BY FARNOOSH TORABI
Special to amNewYork
July 31, 2006
Dec. 25, 1973, was a relatively dark holiday in America.
Homes and department stores went without Christmas lights after President Richard Nixon urged Americans to conserve during the Arab oil embargo.
"I remember my father dictating a letter [to the government], and the Secretary rejecting it," said Richard Adler, co-owner of Kurt S. Adler Inc, a now 60-year-old family business started by his immigrant dad, who passed away last year.
The business imports and creates Christmas decor, ornaments and toys.
"Dad was upset for the obvious reasons," said Adler, noting that was probably the last time the Christmas industry hit a low point.
Today, there are new, longer-term challenges facing the industry, especially in Manhattan.
The once-bustling Christmas district in and around 23rd Street has taken a hit over the past decade amid store consolidation, Wal-Mart's pricing pressure and the city's ongoing condo development.
Several businesses have moved to Atlanta, which recently supplanted New York as the center of the Christmas industry because of costs and the fact that most of the early-buying now happens in that city.
"There are more showrooms there," Adler said.
His family recently left its home in the Toy Center on 23rd Street after 40 years because of news that the commercial space was going condo. The family business now works out of a 30,000-square-foot space inside the commercial building on 7 W. 34th Street.
"They wanted us out, and we accommodated them," Adler said.
But the move has also fit the needs of the Adlers and symbolizes a bigger trend for the Christmas-goods industry in New York, he said. Christmas is no longer just a submarket of the toy industry.
"The buyers used to be toys buyers, and that's why we were in the Toy Center," he said. "Now there are more gift buyers or specialized buyers."
Being on 34th Street offers the business more proximity to the fashion, gift and accessories districts. Fellow holiday goods wholesaler Department 56 is also in the same building.
While the family was fortunate to find a fitting place to relocate, Adler says the success of Kurt S. Adler Inc. lies more in its adaptability to changes in the industry, a commitment to its customers and its work ethic.
That is why, he said, the business has been able to expand and provide 20,000 products to 8,000 retailers in 25 countries.
"Our imports department -- which is the biggest unit -- works seriously this time of year, just like Santa's elves," said Adler.
Next on the horizon: The business is revving up for the annual accessories show held in August at the Jacob K. Javits Center.
"It's a chance to meet the smaller customers, the mom-and-pops," he said.
Farnoosh Torabi is a video correspondent for thestreet.com. amSmallBusinessfirstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.