irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry.
Tough Trade Show Questions
Why not cooperation instead of competition?
By a Concerned Independent Manufacturer (October 17, 2005)
(Note: CLN received this email which includes
questions about trade shows and the number of subjects/problems in
scrapbooking. Answers to the email are below.)
Have you ever heard the phrase, "You can’t squeeze blood
from a turnip"? Dwell on that idea for a moment…. Think now
about the scrapbook industry: are we trying to squeeze revenue from
a source that simply doesn’t have it to give? Gloom and doom have
been swirling over the heads of industry insiders for a few years
now. What have we done about it? No one knows how long the industry
can continue to grow and expand, but here we are adding more trade
shows, more associations, more product, more small manufacturers,
and more demand on retailers to the mix, because after all, the
industry is purportedly worth several billion dollars. Squeezing
blood from a turnip….
As a small, independent manufacturer, I decided that it was time
to have a discussion about the industry, namely talking about trade
shows, and the current state we’re in, and so I put together some
questions for those in charge of our industry's trade shows. I would
like to not only shake things up a bit and get the attention of
those in charge of these events, but also to open the eyes of the
scrapbook retailers out there – change needs to happen, and it
needs to happen now!
Why does the scrapbook industry need four trade shows a year?
Thinking back about 10 years when scrapbooking was still in its
infancy, trade shows were the place to be, the place to find out
about new product, and the place to find out what exciting new trend
was going to turn this hobby into an art form.
Fast forward to today and we now have CHA Winter (formally known
as HIA), CHA Summer (formally known as ACCI), MemoryTrends (a
relative new comer, and scrapbook-and-stamp-only show), and the new,
untested Scrapbook Biz (put on by Convexx).
Buyer attendance has been declining at all shows, even though the
number of exhibitors has been remaining steady, and even growing in
some shows. In light of those statistics we’ve added yet another
show (speaking of Scrapbook Biz to be held spring of 2006, just
months after CHA Winter)? Why are we, as an industry, continuing to
add more strain to those who are selling our product? Why are we
putting more strain on our budgets to exhibit at these shows when
many of us would admit that they are only marginally profitable at
I’ve compiled a list of more tough questions from other
independent manufacturers that I think are worth visiting as well:
1. What is CHA really doing in terms of marketing to the end
user? Are they really helping draw more people into creative
hobbies, or are the marketing dollars largely benefitting
mass-market chain stores?
2. What benefit am I really getting from my CHA membership
when I have to a) pay membership dues; b) pay to exhibit, which by
the way pretty much covers nothing but the slab and ugly back
drapes; c) pay to teach a class, pay for the class materials, pay to
rent any additional needed equipment, and then have the association
charge my students a class fee (who also have to pay member dues to
qualify to take my class)?
3. Why are MemoryTrends and CHA Winter in the SAME
convention center only 12 weeks apart? What are they both doing to
make sure that a good number of qualified buyers are making the trek
to Vegas twice in a short amount of time?
4. What are manufacturers doing to help themselves in terms
of bringing good, qualified buyers to the shows? Many, many
retailers have decided that it is just too expensive to attend
shows. I can’t say that I blame them since most scrap
manufacturers give show specials and sneak previews well in advance
of the show – why bother spending the money and time to travel
when you can sit at home in front of your computer screen to see new
product and get a discount at the same time?
Partnership and laying down our swords for the betterment of the
whole is what this industry needs if it is going to survive. Too
many companies have decided that scrapbooking is a cash cow and
there just isn’t enough for everyone to get an adequate piece of
the pie. If we are to get real blood out of this industry we must
figure out how to quit farming turnips and go for the real meat.
Retailers need manufacturers, manufacturers need associations and
trade shows, but for any of that food chain to thrive, we need to
figure out how to regain some control and focus on one mega show,
not four. Blood can not be squeezed from a turnip.
Bill Gardner Answers.
(Bill is Editorial Director of Craftrends which sponsors
the MemoryTrends show.)
When we decided to start the MemoryTrends Trade Show in
2000, there was no show specifically for that market. Most of the
consumer shows at that time devoted only a couple of hours on the
first day of the show to trade only, but that wasn't enough. We
heard over and over from vendors and retailers that they couldn't
conduct business that way and they wanted an alternative.
