Thursday, February 02, 2006

Lifting the retail curtain

Imagine if the retailers and catalogs you know blew apart and their merchandise fell back into place grouped by its manufacturerer. So, say, your "uniquely" Restoration Hardware swing-arm lamp landed right next to its near-identical twin being sold at the "quirky" boutique. Or the bed linens you thought only ABC had tracked down were - lo - available and in stock for anyone ready to pay the $200 minimum first order.

The democratization of commerce.

The shop you seek out for novelties reveals a backroom stacked high with labeled boxes of disperate vendors. Who'd think to probe - better imagine the perfect store's inventory somehow immaculately conceived as a whole; its goods tracked down and perhaps created by the store's visionary owner. Perhaps man hours, workshops and infinite protypes birthed the perfectly chosen pieces now for sale.

Lift the curtain consumers. The Lucky's and Dominos (catalogs masquerade as magazines) show just a sliver of what's being cooked up in trade fairs for your consumption.

At the just-finished NY Gift and Accessories Fair - that sprawled Angela Adams knock-off pillows, cashmere onesies, Judaic what-nots and teenage girl crap across the entire Javitz center and three piers - EVERYTHING is for sale. If you have a Tax ID, a business card, credit and a smidgen of a vision, you can stock a store.

You can stock a zillion stores. The trick is stocking one store well and coherently and not placing orders that begin with shell motifs and - by the end of the Fair's last day - have morphed into moss-aged terra cotta for the garden.

A-sea in catalogs, I have Rizzoli offerings vying with the Chronicle book catalog, Alpana Bawa's entire clothing line vying to unseat Matta's for a Circa Trade order.

Got the cash - now for the discriminating vision.


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