07 November 2009

A retailer to know: Monica Schramm

Local Home + Gifts Media PA is a stylish home decor store in the Philadelphia suburbs operated by Monica SchrammHome d├ęcor retailer Monica Schramm joined six like-minded independent storeowners in a co-op advertising campaign to promote their hometown of Media, Pa., a suburb 30 minutes west of Philadelphia.
Schramm owns Local Home + Gifts, a business she bought 15 months ago. Owners of a women's apparel store, a men's clothing shop, an optical boutique, a handmade glass gallery, a spa, a restaurant and Schramm bought three advertisements in Philadelphia magazine to promote services, shopping and dining in Media. The "Style on State" campaign is supported with a website.
In addition to the print ad, Schramm promotes her business with a website and Facebook page. "Facebook has been great for us," she says. She gives fans a first look at new merchandise. A monthly e-mail newsletter typically shows what's new and what's on sale, and offers a discount. Local Home + Gifts participates in the Style on State campaign. Retail store photos
Schramm was a customer of the gift store when the owners decided to move. They didn't want to close the store, so they sought a buyer. Enter Schramm, who bought the store in June 2008. She has a business background, but not in retail. The former owners showed her the ropes, then she was on her own. After a year, she started to make changes as she learned about new vendors, lines and what her customers wanted.
Schramm added baby gifts, including albums, onesies, burp cloths, frames, and socks. This category is in among the top sellers. Local Home + Gifts is a popular destination for shoppers gifts for babies, brides, hostesses or new homeowners. Bath and body items and candles round out the top three categories.
The retailer describes the store's point of view as "unique and contemporary, without being trendy." When she buys, she seeks a variety and she seeks uniqueness. Schramm is well aware of what nearby retailers carry. Schramm wants the one-of-a-kind or unique item. She doesn't buy deep, preferring "four, not 100" of an item. When they sell, that's it and she's on to something new. Of course, she does reorder the standbys, like candles, and bath and body. She found new lines and vendors at the New York International Gift Fair. Lately, she has been looking for lower-priced items that don't compromise her style. She is also experimenting with brand-name gifts. Vera Bradley stationery products have been successful, she said.
The store does stay true to its name by carrying handmade items from local artists and food vendors. A painter, a potter, and a chocolatier sell their wares in Local Home + Gifts. Schramm held an olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting one evening. The distributor set up a table in the store and demonstrated the products. Sales were so good that Schramm ended up carrying the line.

Another successful store event was a "handy woman" night, at which women learned such skills as fixing a toilet and hanging wallpaper. The retailer also participates in the Media Arts Council's "late night," a monthly event held on the second Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m.
Schramm feels she is good at customer service. If she doesn't remember a shopper's name, she'll usually remember what she bought on her last visit. (Schramm also likes to play the role of personal shopper.) Either way, it's a good way to start a conversation and engage the shopper.
"Customers consistently comment on the relaxing mood of the store," she said. Scents and music add to the customer experience. "We want the customers to be relaxed and feel at home here - or maybe more like they're at a spa." Schramm and her husband Kevin select appropriate music for the store.

Local Home + Gifts is open Tuesdays to Saturdays (until the holiday shopping season begins). Though Schramm is the sole employee, she can count on her neighbors and fellow Project 3/50 members for moral, marketing and business support.

This article originally appeared on the Gift and Home Channel.

06 November 2009

Industrial style furniture

Pennsylvania House Forecast furniture collection Universal Furniture High Point market
Forecast by Pennsylvania House features spare lines, recurring geometric motifs and perfectly edited details
At the High Point Furniture Market in October, Pennsylvania House introduced its Forecast collection of industrial style furniture. Tops are white oak and legs are made of square metal tubing. The Village table (top photo) has two 18-inch leaves. The dining stools are adjustable up and down and spin.
The Console desk (above) has three drawers and a drop-front center drawer.

Retailers: Contact the manufacturer for prices and minimums.
Shoppers: Ask your favorite independent retailer to order this item for you.

05 November 2009

Dining table

Turning House Furniture makes tables from wood reclaimed from old buildings. It exhibited at the High Point Market. It is based in Bassett, Va. Turning House Furniture makes furniture with reclaimed wood. Its new Antwerp dining table (73 inches long) has an X-shaped pine base and an oak top with roughhewn edges and dovetail details.
The company introduced its Belgian Modern portfolio at the High Point Furniture Market in October. Turning House is a member of the Sustainability Furnishings Council. A sister company, Turning House Millworks, is a member of the U.S. Green Buildings Council.

Retailers: Contact the manufacturer for prices and minimums.

Shoppers: Ask your favorite independent retailer to order this item for you.

04 November 2009

Cocktail table made of reclaimed wood

Turning House Furniture's stock grange cocktail butler's cocktail table is made of reclaimed maple. The company exhibited at the High Point Furniture Market. USGBC, SFC
The Stock Grange Butler's cocktail table is a modern take on the classic butler's tray table. The piece, from Turning House Furniture, is made of reclaimed maple in a coffee brown finish. It measures 48 inches wide and 26 inches deep.
Turning House Furniture is a member of the Sustainability Furnishings Council.

Retailers: Contact the manufacturer for prices and minimums.
Shoppers: Ask your favorite independent retailer to order this item for you.

03 November 2009

Hand-painted dresser

Purpose Restoration collects old furniture and restores each piece to new condition. Then it adds its own graphics, like those on the “Night Over Time and Land” dresser.
The furniture has a semi-gloss lacquer top, deep black stain and enamel face and sides. The drawer pulls are recycled Japanese hardware. The piece measures 54 inches tall and 33 inches wide.

