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Your Business Commentary

Mike's often irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry-- with an occasional guest columnist.

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What To Do with Our Trade Shows

Readers Respond.

Staff Report (February 21, 2011)

(Note: The previous Business-Wise column questioning the future of our industry's trade shows has inspired more comments than anything CLN has ever published. To read the original column, click on "What's Happening To Our Trade Shows?" in the right-hand column. Feel free to join the discussion – on or off the record, by contacting Mike Hartnett (309-925-5593; mike@clnonline.com).

After receiving the bulk of the responses, CLN sent this column to Larry Olliges, the Chair of the CHA board and owner of Dee's Crafts, an independent, multi-category craft store in Louisville. His response is at the bottom.)

Trade shows are less important.

Yes, I believe they are less important each year for vendors. I don't think this is an indication of the industry faltering, but that it is once again evolving. Stasis is death to an industry today. We as vendors now have so many more ways to reach our consumer that it's far less important to me whether or not a particular buyer takes time to stop at my booth. I'll still find my consumer online, and be happy to sell to her/him direct or through the important online vendors such as Amazon. Trade shows are by no means dying, but becoming a slightly less important branch of the incredibly broad current marketing scene. -- Jean Leinhauser, Creative Partners

Leveraging trade show investments.

As a CHA member company and as a CHA Board member, I have two perspectives on industry trade shows: First, as a manufacturer, we rely on the shows as our primary source of trade advertising. If you believe in Malcolm Gladwell's concepts of "influencers" and "mavens," I love to get my products and my company's capabilities out in front of 5,000 to 10,000 attendees at our shows. Are they all buyers? No. Do I get an ROI? Yes.
From a CHA standpoint, just using your informal survey, nearly 70% of respondents think trade shows are important. To me, the obligation all of our industry associations have is to help make our member's business be successful. One important way to do that is to help them leverage their trade show investment dollars, both on the buy side and the sell side. In my mind, the best way to do this is to join forces, and to the extent possible, have a one-stop shopping experience for all. There doesn't need to be mergers or acquisitions, just get together on show dates and make it happen. – Mike McCooey, CEO of Plaid Ent.

Is this the answer?

(Note: The following is by a partner in a company that is not exhibiting at our industry's trade shows this year.)

I have written before and touted the virtues of virtual trade shows (trade shows held on the web for everyone to view and “attend” as a supplement to the physical trade shows that our trade associations sponsor). Well, no organization has yet adopted this modern and cost-efficient approach to helping their members learn about new products and transact business.

I surmise that they are concerned about the lost revenue in holding virtual shows versus physical trade shows. But this need not be the case. I, as an exhibitor, would be happy to pay for virtual booth space. In fact, I would be happy as an exhibitor to pay a one-time fee to a trade association to help them fund the development of this approach. I am sure other exhibitors would as well.

Why do I say that they do not need to worry about their trade show revenue evaporating away if they also held virtual trade shows? Well, it is a direct result of the fact that most retailers simply do not bother to go to the physical trade shows. We are reminded of this every time a trade show is conducted.

Our trade organizations must come to the realization that old style trade shows are in need of repair. For any number of reasons, people simply do not attend trade shows and these organizations owe it to their members (and the many members in waiting) to promote alternative styles of helping bring exhibitors and shops together. Virtual trade shows are the way to do just that.

In a virtual trade show, busy shop owners who cannot take the time to attend a physical trade show (or cannot afford to) can simply log in at night after work. They can peruse the virtual booths and request samples or watch videos/demos, or simply become educated about the wide variety of products that are available in the market. There are so many positive features of conducting a virtual trade show, but mostly, the fact that we could get 70-90% participation of shops versus the paltry 15-20% that we see year in and year out at the physical trade shows. All of these shops which do not attend are lost revenue for the trade associations and for exhibitors as well.

Just think, not having to spend all the money that is required to travel to show your products, but having your products available to 2,500 shops online in a well designed, professional virtual trade show environment instead.
Instead of exhibiting at a physical trade show, "exhibitors" could take some of the savings and make sample kits (or qualified mailings) to send out to those virtual attendees that show an interest in your products. The amount of money that the attendees would save could be used to purchase our products!

Exhibitors could use their travel savings as exhibitors to help fund the creation of the virtual show and to develop slick, web-based programs for ourselves. Total revenue would actually increase for all, including for trade associations, simply because we would all see a greater participation rate.

