Long-time readers know that the distaff side of this house runs the Fat Finch Store. This blog is my primary contribution, as I am lost when it comes to retailing. Nonetheless, I was invited on recent trips to market and I am here to tell you about it.
For those of you unacquainted with the process, many wholesalers maintain shops of their own in large market buildings in Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York City, Dallas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Some markets are huge. For instance, the Atlanta market consists of three 22 story buildings full of these wholesale shops. All kinds of retailers come to these markets to buy goods to resell to you and me.
This year the Fat Finch traveled to the Atlanta and Dallas markets. I didn’t go to Atlanta, but I have just returned from the Dallas market, which is smaller but still almost too much for me to absorb. Dallas has only 5 million square feet of space; Atlanta has 7.7 million. Imagine being in a huge shopping center with thousands of people for nine hours a day and on the move the entire time and you’ll get an idea of what it feels like to go to market.
A big market for retailers reminds me of nothing so much as a casino. No windows, no clocks, mobs of intense people going about their business as fast as they can, making hundreds of decisions about what to buy and what not to buy with their hard-earned money.
A frenetic pace in a frenetic place.
And, for the retailers who shop there, it really is a casino, because they are betting their money on guesses about what you and I are going to want to buy our friends and family for Christmas next year. If they guess wrong, they are left holding the bag. Fully half the stores I entered had Christmas displays. We saw more artificial Christmas trees in three days than I’ve seen in my entire life. Moreover, all those retailers were forced to plan for their next Christmas season, almost a year away. For instance, The Fat Finch bought Christmas ornaments which you will definitely want to come see. And every one of these wholesalers have minimum order requirements. A retailer can’t buy just one or two of a particular item and see how things go. She has to buy in bulk, hoping to sell everything she buys. Retailing requires large up-front investments. Like farming, it is not for the faint-of-heart.
The wholesalers have to be thinking even further out in time because whatever they are selling today has to be ready for shipment in a few short months and they have to get their products manufactured, shipped, and delivered to their warehouses in time to get the product out to the retailers. The fact that most retail goods we buy in the United States these days come from China lengthens and complicates that process. (Although we did hear from at least one wholesaler that for some products it is now cheaper to manufacture in the U.S. And many of the items we sell in our store are made in the U.S.)The wholesalers, just like the retailers, have to predict buying trends before they become trends.
One such predicted trend for next year, we were solemnly assured by one wholesaler, will be octopus. Yes, you read that correctly, octopus. Not to eat, but octopus-themed gifts.
We found that as hard to swallow as the real thing.
The best discovery we made was the Return of the Large (28 oz) Schrodt Hummingbird Feeders. After the first producers of that marvelous hummingbird feeder sold their business, the Schrodt has had more ups and downs than a hummingbird in a clump of wildflowers. And we bought another year’s supply of Best-1 Hummingbird Feeders, another favorite. The hummingbirds returning to our area in a couple of months will find well-stocked feeders for their dining pleasure.
And, courageously ignoring predictions about the popularity of octopi next Christmas, the Fat Finch bought some adorable owl-related products. Owls are popular in our store all the time, not just Halloween and Christmas. Something about owls and representations of owls speak deeply to the human psyche. They are popular on this blog too. Our post about Barn Owls of three years ago remains the most often read post on this blog. Everyone also enjoys reading about their toe dusting.
Now, if you will excuse me, I’ve got to rest.