Throughout the year we are checking in with Collective-E member Mariann Smith, Founder of Just Bubbly and a self described "small" "artisan" soap business with revenues around $200k, who sells both wholesale and retail (online), to get her take on the economy. Things have been picking up since we first talked to her in May of '09 in our blog posting titled On the front lines with Mariann Smith, Founder Just Bubbly: The retail environment from an entrepreneur's perspective and even more since August after the Philadelphia Gift Show where she spoke to us about it being her best Philadelphia Gift Show yet. According to Mariann "the buzz with the vendors at the New York Gift Show this year, early September, was very good and much better than expected...the first three days were especially busy." Her numbers were up 25% compared to the show last August.
Here are her thoughts and take on the economy.
• People are traveling far and wide in anticipation of finding something new that will sell. People from all over the country and the world came to NY gift show to shake things up and expecting to find latest and greatest in NYC; some expressed that they are tired of their regional shows and wanted a change.
• There were a lot of international buyers especially from South America, Canada, Russia and Europe. One of Mariann's largest orders from the show came from a woman in Russia who said "most other store owners in Russia won't bother or can't afford to come to the US, but I want something new for my store."
• Still a trend for "ship me right now" which implies they don't currently have a lot on their shelves; although in an optimistic sign there were more future orders (but not as many as usual) for Halloween and Christmas than the Philadelphia show just a month ago.
• A lot of new big buyers like museums and universities coming to the show, they are also looking for more and new ways to make money.
• Low price point and primary, happy colors still popular for example a line of alphabet block soaps in primary colors, fun and eye catching with a price point under $10.
• At a recent craft show in Long Island, that Mariann has participated in for the last 20 years, things are coming back. Although, in an interesting trend the customers in this upscale community used to use $50 and $100 dollar bills are now using smaller bills, but still spending. Her business did double what it did last year.
All and all Mariann is up 35% for the year inclusive of her big Bath & Body Works order; but even without that she would still be up 15%. While the numbers are coming back they are still not where they should be and it still remains to be seen what will happen for holiday, she is concerned that "if things aren't on the shelves they can't sell as much and make more money" and then it is a vicious cycle of loss.
Thanks Mariann, we'll check back in soon.