In the craft industry, each segment of the market has its niche
shows – needlearts, quilting, sewing, etc. As with those markets,
scrapbooking has become a market served by both vendors and
retailers specific to the category, and they deserve a trade show
dedicated to their specific needs.
While CHA does a remarkable job serving the overall craft
industry with an all-inclusive show, MemoryTrends does a remarkable
job serving one niche market, with an extensive educational program
designed for scrapbook retailers featuring not only business
seminars, but more than 30 exhibitor-sponsored technique workshops
where retailers gain first-hand knowledge about new products. (By
the way, we don't charge exhibitors to teach a class. And since
we're not an association, there are no membership fees.) And this
year we'll be revealing results of the first-ever Scrapbook
Retailing in America study, which was just completed in the last
couple of weeks. (Editor's note: See the 10/17 edition of CLN
for a MemoryTrends report that includes highlights of the
MemoryTrends has been rooted in Las Vegas since its
inception five years ago, and is contracted there through 2009.
Attendance at the show has increased each year, and this year's
numbers are looking very strong more than three weeks prior to the
show. (Editor's note: Attendance was higher this
We promote the show in a variety of ways, including blast emails
to buyers, year-round promotion in Craftrends, advertising in
publications serving related markets, and we provide exhibitors with
promotional postcards that also serve as contest entry forms for a
contest that awards cash prizes for buyers and discounted booth
prices for vendors.
In addition, we provide a number of perks on-site – free lunch
vouchers for both buyers and exhibitors, complimentary canvas tote
bags, and a Treasure Chest promotion with prizes from exhibitors. We
also carefully screen attendees to ensure only qualified buyers gain
entrance to the show. In fact, this year, absolutely every buyer
must provide credentials in order to register.
We strive to make MemoryTrends the best it can be, from
afford-ability to education, convenience, and more. For those who
must make a choice, we know they'll contemplate carefully and make a
decision that's best for their businesses.
Mike Hartnett Answers.
The Hobby Industry Association has conducted a single show for
about 60 years, and the Association of Crafts & Creative
Industries sponsored a show for about 30 years. Now that they have
combined into the Craft & Hobby Association, they continue to
sponsor a winter and summer show. And as Bill says, there are other
shows for specific categories – art materials, needlearts, sewing,
That's why we have the three big shows – CHA Winter and Summer
and MemoryTrends. As for the other scrapbook shows, they
exist for the same reason there are so many manufacturers of paper,
stickers, embellishments, albums, etc. It's called capitalism;
everyone has the right to start a business, whether it's making a
product or a trade show.
And capitalism will solve the problem of too many shows. Buyers
will ultimately choose which shows (and how many) suit their
purposes. The others will go out of business, just like some
As for MemoryTrends and CHA/Winter being in Las Vegas
three months apart: Because the CHA show is so huge, there are very
few convention centers big enough to hold it. Consequently, in order
to get the approximate dates it wants, CHA has to reserve a
convention center years in advance. I suspect CHA had a preliminary
reservation for Vegas in 2006 before there was any thought of a MemoryTrends
And after 2006, CHA is moving to Anaheim for many years, so there
won't be two shows three months apart in the same city.
As for CHA promoting to the consumer, don't ever expect CHA to
spend a fortune promoting just scrapbooking. That would be unfair to
the art materials, needlearts, hard craft, floral, and kits' craft
members. Because CHA is an umbrella organization, it doesn't have
the money to conduct a meaningful national advertising or public
relations campaign for each product category.
Instead, scrapbook companies should do exactly what the yarn
companies did: they tossed in money and formed the Craft Yarn
Council of America. The CYCA launched the most successful public
relations campaign in industry history which, along with new
products and new designs, has made knitting and crochet as hot –
or hotter – than scrapbooking.
In fact, CHA is working on a campaign directed at consumers, but
full implementation, to be effective, would be very, very expensive.
So CHA is testing the program now. If it does increase awareness and
interest in test markets, then we'll see....
As for benefits from CHA membership: there are a host of them,
from Size of Industry studies (look for a new one soon) that
you can take to the bank when you need a loan, to reduced rates on
shipping. Visit www.craftandhobby.org
to see a complete list.
(Note: Have any thoughts on these subjects? Email them to CLN
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