Some stocking stuffers and under-the-tree surprises can have a bit of extra Central Florida flavor this year.
Big-box stores such as Target, Lowe’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods are stocking their shelves with items from Orlando-area companies. And Central Florida merchants making consumer goods from softball gear and drinkware to stationery and home decor are counting big on the holiday shopping season.
“You would be surprised by how much stuff you can buy with a Florida influence,” said James Miller, a spokesman for the Florida Retail Federation. “And some of these companies make 40 percent of their revenues in the month or two leading up to the end of the year. It’s huge for them.”
Local merchants say the holiday season provides an important boost to their sales, no matter what they’re selling.
A trip to a Target store could yield a Christmas-ornament plant from Apopka home decor company LiveTrends, or a tumbler from Orlando-based Corkcicle. Anthropologie carries a whole line of stationery and cards from Winter Park’s Rifle Paper Co., while Dick’s Sporting Goods carries softball equipment from two local companies, Rip It in Orlando and 3N2 in Maitland.
“People are out shopping in new stores this time of year and looking at stuff they wouldn’t see other times of the year,” Miller said. “It gives great exposure to have your products on shelves.”
Home decor and plant maker LiveTrends Designs hired 20 extra part-time workers for the holiday season, starting in September, said CEO Bisser Georgiev. The Apopka-based company shipped 250,000 items to 14,000 retailers across the country, mostly to national retailers Lowe’s and Target.
“By far, this is our biggest season,” Georgiev said. “Getting everything out is a really big undertaking.”
Many shoppers aren’t even aware of the local connections, said Sherry Reeves, executive director of the Manufacturers Association of Central Florida.
Corkcicle, based in Orlando, also sells its products at Target, in addition to national retailers such as Williams Sonoma, Bed Bath & Beyond and Wal-Mart. Its signature product is a freezable long cork to put in wine bottles, but it has expanded to cups and drinking accessories.
“Even boat dealers have an uptick in business around the Christmas season,” Reeves said. Orlando is home to two major boat manufacturers, Correct Craft, the makers of Nautique and a few other brands, and Regal Marine Industries.
There are other Central Florida companies with a strong online presence, such as Catrike, maker of high-end recumbent bikes, and Victory Tailgate in Longwood, which makes yard games.
LiveTrends has a line of 17 products specially designed for the holidays, including succulent plants hung in Christmas ornaments and other designs intended to be given as gifts The company plans many of its designs 18 months in advance to meet the needs of national retailers.
Orlando-based sporting goods maker Rip It announced a deal this week to expand its softball pants, shirts and face masks to 400 stores nationwide. The company, which manufactures goods overseas but has headquarters in south Orlando, starts its peak selling season in December in the build-up to school softball seasons in spring.
Rip It’s products are also sold at national retailers such as Academy Sports, Hibbett Sports and Big 5 Sports, which is mostly on the West Coast. Rip It’s biggest sellers are face masks and helmets, but it has been expanding into apparel.
“Our sales do pick up in December,” Rip It CEO Jason Polstein said. “People are getting ready for the season ahead with gifts for the holidays.”