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Cheap Chic?

Posted on January 17, 2007

More and more frequently, we are being challenged to find cost cutting measures that deliver the WOW factor for either the same as the previous year's investment allocation allowed OR, possibly even less.  Many times as professionals, we think the HR Department is misguided by managers who fail to include "magician" in the job posting.  How many times have you felt like you've been charged with pulling something out of thin air?

Moving from a major metropolitan area to a much more conservative market that not only perceives events differently, but lacks the ability to hop in the car and drive to the wholesale fabric mart or a wholesale floral house or design house was a major adjustment.  However, when we stop and think for a moment about what other resources are now available online AND also in our own backyard, we get to thinking out of the box and can truly surprise ourselves.  Having a list like MiForum and other professional environs to "bounce" creative concepts or resources is always helpful too.  Here's a few of the ones that I've used that are reasonable and accessible:

  • Goodwill Industries Retail Shops (or local thrift shops):  Great for finding anything from costuming to containers for floral/centerpiece structure(s).    You never know what type of 3-D props you'll find either.
  • Hobby Lobby and Ben Franklin:  These stores can many time have clearance items available for less than wholesale!  Don't be afraid to do some mixing and matching either as an eclectic look, so long as it's within the same design element family is really fun.  So grab what you need in combos of low lotus dishes, 12" cylinders or if they're REALLY a good buy....grab some of those tall long neck 24-36" vases.  You'd be very surprised how inexpensive they can be.  Combined on a 12" mirror tile that you can get in twelve packs from Home Depot or Menards (this may not be the retailers across the nation, but they're regional in the Midwest), you can bounce anything with added candlelight and make a table look breathtaking.
  • Surplus Stores:  If you're doing anything that is jungle themed, MASH-oriented or a team event that you want inexpensive "uniforms", I've found the local Army/Navy store to be a treasure trove.  I located a 20x30' camouflaged net to use on a pipe and drape backdrop and got green t's and pants for the entire band and event staff.  It was a great value and the client realized quickly when being quoted fees that even while we were "buying it", it was far less expensive than utilizing a prop house for this particular theme.
  • Oriental Trading:  You'd be amazed at what little treasure troves you can find in this publication along with other novelty websites.  If it blinks, flashes or glows....it's HOT!  Make sure your lead time is ample so that you can "sample before you buy" in the quantity you'll need.  Buying a sample ensures it is up to your esthetic standards. 
  • eBay & Online Auctions:  Having recently done a private social event, we themed the evening as a Flight of Fantasy in celebrating a 40 year birthday for someone who had survived a brain tumor and now has two little beautiful girls...and his wife wanted it special.  She said her husband loves planes....so off and running went the creativity with the team.  I have the tendency to also like "authentic" design elements, so we created a departure gate, a passenger lounge and a faux airplane setup.  I actually found the oxygen mask and seatbelts used for safety instruction on eBay. This made me realize there's not only a market for what we need here, but I can always unload it and get money BACK if I don't want to inventory something!  Come to think of it, we haven't used those green uniforms from the remote landing strip theme.....maybe there's a listing on the horizon and some return revenue.

I hope these tidbits help stir some of your creative juices...and please, post other favorite finds to share.  As our dear friend Richard Aaron, CSEP, CMP says, "It's okay to steal ideas.....emulation is the most sincere form of flattery".  Designers in fashion do it every day....so lest share and recycle what works and where you've found those treasures!  ~GN


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