The first mail of the new year brought a new kind of invitation from a sales agency we have bought from for many years: Ellie & Friends.  Instead of continuing with her usual gift show booth, Ellie Garber has decided to try offering three “Pop-Up Wholesale Cafes” in cities across the country. The first will be held this month in Minneapolis, home base of  Ellie & Friend’s popular Ceci Cela line. The other two for this spring will be in Portland, OR and Philadelphia. If there’s a positive response to these first three Cafes, she’ll definitely consider adding a couple more.

Ellie has always offered an eclectic mix of merchandise from artists and small manufacturers, and this year she will be offering her 40 or so lines in the studio spaces of three of these artists.  It is her hope that these two to three day shows will be an informal way for her customers to examine all her lines in a relaxed atmosphere while enjoying light refreshments. The cafes will be held outside of gift show times, usually on a Monday and Tuesday.

This move is not one that she has taken lightly.  After 20 years as an independent rep, Ellie knows the gift industry well. She realizes that buying patterns are shifting, with retailers making more use of maker fairs and other alternative venues in their search for unique lines. Ellie & Friends has always prided itself on presenting merchandise that is out of the ordinary, so it is not surprising that Ellie Garber is one of the first to try a new way to present her lines.  

One of the advantages of her Pop-Up Wholesale Cafes will be that some “Open Market” products will be available. These one-of-a-kind pieces will be sold cash and carry to the qualified wholesale buyers invited to attend.  This approach has proven popular at the Market Square Shows’ Buyers Cash and Carry Day, which are promoted to “stores needing “next day” shelf inventory or those wishing to save on shipping costs.” For Ellie & Friends, the most important advantage of the cash and carry arrangement is that her vendors can offer unique artworks and crafts not usually available wholesale.

Many of the buyers who have worked with Ellie at trade shows over the years have become friends, and trust her to find just the right new items for their stores.  These same buyers will undoubtedly seek out a “Cafe” near them so that they can try this innovative approach to reviewing a variety of lines in an intimate and interesting setting. Sounds like fun!

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder 

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