Atlanta, the day began with a breakfast of bacon, eggs, pastries and even cinnamon bread pudding, provided by AmericasMart.

Retail day-dreams, digital strategies, favorite product lines and expansions were the hot topics Wednesday morning, July 12, during a roundtable discussion led by Gifts and Decorative Accessories and sponsored by Mud Pie.

Participating in the group talk were:

  • Whitney Morgan from Collage, York, PA
  • Julie Pointer from Julianne’s Coastal Cottage, Mount Dora, FL
  • Kym Priest from Mercy Hospital Gift Shop, Springfield, MO
  • Amy Quinlan and Maria Gunnell from The Prickly Pear, Louisville, KY
  • Terri Wischerath from Zinnia, Mount Pleasant, SC
  • Susie and Susan Stefani, mother-daughter duo, from Susie at Home, Grosse Pointe, MI
  • Barbara Diebus from Details for the Home, Haymarket, VA

The discussion began with a fun, but thought-provoking question:

If you magically had an additional $10,000 in your budget or an extra 2,000 square feet in your store, what category or department would you add or expand?

“A bar…no, I’m serious,” laughed Amy Quinlan, from The Prickly Pear, setting the tone for the fun and casual networking event. “People love to chit-chat and have a drink, and it’d just be fun.”

Terri Wischerath from Zinnia echoed that statement. With Charleston having such a warm climate, she said she thought being able to offer customers a cold drink would go a long way. She also said she’d love to add a refrigerator to keep fresh flowers, which would be great as add-ons or last-minute gifts.

Other desires included adding a personalization station, more unique, under-$50 products, and the novel idea of expanding into pet accessories while also adding a pet-adoption area to the store.

A big takeaway from the roundtable was how difficult it is for retailers to compete with not just online shopping, but with the manufacturers themselves. Several storeowners expressed the difficulty of consumers finding their products online for cheaper-often direct from the manufacturer. It’s one reason why several retail owners have quit carrying Vera Bradley, a decision we heard at the Dallas roundtable discussion, as well. Often, vendors will sell their products direct to consumer with free shipping or at a discounted rate, or put items on sale earlier than a retailer can keep up with.

Some stores, like Julianne’s Coastal Cottage and Susie at Home said they try to match the prices when they can or offer some other discount to remain competitive. “We also do gift wrap,” said Susan from Susie at Home. “We’ll do everything but whistle Dixie.”

Of course, all storeowners expressed how much they strive to create that personal relationship with the consumer. “That customer loyalty, that connection is important,” Julie said.

The discussion concluded with a quick rundown of the retail owners’ favorite and best-selling product lines, which included:

  • Tervis
  • Jane Iredale cosmetics
  • My Saint, My Hero
  • The Shine Project (particularly around the holidays)
  • Areyh apparel
  • Match
  • Pamabay
  • Barefoot Dreams
  • Heartstrings (Headbands of Hope)
  • Lampe Berger
  • Goverre (traveling wine glasses)
  • Musee bath bombs
  • Susie Toronto licensed products

Afterward, each participant walked away with a goodie bag from Mud Pie, which included a Merry Mud Pie canvas bag, set of reversible earrings, a Tooth Fairy Evidence Kit, and a Friends Wine Bottle Stopper.

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