It just doesn’t make sense to keep banging away at the old trade show system when it is not addressing the majority of potential customers. This is 2011. Everyone uses the Internet. It is not 1995 when people didn’t. The face-to-face shows need to be supplemented with the modern virtual trade show approach in order to pull in new members and to have the existing but non-participating members participate.

The main issue is increased participation by everyone (exhibitors and shops) and increased content dissemination. Allow the visitor to drill down to those categories of products that they want to see, as opposed to having them walk miles on the show floor. Let them do this while saving money and time and it will be successful.

Anyway, I am hoping that these organizations whose primary "product" has traditionally been "trade shows" realize that "trade shows" have already changed for many industries, and it is about time they do so for this industry as well. They need to remember that their job is to bring people together which can, and should, now occur online, in addition to face-to-face. Any further delay in accepting this fact is costing us money and not providing us with the "bang for the buck" that we all need and want as members of an association. In my opinion, the success of these associations should be measured based on the percentage of participation that they secure from their overall membership and potential membership that is sitting in the wings.

By the way, when will these organizations finally survey their membership on this point, as well as the 50-70% of shops that do not even belong? We need to hear from the membership on the virtual trade show issue and it needs to be presented to them on a level playing field basis. – Name Withheld

A solution from the past?

Years ago the ACCI board of directors decided the industry needed a show between the HIA show in January and the ACCI show in July. So, on very short notice they ordered Walt Offinger (Offinger Management) who managed the association, to launch a new show.

Walt scrambled and found a hall at the still-uncompleted Orlando Convention Center. The hall was not large by traditional HIA and ACCI show standards, and of course the association wanted as many exhibitors as possible so the buyers would have a wide variety of companies to see.

So they imposed a rule, exhibitors could have no more than two 10' booths.

End result? The buyers were happy because the show was so easy to navigate, and the exhibitors basically showed only their new items. The exhibitors were happy because the show costs were lower and there was no temptation to "out-do" their competitors with bigger, fancier booths.

The show disappeared after two years, because HIA launched a competing show and infuriated vendors threatened to start their own association if the trade groups kept adding shows.

But the concept in this time of rising costs is intriguing. – Mike Hartnett

Wrong time, too long.

I sell to the majors. Some thoughts:

1. The industry doesn't need two [CHA] shows.

2. The timing is wrong. The majors want to see new products in the fall and have made their decisions by Jan. 1.

3. That last half-day of the show is a waste. I had 15 people at the show and they had to stay one more night – for what? – Major manufacturer

Not meeting the needs.

I did not attend or exhibit at CHA. I had planned to attend to meet with two distributors of ours that attend the show. One ended up not attending and the other cut our time to meet back to half an hour. I decided to just fly out and meet with him, and his whole team at their offices.

I have attended some classes at CHA and only found a few informative.

Second there are not enough of our jewelry venders at the CHA show as well as independent retailers, so we decided to give the Tucson shows a try. So far we have done a lot of new business with retailers who attended those shows. Will know more in a few days when the team gets back.

I hope trade organizations grow and become a help to retailers and distributors as well as manufacturers. In fact, they need to separate themselves into two divisions to support the needs of both. Retailers need help with marketing, PR, inventory control -- you name it. It’s not that they aren’t smart, just short on time and resources. Let’s figure out how to help the retailers first, then create buying co-ops so they can get the best price and manufacturers can focus on supporting fewer distributors.

Also, sorry to say CHA, but your research leaves me dry. Maybe the trade organizations can work together. The TNNA research is rather well done.

It has been very evident that only one CHA show is needed, but yet you continue with a Summer show. Maybe you need only one and focus on the best time and place to hold it, not where you get the best deal. Create a show worth the travel and they will come. We all like to get away, but we need to justify the time and cost. -- Marketing/Sales Manager for a major publisher.

Why go?

I think the most damaging effect on our trade show is the pre-show disclosure of new product and the discounts allowed with pre-show orders. The traditional special discount for retail store purchases at the show has disappeared; everyone get a discount before, during, and after the show. I am not talking about the teaser ads of a new line but SKU by SKU order forms.

If you can see and buy everything on line with discounts prior to the show, why go? – Carol Niemski, VP/COO, Bazzill Basics Paper

Pro's for the show.

I do most of my business off the show floor, and I suspect I am not the only one -- even exhibitors do that. They connect, they do joint ventures and discuss important issues facing their companies and categories.

