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When some girlfriends get together, they go to lunch. My friend Rebecca and I go to market. Twice a year, we hop on a plane bound for the Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market. Jazzed up on caffeine and adrenaline, we run at a dizzying pace, hunting for treasures we think customers will love.

Rebecca and I are kindred spirits. Like me, she is a retail brat who has been going to market most of her life. Some of us can never really get retail out of our blood, so, despite her corporate career and three active kids, she carves out time twice a year to be my market pal. I’m so glad she does, because her positive energy and boundless creativity rev my engine.

Here is our 10-point strategy for success during our mad-capped trips to market…

1. MARKET PREP: BRING ON THE DECORATING MAGAZINES!

To get us juiced about all-things interior design, Rebecca and I pregame by pouring over decorating magazines on the plane ride to Atlanta. Our rule is we have to look at the magazines together, so neither one of us gets to see the best stuff first. (Yes, we are kinda crazy competitive in that way.)

2. CAFFEINE. DUH!

At market, the days start early and last forever, with very few breaks for sustenance. So you have to have to have strong jet fuel in your tank.

3. COVER THE BASICS.

Customers have come to expect key decorating basics at our store, like dishes, seasonal decor, lamps, artwork and linens. So these are at the top of my shopping list. Normally, I save furniture buying for the High Point market, but I saw some wonderful wood pieces in Atlanta.

4. BRING THE VISION TO LIFE.

“I love it when we have an idea we want to execute because it’s like a big treasure hunt to find just the right items to pull off the vision,” Rebecca said. “Many times, it may just be one or two gems in a whole showroom, but weeding through the items and finding those must-haves is part of the fun.”

One of the holiday looks I want to create at the store this year is inspired by the song lyrics “The weather outside is frightful, but the fire is quite delightful.” So our mission at market was to find holiday decor that made a home feel cozy.

 

5. MAKE EMOTIONAL DECISIONS.

Business gurus would cringe if they knew how I make decisions at market. I don’t use any data on market trends or past sales. I just follow my gut. Here’s why: I can usually tell within seconds whether a piece is right for us. This art of the lovely lady ski team? It made Rebecca and I both smile, so it was on the YES list.

6. ADVIL AT 1:30.

When you are logging 18,000 steps a day on concrete, Advil is your best friend.

7. HUNT FOR UNICORNS.

I want everyone who steps through our doors to fall in love with something within their budget. So I’m always scouting for affordable substitutes for high-end favorites, cheaters that deliver a similar look without the high price tag.

Rebecca was particularly crazy about some glassware we discovered, at really affordable prices. “I cannot wait to see these items get folded into the mix. When your customers lift them up to see the prices, they are going to be thrilled!” she said.

 

8. ARM OUR VISUAL DESIGN TEAM.

Our visual design team works magic with everything I bring back from market. They can take a single bowl, for example, and style it a dozen different ways. So at market, my goal is to find versatile pieces they can experiment with to create inspiring displays throughout the store.

9. CATCH UP WITH MY RETAIL FAMILY.

I have made some terrific friends at market through the years, so these buying pilgrimages are like a family reunion, minus the crazy relatives. This year, I got to meet Mac, a market friend’s brand new grandson.

10. WIND DOWN WITH SAPPY ROM COMS.

By the end of each day, Rebecca and I practically crawl back at the hotel, prop up our poor aching feet and get lost in chick flicks our husbands would never watch with us at home. The next day, we do it all over again!

 

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at www.nellhills.com

 

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