Saturday, March 07, 2009

Ladies' Gloves Lead in Flower Show Sales

According to reporter Eileen Smith, covering the Flower Show, for the New Jersey Courier-Post: You never know what species of green will strike shoppers' fancy at the Philadelphia Flower Show. This year, it's $55 ladies' leather gloves in a muted olive, nearly identical to the gloves Michelle Obama wore as the first lady waved to the crowds at the inaugural parade.

"They're so soft, lined with cashmere," said Roberta Cornwall, a translator for the seller, Fratelli Forino. "We didn't realize they would be so popular and they sold out quickly."

The gloves are not the kind gardeners would wear to plant petunias. Forino is selling them at the Piazza, a collection of Italian retailers, in keeping with this year's theme "Bella Italia."

But there were plenty of wares suited to folks who like to dig in the dirt at the show's Marketplace, where 150 vendors from as far afield as the United Kingdom set up shop.

For Walpole Woodworkers, a Michigan-based retailer of fences and outdoor structures, a trip to the flower show is an important part of doing business. "This is a good show for us, a must do," said Ben Lowell, who manages the Walpole store in Morris Plains.
While store and catalog sales have been slow, Lowell said visitors to the flower show have been spending, especially on new offerings, such as a retracting pergola awning.

"Everybody seems to be in a buying mood," he said.

Pitman-based EP Henry has been supplying hardscaping materials for exhibitors such as PNC and Subaru since the 1990s. Chris Nerone, a sales representative, said the show is a high-profile marketing tool.

"Everywhere you look, there's a little EP Henry sign," he said.

Other vendors are feeling the pinch of the economy. Lance Lindsay, owner of Stone Manor Lighting, has traveled from Malibu, Calif., to show at Philadelphia for 10 years.
But he wonders if the expense of shipping his high-end fixtures and spending a week at a hotel is worth it. "The landscapers and architects who order from us are very slow," he said. Stone Manor offered a 15-percent discount and free shipping to buyers, as did many other vendors.

As for Forino, the glove seller was awaiting a courier bringing more inventory from Italy. "I'm waiting for him hoping his hands are filled with boxes," Cornwall said.

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