The social aspect is important for business as well. Meeting new suppliers, customers, etc., even at lunch tables -- many new connections are made and developed.

This is a very touchy-feely industry. How am I going to really know the exact color of the lace, or the thickness of the paper, or the softness of the "pipe cleaner," or the new technology I find and need to discuss with the vendor face to face?

Who will be the face of my association if I cannot discuss and deal with the Board and members face to face? An email or hard copy of the focus and decisions our leaders are making, is not as impactful as an in-person meeting, such as the annual business meeting where we can all listen and share our thoughts, ideas, and frustrations.

I do understand the expense of trade shows, but what would the expense be in the issues mentioned above if there were only virtual trade shows? – Gail Czech, The Creative Network

Waste of money.

I personally feel that the time it takes to prepare for a trade show, travel to it, freight the booth there, be away from the office for 6 to 8 days (losing valuable productive time), and standing in one spot for 3-4 days to hand out catalogs (that could be mailed) and not write any orders -- is a HUGE waste of time and money.

My business partner's attitude is that if our company is not exhibiting, buyers will assume we are out of business and stop buying our products from our distributors. So we drag ourselves every year to what has become a "torture."

I think that if you offered $500 to attendees and ask them if "so and so" was at the trade show (without looking in the directory), most would not be able to do so.

The attendees gravitate to the booths like Provo that are giving away prizes hourly. They will stop at other booths in between while waiting for the next free prize. Maybe my booth will be lucky, maybe not.

In the past, we would do 500-600 make-it/take-its, with people waiting 6 or more deep to get a seat. We did approx 144 this year and had to trip people in the aisle to sit down.

I found this show to be a ghost town. In the "good old days" the attendees could hardly walk down the aisles as the traffic was so dense.

I heard someone say that the way of the future is "Virtual Trade Shows." Sign me up now. 24/7, all year-round trade show online. It's way past due. It has to be more cost effective and will reach all interested buyers/people, not just the ones who are lucky enough to reside in CA. – Syndey St. James, Armour Products

We need CHA to lead.

I agree the topic of the continuing viability of trade shows is quite interesting as well as controversial, depending on what side of the aisle you are standing on. I attended my first CHA in 1994 as a store owner; since that time I have been as a designer, teacher, manufacturer, and show coordinator. In my current position I work with approximately 35 independent reps across the U.S. and Canada, and for the first time ever I had several who did not attend the show. A couple of years ago this would have been unheard of, but based on the feedback I received from these reps as well as my own personal accounts in regards to this year’s show, it was not surprising.

Stores did not attend for two reasons, cost and/or the fact that the show was being held in Los Angeles. Independent shop owners were afraid; LA does not have a good reputation, and though I touted how this area was different and had been totally refurbished with upscale restaurants, plenty of security, etc., it did not make any difference. They could not separate in their minds the difference between south central and downtown no matter what I or anyone else said.

CHA might have saved a few bucks for themselves, but at what cost to the exhibitors? When you can look down an aisle the first day of the show and cannot see a single person other than exhibitors, you know it's bad, really bad.

Second, the costs were prohibitive at $200+ for a room at the host hotel and few if any of the more economically priced alternatives within walking distance, as there are in Anaheim. Transportation was a nightmare; I heard numerous complaints about shuttles not showing up or just driving past hotels when there were passengers waiting.

Nothing was close by, LA Live was ½ mile away and when the average crafter is 50+ years old, this does not make for a conducive situation.

CHA is my only opportunity to see and build upon my networks of friends and colleagues within the industry. With everyone so spread out, the host hotel a city block away instead of just across the street, and problems with transportation, there was never a convenient time or place to gather after the show. As someone who has been in the industry for several years, you realize the importance of these after-hour gatherings. Sometimes we do as much business after the show as we do during, and this year that was a huge missed opportunity.

As for the International Event, unfortunately it was a waste of time. The atmosphere was totally inappropriate for a networking event; the music was so loud you couldn’t carry on a conversation. The poor British woman who tried to give her welcoming speech, no one could hear her and half the attendees never quit talking because they never realized there was anything going on -- and yet the music just kept on playing. Were the board members in attendance oblivious? They had to have been.

True, the need for trade shows is waning with the evolution of social media and advanced communications, and that we cannot change. However, we can embrace these changes and evolve with them, not as independent factions (manufacturer, retailer, etc.), but as a united industry. I think there will always be a need for a trade show, whether it be at a physical location or a virtual production but we need CHA to lead us there.

