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The Birth Of The Willow Tree Collection

May 23, 2008
I recall only too well my first introduction to the Willow Tree collection. I was visiting Enesco, our top supplier for gifts and collectables. Every year I pay them a visit early in the New Year to see what they have for us that is new and exciting. As distributors for Border Fine Arts, Lilliput Lane, Breed Apart, Franz Porcelain and many other successful collectable ranges, it's important that I devote a solid couple of days perusing their amazing showrooms. Popping onto their stand at a trade fair is never enough.

So, it was January 200 and the Managing Director of Enesco, John Hammond asked me to come and see something new. He forewarned me, "You won't have seen anything like these before. You probably won't understand them, let alone like them, but we believe they have a chance of being the collectable phenomenon of the new century. What an odd build up to a new product launch. Not a conventional sales pitch. But then John Hammond isn't a conventional man. More than anyone else in our industry, John has been responsible for revolutionising the collectables industry. It was he who realized and developed the use of polyresins in the manufacture of figurines. He understood that you can achieve incredible detail with resin that just isn't possible using traditional ceramic materials.

John took me into a side room annexed to the main Enesco showroom. There, on a low table in a poorly lit corner of the room was a collection of figurines and angels, each about five or six inches in height. At first glance, they all looked the same, pale beige in colour and pretty non-descript in appearance.

My first reaction was along the lines of, "OK John. But why show these Willow Tree figurines to me now? They're not finished. They haven't been painted and they haven't even got any faces yet." "Ah," he retorted, "they most certainly are finished and they're not supposed to have faces. And I'll tell you something else," he continued, laughing. "You'll buy them and your customers will collect them .... By the hundred" I found it hard to credit. Where was the appeal in these dull, anodyne figurines? Without facial features, they looked, at best, incomplete, at worst, positively spooky. Still, John is a good chap, and more importantly, a good judge, certainly a better one than me. So I did what I was told and placed an order, admittedly a small one. And so began, what for us has been arguably the biggest collectable phenomenon our industry has ever seen.

The first order arrived in February of that year. I remember the day well. I recall unpacking the delivery myself and gingerly putting these strange new Willow Tree figurines and angels out on display. The staff thought I'd gone crazy. "We'll never sell these in a month of Sundays." Deep down inside I shared their trepidation, but I put on a brave face. "Let's be patient. You never know." Within two days, I had placed our first repeat order and the rest is history.

For further information, please visit our website at http://www.theukgiftcompany.co.uk
About the Author
To explore our range of Willow Tree collectibles further, please visit our website at http://www.theukgiftcompany.co.uk
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