Each year, Gifts & Decorative Accessories highlights a few successful individuals who have been helping to propel the industry forward. In this special section, they honor the men and women who keep us connected, who help us thrive, who lead by example, and who keep us looking to the future with new ideas and innovation.
Read their Q&A with Doug Cofiell, Ivystone’s CEO, to learn more about his journey and accomplishments, as well as his insights into the industry.
Q: How did you get your start in the gift industry?
A: I can’t say I ever expected to be in the gift industry. My father started in the tabletop business way back in 1960. After college, he persuaded me to join his agency, taking on a sales territory in Washington, D.C. He correctly assumed I’d learn to love it! After working in several different aspects of the business, I eventually bought the firm from my dad in the late 1990s.
Q: What do you wish people knew about Ivystone? What sets you apart from the rest?
A: We have an experienced team that is always looking forward in an attempt to improve business for our partners. Our biggest differentiator is that Ivystone is a national company with a regional focus, meaning that we cover all 50 states but we look a little different in every region of the country. This allows us to be flexible and adaptable. We are able to account for regional differences in product selection while still having the scale to offer a full suite of sales and marketing services.
Q: How does Ivystone find new vendors? What key elements does the company look for in a new vendor?
A: This is a joint effort by our team that involves identifying both consumer and trade brands within the marketplace and vetting them across a broad spectrum of characteristics from financial strength to creativity. We feel like it is our responsibility to curate for our retailers, so we are constantly evaluating our process while trying new things. We also work closely with our longstanding suppliers to make sure they are bringing the right product to market.
We look for: defined product development cycle and sales “cadence,” meaning that they understand how the retailers want to buy and have product delivered; partnership commitment and integrity; demonstrated investment in inventory, product development, customer service and warehouse/operations; and proven sell-in and sell-through of product.
Q: To what do you contribute Ivystone’s success?
A: We’ve been fortunate to be able to bring on some amazing people over the years. Our team has worked very hard to create a performance-based culture where individuals are empowered to succeed. We’ve grown both organically as well as through mergers and acquisitions, so staying consistent in our strategy allows us to bring on new people and continually learn. This leads to long-term relationships with retailers and vendor partners, which drives our success.
Q: How do you find newness in the industry?
A: We begin with an awareness of what is happening in fashion, as this tends to flow through our channel. The shelter magazines offer a solid overview for what is happening as well. We walk shows, from New York to Paris to Canton. Working with some amazing buyers, we are able to see what they see. Same goes for the sales team as we have several people with a great eye for what is coming on strong in their markets. This is where being national helps as we may see a product first start to retail in a particular regional market before it is ready to roll out.
Identifying what is a lasting trend is more of an art than a science, although we try to quantify it through information. We are fortunate enough to have a lot of data to base our decisions on, which allows us to look at a particular space and then see whether it resonates across multiple markets. Highlighting broader concepts in the home, such as casual entertaining or outdoor living, can guide existing vendors to develop items that our stores need. We don’t want to be developing formal dining room concepts when the formal part of the home is disappearing.
*Content for this blog post was provided from Gifts & Decorative Accessories Gifted Movers & Shakers article by Lenise Willis.