Unfortunately with one poor decision after another -- Orlando, LA, the Craft Super Shows with their negative impact on the local stores -- I do not believe that the current leaders within CHA are the ones that should be piloting us into the future.

Mike, these opinions and comments are strictly my own personal insights and are not reflective of the company; therefore I request you keep them confidential and anonymous. – Name Withheld

One large show?

The ideal would be for all the organizations to work together to produce one large show annually. All the exhibitors and buyers would then be able to mix and mingle at the one event -- perhaps make it a little longer to allow for the time and size, but economies of scale must result.

Regarding the comment about vendors shipping early: simply make a sticker to attach to the order with a disclaimer: if shipped before x, payment will not be made until y. then it's the vendor’s choice as to what to do. Often it makes sense to ship early as the customer is guaranteed the goods and they may even be able to sell them earlier and need to replenish. – Peter Golding, Golding’s Craft Supplies

Changes needed.

CHA needs to consider rather significant change for their show(s) to remain relevant for all attendees, including:

1. Exhibition days (no more than 2-2 1/2 days -- greater time/expense efficiency for participating vendors). It’s almost a week time commitment (including set-up/tear-down) that delivers two days of real productivity for attending vendors.

2.  While CHA does a good job with member educational benefits, vendors go to the show "to be seen and heard," and there needs to a better means to promote vendor/retailer/distributor interaction vs. “setting appointments” or short “drive-by’s.”   

For example, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores has a "Meet the Market" forum --something akin to speed dating before the show starts, allowing vendors to showcase/present new items and get feedback from key retail executives. (If CHA has such a program, I am unaware of it).

ECRM's platform guarantees vendors to meet all retailer/distributor attendees for 20-minute meetings. This is a category-specific forum which makes it a complex idea for CHA, but nonetheless creates value. (ECRM also worked with the Toy Industry Assn. this past year to deploy a similar platform at the Dallas Toy Fair.)

3. I am certain most vendors attend trade shows in hopes for that 1-2-1 opportunity with more senior retail levels, to share their latest innovation or strategy. At this year's show, senior exec's from the big retailers didn't seem as visible, mitigating the opportunity for more versatile feedback or interaction with these key execs. I realize this is challenging given the limited number of execs in ratio to attendees. 

4. It is my personal hope that trade shows don’t become a dinosaur, as all industries need personal interaction and networking amongst industry associates (competitors, non-competitors) to stay vibrant/vital. A trade show and industry association could/should provide that link. – Mac Ritchie, Delta Creative

 A designer speaks.

I know that it's hard for me to get [to the show] because I'm a one-person operation. But I feel like if I don't show my face, teach seminars, hold classes, promo my product, and get out there, my brand will be history.

It all comes down to personal contact, and you can't get that over the Internet -- although the really good people come close! I have to look at the value I receive from the show. For me, even though it's tough, I go because if I don't, I am missing the next trend, an introduction to someone I need to talk to, interaction with my designer friends, etc. For me, attending CHA is totally worth it and necessary.

I was down in my License & Design booth and didn't get upstairs to see how things were going except for about 15 minutes a day. I am taking my product and trying to place it in the gift and stationery markets, so I was downstairs talking with VIP's from those industries. -- Designer

Two sides to the story.

On the one hand, smaller attendance means more time to actually talk to and educate the buyers. For small exhibitors, it doesn't take a lot to pay back show costs. I had the best first day of any show I've attended in 8 years (but surprisingly, also the worst third day).

I think education about our products and making long-term contacts are key reasons to attend a show -- I am not talking of the education workshops and classes, which I find too expensive for this small manufacturer to justify. I'm talking about showing and teaching why our products are needed by retailer's customers. There's nothing like seeing the surprise and jaw dropping, the nodding, and even the excitement as retailers bring fellow retailers over to watch.

Surprisingly, I still met many retailers in the airport, the hotel, and the social events who did not make it to my booth and knew nothing of my products. Does this mean they came with an agenda and didn't make it to visit their unknowns? I would think that's a prime reason to attend a trade show: find companies and products you never knew existed. Find those that don't advertise and aren't available in big box stores. Show their customers back home that they are out scouting for products and that those customers can feel reassured that they can depend upon their favorite retailer to bring them the must-have, but possibly little-known items.