See the website for pricing and additional styles.

02 November 2009

Tropical-theme bedding

Kikisol tropical bedding the art of tropical livingKikiSol introduced a new line of tropical home textiles at the 2009 autumn High Point furniture market. The company offers sheet sets, duvets and decorative pillows.
The fashion bedding "gives urban dwellers the ability to retreat into their own private world of fantasy, color and design," says creator Shawn Rohde.

Retailers: Contact the manufacturer for prices and minimum orders.

Shoppers: Ask your favorite independent retailer to order this item for you.

Kikisol launched its line of tropical bedding at the October 2009 High Point Furniture Market the art of tropical living

01 November 2009

2009 Holiday Gift Guide: Luxury Market

from a press release

Best Gift Ideas for Christmas 2009 – Practical Items that Represent a Good Value

Stevens, PA October 29, 2009 -- Predictions for holiday gift sales this year are grim. Most analysts expect the retail trade to see sales declines of one-to-two percent this year, making for two straight years of sales declines.

Even the traditionally free-spending affluent consumers with incomes in excess of $100,000 are going to hold tight on spending this holiday season. Unity Marketing's latest survey of 1,067 affluent luxury consumers (avg. income $228,800) conducted October 2-7, 2009 found that nearly 90 percent expect to spend the same (50 percent) or less (38 percent) on holiday gifts this year as they did last year. Only 11 percent of affluent shoppers say they are going to spend more.

Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, said, "The survey results underscore the cautious and worried mood among not just the lower- and middle-income consumers, but the affluents as well. Even more worrisome is the fact that the affluents play a far bigger role in the economy than their numbers would suggest. The affluent segment (incomes of $100,000 or more) makes up only 20 percent of total U.S. households, but they account for about 40 percent of all consumer spending. What the affluents decide to buy this year and where they choose to shop can make or break the season for many retailers."

Best gifts this year are practical, not frivolous

Danziger says this year's shopper is not going to go in for frivolous luxury items. "The mood among consumers is cautious; they don't feel particularly festive this year. People have plenty of reason to worry, most especially about rising unemployment, the continued weak economy, and threats of swine flu pandemic. The best gifts this year are going to be items that are practical and make a contribution to the gift recipient's life in order to make it safer, more secure, more comfortable, more meaningful. And it goes without saying that people want to spend as little money as possible this year, so they will be looking to get the best possible gift for the least amount of money," Danziger explains.

Based upon Unity Marketing's surveys of self-purchases among affluent consumers in the past year, here are gift ideas that are sure to please adults on people's gift lists:

  • Items that enhance people's sleep quality – Affluent consumers have been investing more in purchases for their homes throughout 2009 with increased spending on bedding, linens, even mattresses and box springs particularly noted. Since everyone is sleep deprived today, a perfect and practical gift item for this holiday would be down pillows or orthopedic special feature pillows that give extra support to the neck; satin pillow cases that pamper your skin and hair; white noise machines to block the unwanted noises that keep you awake; and calming lavender linen spray and aromatherapy oils to bring on restful sleep.
  • Cook's tools, kitchen gadgets, small appliances, cutlery – Also showing growth in terms of affluent consumer spending in 2009 are luxury housewares items that enhance the cooking experience. A great gift idea on the cheap is to put together a basket of kitchen utility items – peelers, can openers, wine openers, spatulas, spoons, whisks, meat thermometer – things that every cook needs and uses. Small kitchen appliances have also attracted more affluent shoppers this year, think single-cup coffee brewers, rice cookers, juicers, high-intensity blenders, food processors, espresso makers, panini presses. Also purchases of cutlery have been on the upswing among affluents. While high-quality knives don't come cheap, they make a valued gift that will last a lifetime.
  • Personal electronics – Everybody needs and values the convenience of personal electronics. This has been a growth category for affluents in 2009, with cellular phones, iPods, Blackberry's and other personal data assistants and laptop computers all growing in share of wallet. But the big holiday gift item in the personal electronics space this year will be GPS devices. GPS's offer safety, convenience, affordability, and they are cool and contemporary.
  • Outdoor living accents -- Affluents have invested more in their outdoor living spaces this year, so outdoor living accents can make a mood-lifting Christmas gift as people look forward to the spring. But these items won't be found easily in the mass department stores or big box chains. Rather shoppers will need to turn to local garden centers to get the best selection of outdoor living gift ideas off-season, like decorative pots, baskets, window boxes, chimeneas, bird feeders, flags, banners, garden signs. Posting strong growth this year among affluents has been outdoor accent lighting, which could make a practical and in-demand gift idea.
  • Seasonal items to enhance this year's holiday celebrations – Finally, holiday-themed gifts are always appreciated and priced for every budget. From hand-blown ornaments to holiday-decorated dinnerware and centerpieces, holiday-scented candles to collectible Santa Claus figurines or nutcrackers, the value-oriented gift shopper can always find a good gift idea in the seasonal departments of the department store, in the local gift shop or home furnishings boutique, or specialty Christmas shop. (Read on for more about the market for seasonal decorations)

In conclusion Danziger says, "The two key words that can guide holiday gift shoppers this year are 'practical' and 'value.' People will most appreciate gifts that they can use and that enhance the quality of their life in some measurable, meaningful way. Gift givers will be looking for great value, not just cheap price. So practical gift ideas that have that something extra that adds value for the recipient will be in demand."

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