Gift marts and showrooms are very different from gift shows as they are accessible all year-long. Showrooms, sometimes called “marts”, are large buildings with multiple floors of small to large cubicles where reps (and often a few distributors, importers, and producers) offer their lines for sale. Some industries do not include a showroom element. Some, like the furniture industry, offer a few.
Over 20 major cities across the country host a ‘gift mart’ containing hundreds of rooms with numerous gift products open only to retail buyers and industry personnel. The gift industry offers a good selection, found almost exclusively in larger cities (e.g. Seattle, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Dallas, Denver, Atlanta, and New York). Showrooms are typically not open to the general public, but open to verifiably buyers in their industry.
Although gift marts are a convenient venue for producers, most rooms are operated by sales rep organization to showcase numerous companies and product lines in one or two locations for easy viewing.
Showrooms are open only to the gift trade, so some or all of the following information is required before a person is allowed to view the rooms:
- Copy of state resale/retail license (i.e., seller’s permit)
- Business card (imprinted with the name of buyer) or business check
- Personal identification (e.g., valid driver’s license, other photo ID, etc.)
Depending on the gift mart, showrooms are opened daily or just a few days a week and often work in conjunction with a gift show in the same location or town. Most showrooms logistics are accessible through their website which details specific times, dates and locations available for visitations. Websites also showcase a listing of products lines exhibited at certain showrooms floors or sections.
The Seattle Mart (formally the Pacific Market Center), for example, offers dozens of permanent showrooms located on the three floors of their gift center near historical Georgetown in Seattle. The Center boasts of over 2,000 product lines with hundreds of thousands of product on display.
One of the biggest (and oldest) marts is the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. When it first opened in 1930, it was the largest building in the world, with 4,000,000 square feet! The building is a leading retailing and wholesale destination, hosting 20,000 visitors and tenants per day as of the late 2000s.
Gift marts are located in the following states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington.
If you are working with a sales rep organization that hosts a showroom, you have the added benefit of having numerous potential buyers viewing your products.
NOTE: Updating and reposting this previously published article due to illness during the last week.