On the other hand, when I had a chance to leave my booth and I looked around, I saw many of the big booths quiet and the aisles empty, and I knew it was not a good sign for the industry or perhaps for the future of the show.

And while I found most of the CHA staff to be very friendly and supportive, this year I encountered policies and procedures that were actually hurtful to my business. It made me wonder for the first time if CHA really has all its members' interests at heart, if I'm really being represented by this organization, and if exhibiting is essential and worthwhile. I personally know many exhibitors who have decided against it --some who formerly had large real estate at the winter shows. I guess time will tell. -- Amy Roszak, ScraPerfect

Helping the little guy.

(Note: The following is from an exec whose pr/marketing firm, in addition to needlework clients, has clients in the hospitality, landscape, and pest management industries. Therefore he has seen a wide variety of trade shows in various industries.)

Personally, my opinion of trade shows (and I'm going across all industries, including the professional pest management industry -- talk about some weird swag to take home sometimes!) is that it benefits the smallest exhibitors the most. The big companies are going to have their standard customers and, just like you alluded to in that story about the four competitors and one PR person, go out of a sense of responsibility to attend, not for any real life-changing experience.

But for a new company just starting out, or a small company that has little budget for much else throughout the year, I believe the right-target trade show can make a world of difference.

At the TNNA Columbus show last summer, a small exhibitor was trying to expand her relatively successful hair accessory company to the yarn market (her hair pins double as beautifully made shawl pins). She had a steady stream of interest from shop owners, and the momentum has continued since then. She is enthusiastic about exhibiting in June again this year. (She missed the Long Beach show because of conflicting commitments, but is thinking it might be a good show to attend in 2012, if only to have an excuse to visit a son in California.)
I'm not saying that it doesn't make any sense for a large or established company to exhibit -- when they have a new product or program to share, or if they know they can get more done in six meetings in a three-day period with their top customers than if they had to schedule those meetings over a six-week period, etc.

But for the reasons you so eloquently pointed out, trade shows likely aren't as important to them as they are to the little guy. The problem is, without the big guys' presence (and subsequent sponsorship of a given coffee break, keynote speaker, etc.), the show goes down the drain.
 

I'm interested to see the demographics of the folks who have given you feedback. Does it line up that the under-40 crowd (like me) see social media and online trade shows overshadowing in-person shows? Do smaller businesses hold onto the trade show concept more than big guns, who could get face time with their customers more easily by just hosting an open house (and thus controlling the message better than if they were alongside their competitors at a convention center)? – Marketing Professional

(Comment: No, it doesn't seem to be an under/over-40 issue as much as it is new, small companies vs. large, established ones. At the CHA show, the exhibitors downstairs (where the new exhibitors were located) seemed much happier about the show than the vendors upstairs.

One particular problem for new companies: how to get the word out? It's not so bad for scrapbook, art materials, and needlework companies because they have trade magazines in which they can advertise. But craft companies only have CHA's Portfolio. Consequently, trade shows may be more important than ever.).)

Too much at once for independents.

Some of the forces at work may be hard to overcome.  I can only hope for a strong trade show that allows us to meet face to face with our best customers, designers, vendors, and other manufacturers.

My preference is for only one CHA per year, as it is a major expense and I would prefer for my key people to spend less time preparing, attending, and recovering from the shows. I also think two shows per year makes each show smaller, as some Midwesterners may only choose the summer show and vice-versa. Also, I think it splits the international attendance a bit. 

If we have two shows per year, they should cut the winter show down by one day.

I think it is a no-brainer that companies will launch product mid-shows. The independents cannot manage their cash-flow. They are pressured to purchase all the new stuff (on discount) at show time and they don't have time to merchandise and educate properly when they receive new product from 10 manufacturers all at once.

You mentioned the part technology has been playing with videos and online presentations. Will be fun to watch how things evolve. – Major Scrapbook Vendor

Larry Olliges' response.

Thanks for sharing the responses of your readers concerning the future of trade shows. The responses you received from your readers are similar to input the Board received at the 2011 CHA Winter Show. While the economy, changes in the retail landscape, and consolidation in the vendor community have all affected our show (and many other trade shows), your poll shows 70% of the respondents still think the CHA trade show is important. Our most recent survey of the members showed that the trade shows were the most important benefit the association provides for them.  

