Archive for Friday, April 6, 2001

What’s hot this year: nostalgia, comfort

April 6, 2001


Nostalgic. Luxurious. Asian.

That's what retailers are predicting as "hot" gifts for the year. From wildly printed flannel pajamas kinda like the ones your grandma wore to Asian-influenced home accessories, the gifts run the gamut.

In Lawrence, gifts that harken back to a more simpler time are appearing on display tables and in storefronts.

Mark Swanson, owner of hobbs, said in a December interview that the pajamas were some of his best sellers of the fall. He thinks the fuzzy-wuzzy PJs are a way for people to recreate a little moment in their childhood. (No, the PJs don't have those cute plastic feet. Darn.)

"I think people want to give and get functional and fun gifts ...," said Swanson. "I think people are really looking for something different."

The flannel PJs at hobbs are priced in the high $40s, with robes starting in the mid-$60s.

Another "comfy" line of products that Swanson expects to be a hot seller is from the Good Home Co. from upstate New York. Good Home makes body products and scented waters in classic milk bottles and jars to pour into your iron and wash to make clothes smell good.

His store also has added a line of high-end dog treats and accessories from Paws and Claws of Tampa, Fla., and Bay Coastal of San Francisco. Swanson's reasoning for adding the dog treat line: "I think it's kinda fun. That's how I make the buying decisions around here. It's worked so far."

Boas and boxers

Just down the street, another merchant The Bay Leaf is seeing a demand for simple, nostalgic and comfortable gifts.

Melodie Christal, owner of Savannah Lingerie, agreed with Swanson at hobbs that the flannel pajamas were some of this year's hottest gifts. Christal's line of Nick & Nora, 100-percent cotton PJs sells from $68 to $43 for a tank and short set.

Both Christal and Swanson pointed to movie stars and TV shows like "Ally McBeal" as a major influence on the flannel PJs trend.

"If Dharma (from 'Dharma & Greg') or Ally is wearing it, then we are selling it," Swanson said. "Trends seem to come down both coasts, make their way across the country through Dallas and Houston and then make its way here."

But Christal also is selling items a little more edgy than flannel PJs: feather boas.

"You wouldn't believe how many of these we sell," Christal said with a laugh. "I think women think they're glamorous with them on."

Clean and simple lines

Following on the simpler life theme maybe not of the feathered variety, though home accessories are seeing similar influences.

At The Bay Leaf, co-owner Anne Yetman said many of the most popular gifts for the home and kitchen are influenced by Asian designs.

"Asian decor, Asian everything is probably the one big trend right now," Yetman said. "When we go to market it's Asian everything."

Yetman said couples seem to be introducing Asian pieces into their non-Asian decorated rooms one piece at a time "a bowl here, a plate there," Yetman explained. The Bay Leaf carries traditional tea sets, but also plates, bowls, candle votives and coasters with Chinese characters.

National marketers explain the Asian trend this way: Asian pieces feature rich, often neutral hues; pieces can go with many types of decor; and Asian pieces bring a hint of intrigue and uniqueness to a room.

Yetman thinks it's something else as well.

"I just think it's gotten harder and harder for (store owners) to carry things that are unique," she said. "We (at The Bay Leaf) tried really hard to get things that not everyone downtown had. ... The Asian pieces were a big part of that effort to try to set our store apart."

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