Le Creuset's third annual Charleston Factory-to-Table Sale is no small event. About 30 workers have been on site at the North Charleston Convention Center since Monday, unpacking and setting up 20,000 items, from signature Le Creuset enameled cast iron Dutch ovens and nonstick bakeware to hard-to-find dog bowls and pumpkin-shaped cocottes.
For fans of the high-end French cookware brand, which has its U.S. headquarters in Charleston, this sales event provides access not just to deep discounts but to discontinued items and unique pieces from the company's international collections.
"Our distribution center for the whole U.S. is in Yemassee," said Lisa Elliott, director of retail marketing and merchandising for Le Creuset. "So we have overstocks, discontinued colors, plus items from around the world in different colors than what we release in the U.S."
Some unique items that will be discounted 50 percent include a large oyster-colored tagine created for the overseas market that retails for $400; a variety of shapes, sizes and colors of enamel cast iron items; stainless steel cookware; and about any color tea kettle you could imagine.
A couple of 70 percent off tables include more novelty pieces like drinking carafes that could easily double as flower vases, honey and barbecue sauce pots, and mugs in rare colors that you'd only find at brand partners like William-Sonoma.
Vice president of retail Diane Foster said they have shoppers coming from all over the Southeast, as well as from California, Texas and Chicago.
While this is the third factory-to-table sale for Charleston, it's the sixth nationwide. They've hosted them in Nashville, Tenn., and Denver and have one planned for Atlanta in November.
Foster and Elliott have been part of the factory-to-table event team from the beginning and have learned a few lessons since the first in 2016. The biggest one is to provide lots of variety.
"It's never good to bring in hundreds of the same item," said Foster. "People want to shop for variety."
Which means that items will run out. Does that mean you'll see people fighting over deviled egg dishes and Caribbean blue pots?
"It's not Filene's basement bridal sale bad," said Foster. "But it gets close."
They say they will have plenty of check-out lines and people on hand to help carry items to cars.
"We'll also have random giveaways," said Foster. "We'll hop up on stage and ask Le Creuset trivia. We want people to enjoy themselves and have fun."
The sale starts with a sold-out VIP party on Thursday night followed by three full days of shopping. Friday and Saturday costs $10 for two-hour shopping sessions. The entire ticket price will be donated to Goodwill's Culinary Kickstart program and the Culinary Institute of Charleston. The cost is simply a way to control crowd entry and benefit a cause at the same time, said Elliott and Foster.
Sunday is free and is already sold out, but Foster said tickets usually come available as Sunday gets closer.
If you miss this weekend's sale, Foster said Le Creuset, which closed its Market Street store because the lease was up and it was very small, will be opening a much larger location in Tanger Shopping Outlets in November, just in time for Christmas shopping.