"We're seeing an uptick in business that started a year ago," she said. "Last May, manufacturers started to show an interest in new art and that has accelerated in the first quarter of this year."
Manufacturers had stalled product development as the economy was on a decline and relied on art they already owned. The strategy may have been too conservative. "They realized that retailers wanted something new and [so] we are seeing more interest in licensed artwork in general, from the tried-and-true artists who have a track record and pose less risk to new, fresh artists who can produce designs that they can mold to their needs," she said.
Sikalis expects textiles, tabletop, gift and stationery to be strong
Increased playfulness with design is one common theme in the textile category, and Sikalis expects to see more updating of color, with even traditional designs getting a fresher, more modern treatment.
Tabletop and giftware are two other product categories Sikalis believes will be invigorated by an influx of new designs. "We're seeing a wide variety of styles from designers producing happier, more whimsical designs with fresher and cleaner color and brighter graphics. The upbeat motifs are perfect for the market," she said.
The paper and stationery segment of the market is getting a lift from unique color combinations that are slightly "off" and larger-scale patterns and more graphic elements.
Overall, Sikalis sees the year as an exciting one for artists as well as manufacturers. "There's a broad spectrum of artists in the U.S. and around the world eager to do business with manufacturers looking to renew the business. Every year they get better and better in how they present themselves in their space and how they market themselves," she said. "It's not just studios who are branding artists anymore—artists are doing it themselves. They are becoming more ... clued in to what they need to do to partner successfully with manufacturers."
The trend to be more focused business people who bring more to a business partnership is good for the entire industry, said Sikalis. Now that attitude is the rule rather than the exception.
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