03 January 2007

We've Got a Story To Tell

Everyone should have the chance to meet my beautiful mom. This is Debbie and she is the creative spark behind our displays. We work in tandem, she and I. I handle most of the administrative business (paperwork, ordering, phone calls, etc.). She masterminds just about everything you see. She works well in 3D (actually touching the merchandise), while I feel safer in 2D (all those years of ballet and I am still a little, for lack of a better word, klutzy). We both enjoy chatting up our customers. We both do the buying, but I am the storyteller.
I'm still getting used to retail seasons and how forward-thinking you (meaning me, as a shop owner, and others in this business) have to be about seasonal planning and buying. For instance, we are just packing in Holiday 2006, and what do you know, when Debbie and I descend on Atlanta in ten days for market, a good fraction of our buying may be for Holiday '07. Whew! At first this concept of thinking a year in advance of a season seemed ludicrous to me, even a little bit wrong. As an often recalcitrant shopper myself, I used to balk when I'd walk into a store in August and see snowflake decorations (kind of like swimsuits in January--yikes!). But now that the shoe is on the other foot, I've taken a different perspective. Yesterday as Debbie and I flipped through a catalog I'd marked up with my own Christmas wishlist (stuff for the shop), it occurred to me why planning for next holiday season already has me excited:
The writer in me sees our retail year as similar to a good novel. I've always wanted to write a novel, and I believe that I will someday. In here, we are telling a story through the shop and all of its contents. Sometimes I think it's not what's in the shop but how it's displayed that inspires you to make one of our finds part of your world. Who wants to rifle through shelves jampacked with unrelated stuff (okay, ME, a lot of the time, which is why TJMaxx can be so much fun), when you can immerse yourself in a fantasy? For me, the richest part of retailing is the opportunity to dream up stories and tell them through our merchandise mix and our displays.
Now, I have to let you all know, I can't take much credit for the visual part of our store. My mom is our stylist and our displays are her aegis--and what a gift she has (and I don't mind saying so). She always said she should've been an interior decorator--now she's getting her fix! But before we can approach the creation of a new display or even buy for the next season, I have to have a backstory. Each piece we choose has to have a reason for being invited into the shop, into a particular vignette, and ultimately into your home.

Sorry if this is getting a little cerebral! But back to the idea of a shop being like a good novel: when we first started planning for our Fulton Drive shop and we knew we'd be opening in the winter, I started to conceptualize what story we'd be telling. After some brainstorming and a lot of visualization, I landed on "Contessa's Winter Holiday." Debbie and I talked about this vision a lot at first. Who is this Contessa? Where is she taking her holiday? Who comes to visit her? How does she live? What does she eat? What does she enjoy? (And, often more importantly, what wouldn't she live with?) Throughout last Spring and Summer as we did our buying, we kept this story in mind. Now we're not so kooky or hopped up on our own fiction as to actually talk about the Contessa on a daily basis...but we know her story lives and breathes through our displays. And that was our inspiration behind Holiday '06.

For Spring, the story I am feeling right now is Secret Garden-meets-the-world-from-the-film- Great Expectations, the version starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke. I can't really explain this. You'll just have to come in between now and late February (when we'll be full-blown Spring) and see what I mean.

As I think about The Blissful Home in 2007, I think about our four seasons and how they will play off of one another in the novel that is this year. I already have pictures floating around in my head of what our shop might look like in March, in June, in September, and yes, in December. I wonder what motifs will emerge, what characters will arise unspoken from our mix of old and new, and how Eclectic Farmhouse Chic will continue to evolve.

My hope for 2007 is that we can inspire YOU to make your own home reflect more of you in each small thing you invite into your mix.

P.S. The Valentine's candy bars are in!

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