Reports on shows, trends, and more
TNNA: Market and Industry Comments
Changing times call for smart
by Marilyn Murphy, TNNA Past President, Board of
Directors (February 2, 2009)
Just back from the January TNNA show in San Diego, and while the
tenor of the show didn't carry the heightened robustness of recent
years, it certainly surpassed many exhibitors' expectations, mine
included. Certainly expectations were adjusted going into the
market, but I heard comments from wholesalers and retailers alike
that lead me to think, once again, that during recessionary times
(or whatever the current term being used for this financial debacle
we're in), crafts gain momentum.
There are so many good forces at work right now: the return to
handcrafts, going local, being sustainable, the focus on community
– aren't all these things ripe for smart businesses to take
advantage of, in some way, in some form? And, yes, there are many
not-so-positive things that I don't need to point out here, as all
businesses are facing challenges to some degree.
I was struck by the fact that more than one retailer told me that
they are applying "the power of intention" (my words),
have turned off the news, and have instructed their staff to do the
same. They are doing what they can to remain positive, focused, and
pumped up for their customers. And it's working.
While I don't have permission to name names, I spoke to a number
of distributors who supply all segments of the industry: one had the
biggest last quarter of 2008 than ever, and all started January out
strong in comparison to last year. Companies that have reps on the
road had mixed reports – one major yarn company's spring orders
were up over previous year, another one's were down, but not by
much. Many wholesalers are experiencing more volume sales, but
retailers (and consumers) are value shopping and purchasing
lower-priced product. Margins are squeezed.
Definite good news: new consumers are getting hooked, even if
they are starting out at low price points; now it's our job to keep
them excited about the market and retain them as a customer. Attract
Most businesses on the yarn side of the industry experienced this
decade's knitting boom and its crest thru 2005-2007. Most companies
(and shops) experienced the downside of this wave in 2008. As
expected, some shops didn't make it for a whole host of reasons. But
in speaking to a broad spectrum of stores in different parts of the
country, December was crazy busy and January was strong.
Some other shifts noted: Marketing budgets are going into online
initiatives, either proprietary websites or to online promotions and
advertising. Ordering online is increasing in both B-to-B and B-to-C
As mentioned, the trade show attendance numbers were down on both
the exhibitor side as well as buyers. The buyer numbers are not
final yet; however, we do know that pre-registration was down 19%
and exhibiting companies were down 12% from the previous January
show in Long Beach.
While the buyer company numbers were down, the overall spending
wasn't. On average, of the cross section of the exhibitors, the
responses were, "Great show"; "About the same as last
January"; "We're down about 10% at this show compared to
last year, but it's way better than expected"; and "Up
about 10% over last year."
In other words, the buyers who chose to attend were buying. One
needlepoint vendor said, "If you decide not to exhibit, it's
fine with me. I'll take the business because I'll be here." And
guess what? She had a great show. Of the seventeen new exhibitors,
most reported having a good to excellent show.
And to squelch any rumors, TNNA's purchase last year of The
Nashville Needlework Show is not drawing vendors away from the
national shows. Only four exhibitors who showed in January 2008
chose to do the Nashville Show over the January TNNA show. The
Nashville Show, February 7-9, is looking very positive.
The Opening Evening Programs were mixed (comparing last year's
January show to this year's):
Sample It was healthy and buyers really like it. This event
was started as a result of the unification of INRG and TNNA and is
an activity for the Counted Thread & Embroidery Group with many
yarn and needlepoint exhibitors also participating.
The Yarn Group's Fashion Show was on par for participating
companies and garments. The Needlepoint Group's Galleria had
significantly less participation but that could have been a direct
reflection of fewer needlepoint exhibitors and the desire of the
group to change that event in the future. The New Product area was
also on par from previous year. Most new product introduced was in
the accessory area, followed by yarn, then needlepoint.
The TNNA Board and Trade Show Committee are diligently working on
ideas and incentives to increase buyer attendance at the June show
in Columbus. The Board narrowed its focus on addressing trade shows
two years ago and has been working with Steve Miller, an industry
trade show consultant. The Trade Show Committee, co-chaired by Stacy
Charles and Jim Bryson, was formed last fall and ideas for the June
market are being vetted right now. TNNA is constantly working to
serve the entire needlearts industry and the trade shows are a vital
part to that – there is no replacement for face-to-face time with
customers, seeing new product in person, networking, and attending
strong educational programs.
All in all, I'm betting that crafts will continue to be an
ever-resilient market, but we all have to be smart about attracting
and retaining the consumer.