All Around Inspiration
For Brits who found themselves living in North America, purchasing products from “the old country” was delightful. That was back in 1949, when Abbott Collection was launched as an import business catering to people who sought merchandise from England. Today, the company still focuses on merchandise that makes people happy. Abbott Collection is well known for its breadth of offerings, which include Christmas, garden, gift and home décor merchandise.
“Our collection consists of about 5000 products, half of which are introduced new each year. That’s almost 2500 new products per year, so it’s a lot of effort on the product development end,” Jody Abbott, general manager for Abbott Collection said. “Today, even though we no longer import goods from England, we are still guided by this premise – that people want to be surrounded by things that make them happy. It’s quite simple, but it still rings true decades later.” Learn more about this family business from our Q&A with Jody Abbott.
Describe how your creative team finds inspiration for the designs and products you produce.
Jody Abbott: We believe inspiration can be found all around us, every day. Of course, we take cues from nature, the world of fashion, music and our travels. For example, our Sorrento range, featuring the pattern of lemons on blue tile, was inspired by a visit to the Amalfi coast — after seeing the lemons growing against the backdrop of the blue Mediterranean coastline.
However, we find that inspiration can come when you least expect it, such as when you are just walking down the street and spotting the sunlight reflecting interesting colors and shapes. You happen to spot something appealing or interesting, and that often translates to a great product design.
Where do you formulate your design concepts?
JA: Our internal product development team does extensive trend forecasting for each season, which then translates into our style guides — themes, colors, textures, materials, patterns — that are all displayed visually. Then we get to work designing our collections around those; it’s a combination of our own internal design efforts, coupled with great partnerships with about 100 factories and makers around the globe.
Describe the product development process from concept to production.
JA: The process takes a lot longer now than it used to! In some cases, it’s a full year, from concept, to design, to prototype, to production — and then getting the goods into our warehouse is a whole other story, as that can take another four to six months. However, sometimes things just happen quickly and go smoothly. Our popular line of macramé plant hangers went from conception to in-stock, to flying out the door all within a few short months.
In addition, every single item in our collection is vetted by our President, David Abbott, and Senior Buyer, Jennifer Boake. They have the final say, and they need to feel a connection with each item before it makes it into our line. If they don’t love it, and if it doesn’t represent the Abbott aesthetic, it doesn’t make the cut. We probably reject over 95% of the items that we sample or preview. And this is one of our strengths — the fact our line has been so carefully curated, retailers feel confident they’re getting only best- selling and on-trend items. We don’t strive to have the biggest offering, but we want it to be the best.
What trends do you see that are impacting your concepts or product offerings?
JA: Well, our tagline of “Home + Happiness” continues to guide us, and fortunately being happy at home is what everybody has really wanted even more so over the past few years. We don’t see this sentiment changing any time soon. The shift to work- from-home will remain in some capacity throughout all industries.
What are your best-selling products?
JA: The Amazing Swedish Dishcloth — we developed this eco- friendly line using our own beautiful designs. Our customers can’t keep them in stock! Our Goddess Head planters are now a perennial classic. Doormats made of coir fiber and featuring our seasonal, fun or classic designs. Themed products, in coordinated collections of glassware, mugs, planters and tabletop, featuring on-trend designs such as lemons, wildflowers, or bees. We use terrific patterns that translate onto a variety of materials, to make a cohesive story that’s easy to display at the retail level.