Challenges, problems, and triumphs
-- from a manufacturer's perspective.
Do Trade Shows Reflect the State of the
If we're like other industries, trade shows may
be in trouble.
by "Vinny"/Mike Hartnett (April 18, 2005)
(Note: In our previous issue, we said trade shows often
reflect the state of the industries they serve. That prompted this
reply from a mid-size manufacturer.)
Here is a question to pose to your readers. Consider: A. Big
retail chains in the toy business = much smaller (dead?) Toy Fair. B.
Big retail chains in the office supply business = much smaller
(dead?) SHOPA show. C. Big retail chains in the floral supply
business = dead WFFSA show. D. Big retail chains in the home
and lumber supply business = much smaller (dead?) Hardware/Housewares
Meanwhile, big retail chains in the crafts business = slight
growth in winter CHA show and reviving summer CHA (former ACCI)
show. Why? What makes us different? Will it continue or will we be
able to hold the CHA shows in much smaller venues in five years?
Here are a few more show related questions:
1. Will the summer show survive if it is under CHA and a
"carbon copy" of the winter show?
2. Should the summer show now travel around the country as an
attraction for new and small retailers?
3. What happens to the stock of the public chains when
scrapbooking/paper and yarn plateau and begin to fall? And how does
that affect the industry?
And a non-show question: If $5,000,000 is the "Michaels
perfect store," does that mean that A.C. Moore is already
Mike Hartnett comments.
1. "Vinny" is implying that we may see a big
decline in trade shows if a handful of chains completely control the
market. If you think of a trade show as advertising, then consider
how David Ogilvie, the father of modern advertising, defined it:
"Advertising is what you do when you can't go see
If "Vinny" only has five customers, he doesn't need a
trade show; he'll just go see them. Of course, if "Vinny"
only has five customers, he probably doesn't sleep well at night,
knowing he may eventually go out of business.
2. In one sense trade shows do not reflect the industry, or
at least the industry's stores. Think of what you see when you walk
through a Michaels or a large independent. Now think about the last
trade show you attended. Where were the floral exhibitors? The
3. As to what happens when/if scrapbooking and yarn decline,
savvy craft retailers will be fine. That's the great advantage of
offering a variety of departments. The urge to create is constant;
what changes is the products currently in vogue. Since I joined the
industry in 1979, flowermaking, latch hook, dollmaking, decorative
painting, and stenciling have all had their days in the sun.
Jewelrymaking has had about four days in the sun. Mop dolls, milk
caps, and friendship pins had about 20 minutes in the sun. And the
super-trends – macrame, cross stitch, and wearable art/fabric
painting – were the scrapbooking of their day.
The stores offering a variety of categories survive, because they
have other products to keep them going when the hot category cools.
4. If you looked at an industry sales chart over the last
quarter century, you'd see a series of sharp increases (a trend or
one of the three super-trends attracting new consumers) followed
more or less by a plateau. Because when a super-trend cools, it's
not followed immediately by another super-trend.
If history is any guide, then if/when scrapbooking and yarn cool
and before consumers make something else a hot category, the chains
will try all sorts of things to fill in their space. Michaels once
sold wicker furniture. Leewards (the Michaels of its day) sold
To comment on any or all of "Vinny's" questions, email
your thoughts – on or off the record – to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read previous columns by industry vendors, click on the titles in
the right-hand column.