As you know from your tenure on the CHA Board, the winter and summer trade shows are permanent fixtures on the agenda at CHA board meetings. The suggestions the members have shared with you have all been considered and discussed at some point in the last several years. We will be discussing the trade shows again at our May board meeting and  I will add the comments you have received to the information we share with the board members. We appreciate the concerns of both you and  your readers  regarding the trade shows. The shows will remain an extremely important forum for the industry and the CHA board and staff are reviewing current trends to determine how the shows will evolve for the future. Rest assured we are sensitive to the challenges and concerns about the shows and we are committed to the membership that we will continue to develop programs and ideas to make these shows the “can’t miss” events of their year. 

From a personal perspective, the CHA trade show (and all the other shows and markets the staff of Dee’s attends each year) is a time of rejuvenation. Each show offers the opportunity to interact with vendors and fellow retailers to find new trends, new merchandise, and new marketing ideas. The shows also offer a time away from the day-to-day operations of a business, allowing our management team and buyers the time to relax and just work on making our business better for the customers. Every time we consider not attending a show or market I remember the advice from my father in law, Bob Vogelsberg, "The day you decide not to attend a trade show is the day before you decide to close your doors and go out of business.” (Editor's note: Bob was the founder of Dee's and a genuine pioneer of the industry, serving on the ACCI board of directors in the early days of the association.)

Trade shows and markets are always the single best source of inspiration for our business, better than any website, magazine, or catalog. As long as Dee’s is in business we will attend as many trade shows as is necessary to give our customers the best retail experience they can find in our city. – Larry Olliges

xxx

 

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HOW TO SCREW UP A GOOD COMPANY; So many ways to kill a business.

WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE! Which explains why some product categories are in decline.

WILTON CELEBRATES ITS 80TH ANNIVERSARY; An industry giant began in a single room.

MAKING MY CHA SCHEDULE; So many events, so little time.

READERS WEIGH IN ON INDUSTRY CHALLENGES; Chain stores, beads, and yarn.

TNNA, CHA LEADERS SPEAK OUT...on the challenges facing the industry in 2008.

LISTENING TO CONSUMERS; Demographic studies and message boards aren't enough.

ARE SOME SCRAPBOOKERS "CRAZY"? Reactions from retailers, vendors, and others in the business.

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. VI: WAL-MART; So much to say, so little space (even on the Internet).

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. V: IMPORTS; Random thoughts...

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. IV: CHANGES TO THE OLD ORDER; Evidence that the way things are today will change tomorrow.

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. III: THE NEW GENERATION OF CONSUMERS; They've just begun to shake up traditional order.

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. II: MICHAEL ROULEAU; Imagine if Michaels had gone bankrupt?

THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. I: SCRAPBOOKING; History, analysis of today, and the future.

CHA RESPONDS TO THE SMART GROUP; CEO Steve Berger on scrapbooking, PMA, and the winter trade shows.

A CODE OF ETHICS FOR OUR INDUSTRY; For retailers, manufacturers - and the rest of us.

PROVO RESPONDS AGAIN TO CHARGES; The Salt Lake Tribune's article is "irresponsible."

PREDICTIONS FOR THE NEW YEAR; The industry, television, yarn, and more.

PREDICTIONS FOR 2007; From manufacturers, a retailer, a distributor, and a sales rep.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN YOU SHAFT INDEPENDENTS; A common, sad story.

THE NEW CRAFT CONSUMER; Where is she? All around us.

SO, WHOM SHOULD WE HAVE ROOTED FOR? Who would be better -- or worse -- for Michaels, Bain or KKR?

WHY TRENDS EVENTUALLY COOL; Yarn sales may have slowed, but that can be true for any trend. Here's why.

CHEAPER TO BUY CLOTHES THAN CLOTH; Imports and "Pile it high and price it low."

ANSWERS TO INDUSTRY QUESTIONS; Blunt, honest answers to questions posed by CLN.

THE MICHAEL ROULEAU ERA; Industry veterans and Wall-Street analysts evaluate Michaels retiring CEO and the board's decision to seek potential buyers.

EVALUATIONS OF THE CHA SHOW; Mostly positive but...

CHALLENGES: YOUNG CONSUMERS, MICHAELS FUTURE, NEW CEOs, MERCHANDISING ... Pricing, and much much more.

CHALLENGES: SCRAPBOOKING, BEADS, YARN, HOME DEC, & DECORATIVE PAINTING / CROSS STITCH; Savvy veterans comment on CLN's industry challenges.

