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New York International Gift Show Report

The "green" trend continues.

by Ellie Joos (September 1, 2008)

The handwriting was on the wall, or rather on the 

"Better than expected" was the consensus of most of the exhibitors I met at the New York International Gift Show. Given the present economic climate and uncertainty, many were unsure of what to expect when the show opened; they were pleasantly surprised. One exhibitor selling Christmas '08 merchandise felt that his customers had been holding off on buying and were doing so now at this late date. In any case, although the show floor was slow on the last day when I walked it, many reported an active show in the days prior and were optimistic about leads and orders.

As with other shows I attended this year, the prevailing message was in sustainable, eco-friendly, fair traded, and socially conscious products. A sustainability showcase greeted attendees outside the main exhibit hall and displayed gift, home décor, personal care, and accessories, including jewelry, totes, kid's and pet products that fit the criteria. The handout that accompanied this showcase stated, "Sustainable and responsible design is the fastest growing segment of our industry today."

Product Trends.

There is absolutely no reason to carry plastic bags anymore, not with the enormous selection of fabulous, reusable bags now available from many, many vendors. Using recycled materials – including fabrics, plastic bottles, bamboo, juice containers, candy wrappers, tire retreads, and colorful rice sacks – vendors have created chic bags, totes, and purses in all sizes and shapes that are fun to carry while helping the environment. Some that caught my eye:

Ecoist – colorful, candy-wrapper woven bags, with a tie-in with Trees for the Future that plants one tree for every bag sold; that's 85,000 to date. www.ecoist.com

Half the Sky -- a fair-trade-abiding company uses recycled juice packs to make woven bags, one of which was carried by Betty in last season's hit show, Ugly Betty. The company's award-winning Circle of Life bags are made from colorful rice sacks in villages in the Philippines. www.halfthesky.com

English Retreads – very fashionable rubber totes and purses made from tire retreads. When I asked where the company got the material, I was told at truck stops. www.englishretreads.com

Our love for our pets continues to drive the growing pet product category. Clothing, accessories, toys, and other related products galore for "Man's Best Friend" and Cat Lovers. They are also being made to show an awareness for the environment and for the pet's health by using organic materials for the products and packaging.

Farfetched – Slurpabowls are handy reusable, collapsible, cleverly designed bowls for water or food, made from 100% recyclable synthetic paper. www.farfetchedinc.com

ArfDog – this first time exhibitor had a great line of dog gift and treat products inspired by, in this case, Woman's Best Friend, company owner Ricki Noto and her dog Sox. Every fashion-savvy dog will be drooling for her designer-logo gift boxes. www.arfdog.com

BowWowMeow – pet-themed craft kits for pet lovers, include dog, cat, and horse scrapbook kits. This first time exhibitor also has shrink-art jewelry kits, party collars, and shadow box frame kits. (You may need to help your pet assemble these.) www.bowwowmeowstuff.com

Simply Fido™ – at first glance, I thought these charming plush toys were for children. These toys are made from organic fabrics using non-toxic dyes by a socially responsible company. www.simplyfido.com

Tis the Season – Christmas offers a plethora of decorating trends, including pretty pastels, often with a dusting of glitter to provide a vintage feeling. Natural elements are strong, again influenced by the "green" message, featuring pine cones, icicles, birds, feathers, leaves, and sea shells.

Jim Marvin – a leader in the Christmas product market, had a gorgeous display of color-coordinated ornaments, wreaths, and home décor accent items including very trendy orange which looks great with copper and burgundy, aqua and silver, red and apple green, jewel tones of purple – another trend color – and very important nature inspired looks using mossy textures and icy crystals. www.jimmarvin.net

Saxon Chocolates – had a great response to its organic collection. Dark chocolate continues to do very well. This company also had very fashionable packaging, picking up on this season's colors of red with apple green, red with blue, and using design patterns of tartan plaids and a lovely filigree, all accented with pretty bows. www.saxonchocolates.com

Mudpie – the products are charming, whimsical, and fun: Christmas tabletop and giftware accessories, ornaments, baby and pet products in bright shades of red and lime green accented with ribbons and bows. www.mud-pie.com

Other Stand-outs.

Colors at this show were often bright with shades of purple and green, reflecting the fashion color trends for Fall '08. In products, Iota™ is a bold, colorful line of stationery products by Kelly Alford, recently purchased by CR Gibson. www.everyiota.com

Save One For Me – a new exhibitor with adorable baby T-shirts, each featuring an endangered animal with a portion of proceeds going to National Geographic Kits. www.saveoneforme.com

Jenny Krauss – fair trade, eco-friendly gifts for home and baby. www.jennykrauss.com

Colorado Clothing – offered Soybu, eco-friendly fashion items made from soy and bamboo. www.coloradoclothing.com

There were dozens of jewelry vendors who had created beautiful items using recycled glass from soda, beer, and wine bottles, plus using natural elements.

As I stated above, this show was better than expected for many of the exhibitors, and given the challenges ahead, the key to sales for these companies is products that feature great design, a manifestation of the awareness that unique and distinctive design will stand out and sell.

Note: Ellie is president of Ellie Joos & Associates, a marketing, pr, and product development firm. To read reports on other industry-related shows, click on the titles in the right-hand column. To contact Ellie, call 908-459-9269 or email eleapple@hotmail.com.



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