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The Gift & Home Trade Association is an organization that brings together vendors, sales agencies, and retailers together and allows them to share ideas. Last week GHTA held their annual conference in Tampa, Florida. We are proud to announce that The Link Companies’ VP of Operations, Bob Watson, was elected president at this year’s conference! 


We recently sat down with Bob to chat about GHTA and what was covered at this year’s event.  


Q: What were the main goals for the conference? 

A: Well, this year we discussed how we, as an industry, can better serve our retailers by integrated digital tools our sales reps can use on the road. 


Q: And what do you mean by “digital tools?” 

A: So, we’re talking about putting more information about our lines on websites. Clearer images are always needed, as well as details about product availability. Clear access to customer service information is also a necessity on agency and vendor sites. 


Q: That all sounds like helpful information! What else did you cover? 

A: We talked about the needs at shows. The Link Companies have open showrooms, and that’s something we encourage other agencies to do as well.

Q: You lost me! What do you mean by “open showrooms?” 

A: If the showroom is an “open showroom,” essentially someone can walk in from anywhere in the country and write a line. So, if a rep from California wanted to show their customer a line we carry at The Link, they are welcome to come write the line in our showroom. This is tremendously helpful for customers.

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Q: Did you talk at all about the online marketplace? 

A: In fact, yes. There was a lot of discussion about Faire – the pros and cons of it, how simple it is for retailers. There are a lot of concerns that sites like Faire could hurt product diversity and product launches. Smaller, newer vendors can get lost. The products may be on Faire, but they are hard to find. The algorithms are very homogenized. Fun, small companies might not have the ability to get their product seen there. 


Q: Bob, can you tell us more about your involvement, personally, with GHTA? 

A: I’ve been on the board of directors for about four years before I was elected president this year. I will say that over the last three years we’ve really seen the GHTA move into a continual discussion and education about what’s happening in today’s marketplace. It’s more than just a once-a-year conference.  


Q: Congratulations on this new position! Any take home thoughts? 

A: There are overall positive feelings about what is happening for the independent retailer despite what some experts say. Our segment of the economy is still going strong and continuing to grow.