The Special Touch
“In this shop, we believe that a life full of character is a life well lived. Our commitment is to add character to your parties, gifts and life!” That is the mission of Love of Character, a Kansas- based paper goods and party supplies shop. Mary Billings and her team are known for adding the special touches to any celebration. In addition to the store, they also offer a party venue, including do-it-all-for-you packages.
When the COVID pandemic forced them to close the doors for a time, Billings, the owner, knew she needed to modify her business model. “We put more effort into our online store and started shipping out a lot more than usual. We also offered a local delivery option, and we were running around town every day getting orders to customers,” she said.
Billings shared that other gift shop owners can diversify offerings by adding balloons into the mix. “It does take a lot of work and time, however, so make sure to consider that and have a team ready to help. Helium availability can fluctuate, making that a little harder to navigate,” she advised.
Helium balloons and balloon garlands are very popular at Love of Character. The shop offers helium balloons in a variety of sizes and generally sells them in bundles. “The balloon garlands are priced per foot and we can usually do whatever color is requested,” Billings shared. Ready- to-go small balloon garland options are also available for customers to purchase in-store for DIY installations.
Billings noted that customers want parties to be Instagram worthy. Love of Character wants to ensure customer satisfaction and have developed a digital tool to help them create just the right look. “With our Set the Party feature on the website, (customers) are able to mix and match products visually before purchasing,” she emphasized.
“Sometimes customers come to us with their own inspiration, and other times we have some creative freedom,” Billions shared. “For our in-shop installs, we like creating balloon creations that reflect the season and often use the products we carry as inspiration for colors, themes, etc.” Additionally, Billings noted that the Love of Character team enjoys developing ideas from books, shows and patterns.
Designs range from simple to extravagant and Billings said it is hard to choose one particular favorite from all the designs. One of Billing’s favorite designs was a birthday project, which covered the front of a home that was “colorful and loud.” A Chihuly-inspired chandelier created for an art party and wedding designs are also some of her favorite creations.
Billings enjoys designing for childrens’ parties that offer a play on a particular theme. She also enjoys shop openings, weddings and any celebration that utilizes a statement piece. “I love showing how balloons can be done in different ways depending on the effect they are going for,” she said.
This past year, graduation season was one of the busiest seasons for balloon art. “We were booked beyond capacity and did so many fun installations. I think people were wanting to celebrate their children big after the past school year being so uncertain,” she elaborated. Simple, modern designs for the holidays are trending right now, and the Love of Character team is creating classic helium bundles, which will coordinate with popular themes.
She also noted that metallic orb balloons are also trending as are large number balloons. In terms of garland offerings, Love of Character shared that organic shapes, with a mix of starburst or orb foil balloons are great options.
“Lately we’ve gotten more requests for fun flair being added to garlands, such as foil balloons, fringe, and accessories. Different shapes or colors of frames are also popular,” Billings described. Gold circle hoops have been added to designs and greenery and florals remain popular for showers and wedding celebrations. Billings noted that puppies have been really popular lately. Additionally, there has been a rise in requests for construction or truck, fairies or woodland and space themed designs. “Space has taken on different directions, so it’s always fun to see what theywanttodowithit,”she said. Classic offerings such as princesses, mermaids, cars, and unicorns are still popular.
Love of Character works with a variety of vendors to curate its mix. For balloons, Billings orders from Qualatex, Tuftex, Betallic and Anagram. For party supplies, she turns to Meri Meri, Jollity/Daydream Society and smaller brands as well.
For more information on Love of Character, visit www.loveofcharacter.com.
As seen in Celebrations & Occasions, a special issue presented by Gift Shop® Plus and Stationery Trends.