TRADE SHOWS & MEMBER BENEFITS; The discussion continues.

TOO MANY TRADE SHOWS? Stop complaining, make hard choices, and try something new?

TOUGH TRADE SHOW QUESTIONS; Why not cooperation instead of competition?

THE STATE OF OUR INDUSTRY; Some positive analyses, some negative, and lots of questions.

WHAT'S HAPPENING OUT THERE? Some grim answers, and gas prices is only one of the culprits.

BARBARA BECOMES AN ENTHUSIAST, FINALLY; A first-hand view of a consumer getting hooked on a category.

RWANDAN WIDOWS EARN LIVELIHOOD WITH AMERICAN KNITTING MACHINES; $99,000 USAID grant provides livelihood for women in Rwanda.

THE CANVAS "DUMPING" ISSUE: ANOTHER VIEW: What is dumping? And is it necessarily bad?

WHAT TYPE OF BUYER/INVESTOR IS BEST FOR ME? Three types, each with their own pros and cons.

REACTIONS TO THE DECLINE OF THE "SMILING BUNNY SYNDROME"; But what will replace it?

ARE WE LOSING OUR CORE? YES AND NO; Readers respond to an intriquing question.

ARE WE LOSING OUR CORE? Is the industry abandoning many of the categories un the "craft" umbrella?

INTERVIEW WITH HSA'S JOYCE PERHAC; New programs and new trade shows.

CONSISTENCY VS. CREATIVITY; One of our chains just made a major goof.

THE BIG NEWS STORIES OF 2004: Some good, some bad, all of them interesting.

SO, IS THE GLASS HALF EMPTY? Conflicting, but thought-provoking analyses.

A CUSTOMER'S NIGHTMARE; Don't store clerks know anything about products?

WHY A KIOSK MAKES SENSE FOR YOUR; Why force your customers to visit your competition?

THE FUTURE FOR INDEPENDENT SCRAPBOOK RETAILERS; Is the deck stacked against them?

THOUGHTS ON FREE TRADE; It's not nearly as simple or as clear cut as either side believes.

WHAT MAKES A PRODUCT SUCCESSFUL? The hits have certain qualities in common, no matter what the category.

HOT TRENDS AND TRADE SHOWS; A hot category tends to take over a trade show, but not to savvy retailers.

WHY I DID NOT GO INTO RETAIL; The odds were too high.

WHY KATELYN CAN'T SWALLOW; Who pays -- and at what price?

RISING HEALTH COSTS, FEWER JOBS; The problems compound each other.

DEBATE: SHOULD WE JUNK "CRAFTS"?; What's a better word to describe what we are?

GAY MARRIAGES, CRAFT DESIGNERS, AND RETAIL PRICES; The meaning of words.

VENDORS DISCUSS HOBBY LOBBY'S SUCCESS; So many reasons for so much success.

HIA: A MARKETING / DESIGN PERSPECTIVE; Standing out in a crowd becomes a real challenge.

WHAT HASN'T CHANGED IN 25 YEARS; Plus some random thoughts on this wonderful business.

2003 IN REVIEW; As usual, lots of ups and downs.

THE CHANGING (DISAPPEARING?) CORE OF THE INDUSTRY; Bob Ferguson  and Mike Hartnett discuss the year's major issue.

LEAVING "CRAFTS" FOR SPECIALTY STORES; A tale of survival and a sign of the times.

THOUGHTS ON THE CHANGING NATURE OF CRAFTS; Vendors, retailers, reps, and designers share their views.

CRAFTS BECOMES PAPER CRAFTS; That's a sign of ... what?

SOMETHING ACHIEVED, SOMETHING LOST; The end of a hard, but wonderful era.

UNBLOCKING WRITERS BLOCK; How to get those creative juices flowing again.

PERSONAL THOUGHTS ON ACCI/HIA; Why bother combining associations?

THE LATEST ON ACCI/HIA; Further clarification of the ACCI/HIA unification effort.

HIA AND ACCI AGREE TO LETTER OF INTENT THAT WILL UNIFY ASSOCIATIONS; Combined organization to be named the Craft & Hobby Association.

HIA/ACCI: Q & A

ADAPTING TO CHANGE; Why some industry businesses fail.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR; You just might get it.

ARE WE STIFLING CREATIVITY?; How we're driving the industry's creative people out of business.