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Hugh McElhone Gift Show Roundup

Retailers greet gift show with optimism

Written by Hugh McElhone
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The latest hot new trends and innovations were showcased at the Toronto Gift Show, Jan. 29 to Feb. 2. Hosted by the Canadian Gift and Tableware Association (CGTA), the semi-annual event attracted over 16,000 retailers from across Canada. More than 900 vendors displayed the latest product innovations across six major consumer categories ranging from bold new vases, pottery pieces, and Canadian designed and manufactured furniture, to brightly coloured synthetic flowers.

Surrounded by the latest in synthetic flowers and botanicals, Gian Rocco’s Jackie Langlois said this spring’s CGTA Toronto show breathed renewal into the market.

“This has been a very good show,” says Jackie Langlois, director of product operations for Gian Rocco in Montreal. Offering her perspective of the previous shows she had attended over the winter months, Langlois said the Dallas and Atlanta shows were very strong. “I feel that strong trend in Toronto too. The retailers here are feeling that enthusiasm as well.”

Speaking of the synthetic flower industry and new colours, she said that Gian Rocco Green, which has been on the market for 37 years, has been re-embraced as Urban Green by customers.

Her company has also introduced two new shades for the 2012 season, specifically Rich Orange and Mexican Pink, both of which join Urban Green in the marketplace as the product of choice. “These colours are the established trend in Europe and there is high demand from clients in North America.”

Of the Toronto show, Langlois says the traffic and interest is up from previous shows. “You can feel the renewal of confidence in the buyer here today,” she said.

Continual Inspirations introduced Pressions, a product that allows newlyweds to create a plaster impression of their hands and wedding rings to commemorate their big day.
Gian Rocco’s 400-square-foot booth was visually stunning with a large artificial tree in the centre and a perimeter full of brightly coloured synthetic flowers set in various arrangements in complementary vases and pots. “Our goal was to create a secret garden ambience.”

“It’s difficult to find made-to-order products in the market,” said Langlois, whose company both imports and manufactures products for the floral industry. “All of the products for our visual conception department are made in Montreal,” she noted.

Gary Owens, of Haney Pottery Sales, based in Delta, B.C., noted that the market is cyclical by nature, but things are looking up for 2012. “It has been a steady crowd this year.”

His company’s policy of pick-and-pack a pallet of multiple items has paid off this year at the show; the norm is one pallet for one item. “This is much better,” he said, and caters to the smaller retailers who do not want to commit to a large inventory of a single product.

Owens added that the trend is moving away from ceramic and pottery pots because consumers think they might freeze and break during the winter. He says that customers today tend to want durable plastic and fibreglass pots and planters.

A new trend among young buyers is sturdy baskets, preferably made of plastic or woven fibreglass, full of plants and flowers that they can present as an easy gift.

Water bowls are popular this year, plus colourful low pots ranging from three to eight inches in size. Also new to the market is a set of three tall flared vases available in gloss black, red and mantis green. “These have proven quite popular,” says Owens.

Merv Leach of Continual Inspirations in Parry Sound, Ont., found that traffic was slow at the start of the gift show, but picked up once the show was underway.

He and his wife, Pauline, took a two-year break from the show and were happy to be back with the launch of their new Pressions product aimed at the bridal market. Initially launched in 2005, their product allows pets, babies and children to make an imprint of their digits in sand. That imprint is then made permanent with plaster. The complete kit includes the sand and plaster, plus a frame that is available in different styles and colours.

The next evolution of their product is a larger version ideal for imprinting the hands and rings of the bride and groom. “In just one hour, you can have a lasting impression of your special day hanging on your wall,” said Pauline.

“We’ll be going to the bridal show this spring for the first time. Based on the response here, it should be good,” added her husband.

Continual Inspirations also offers a child size hand-made moose rocker, plus a time-out chair for the young ones complete with a signature smile/frown emblem, depending on how you turn it. “They were all designed by Pauline but I cut the wood and build them,” Leach laughed.

Of trends they have seen in the market, they said retailers are looking for Canadian-made products, such as their own. Internet sales have also been strong compared to previous years, the couple reported.
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