Challenges, problems, and triumphs
-- from a manufacturer's perspective.
Do Trade Shows Reflect the State of the
And if so, are we in trouble?
Name Withheld/Mike Hartnett (March 21, 2005)
Just a few more thoughts on CHA:
Perhaps exhibitors who have had several dwindling shows prior to
CHA never exhibited at CHA this year. (I know of two competitors who
were NOT there.) By their absence they "voted" for how
poor the show would be for them. Some answers for this industry may
be in who was NOT at the show (buyers and sellers), rather than who
We did ACCI for years, starting in 1989. For about the first five
years we did it, it was actually a better order writing show than
HIA. Then for several years they were about equal. Then scrapbooking
and professional crafters arrived at ACCI; we began to see the
orders drop and HIA was our big show. We stopped doing ACCI three
years ago because it had become pointless. Many of our customers
(the small independent craft shops, small chains, and international
buyers) were no longer going. These were the customers whom we could
count on like clockwork to order all our new things at the show. It
had been a money losing proposition for us for three years prior to
I started seeing the same trend with HIA about 3 years ago. At
this last show we saw exactly two of our "regular" small
customers. I did some telephoning and itís not that they didnít
stop by our booth, they werenít there at all. Reasons varied from
"too expensive"and "too far away" to "we
donít bother with shows anymore; we can see what we need from
Many years ago there were also all the regional shows, which we
did. Those began to disappear. Weíve dropped ACCI because our
buyers arenít there. Now, it looks like our buyers are not coming
to CHA either. Do we do any shows any more? I can see the major
buyers at their offices any time, for far less money than doing
I think there are changes going on in this industry that arenít
really being seen or questioned. Shows used to be a fair reflection
of the industry; Iím not at all sure that is true anymore.
Everyone talks about scrapbooking because it is so visible, but if
those small, independent craft stores arenít going to shows, is it
because the shows are no longer truly general craft shows and the
stores arenít scrapbooking stores? Are general crafts really
alive? Why or why not? Will there be a "crafts" industry
in five years or just a few specialized areas that have big
manufacturers behind them that were able to survive?
Mike Hartnett answers.
I think trade shows -- and trade magazines, for that matter --
are still a reflection of the state of the industry. If you accept
that theory, then the recent CHA show was a poor one for you for the
1. There aren't as many small craft stores as there used to
be. That's why the regional trade shows Ė and the regional
distributors Ė are no longer around. Some retailers who told you
the show was too expensive or that they could see new products when
reps visit may be having cash flow problems.
2. There aren't as many new products in the "general
crafts" category as there used to be, but that's due to so many
vendors chasing after memory/paper. So for some, it might not be
worth the money.
3. Some retailers who did attend the CHA show have dropped
your category to make more room for memory, beads, and yarn. That's
one reason why the attendance in Atlanta was larger than you
"felt"; some craft retailers who used to stop at your
booth no longer carry your category. Squeezing the size of
slower-selling categories is one thing, but eliminating them
entirely seems short-sighted to me. But that seems to be the reality
Whether we like all of it or not, the trade shows are still
reflecting the industry as it is today.
(Note: Any thoughts on the subject? The vendor asked,
"Will there be a 'crafts' industry in five years, or just a few
specialized areas that have big manufacturers behind them that were
able to survive?" What do you think? Email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read previous "Vinny" columns, click on the titles in
the right-hand column.)