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A view of the industry through the eyes of a chain buyer.

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Hot Trends and Trade Shows

Trends change, but the keys to success do not.

by Mike Hartnett (January 17, 2005)

(Note: While performing my annual end of the year computer cleanup, I came across an article that was written for the ACCI website just before the 2003 show. While re-reading it, I realized that with only minor updates, what I wrote then is relevant for the upcoming 2005 CHA show.)

The 2005 CHA winter show is almost upon us. It will be my 26th, and I predict I will hear two major complaints. Iím predicting this because Iíve been hearing versions of these two complaints at every show Iíve ever attended.

"Itís become a scrapbook show." Well, no doubt there will be a lot of scrapbooking, stamping, and related paper crafts at the show for one good reason: memory is hot.

Back in 1980, the version of that complaint was, "Itís become a macrame show." That was followed by, "Itís become a cross stitch show," and then "Itís become a wearables show."

These complaints are and were made by folks not involved with scrapbooking, macrame, cross stitch and wearables. Of course, if you stay in business long enough, sooner or later you will be out of the hot-trend loop, but that shouldnít matter. Regardless of what the biggest trend is, there will be hundreds of buyers at the CHA show looking for products to boost the other categories in their store.

Would they like to find some hot new scrapbook items? Of course, but what they really want most are new items for hard crafts, kids, decorative painting, needlework, florals, and so on.

And the best new product of them all would be something that not only sells, but boosts the sales of products the buyers already have in their store.

Years ago I walked an ACCI show with an excellent independent retailer. He told me what he was really looking for was products to help sell his existing inventory. "I donít have room for some enormous new category. I want items to help what I already carry."

Which brings me to complaint #2: "Thereís nothing new." Well, there may not be the next scrapbooking at the show, but I can almost guarantee buyers will find lots of new items, lines, and line extensions.

I always hear the "nothing-new" complaint. But I never hear that from really successful retailers. For example, for years now I have tried to get together halfway through the last day of the show with Jim Bremer, head of The Tall Mouse. We meet for coffee or lunch and I just sit there, listen, and take notes as Jim and his staff go on and on about all the wonderful new items theyíve seen.

Successful retailers find the great new items; thatís one reason why theyíre successful. If you walk the show and conclude thereís nothing new, then you havenít looked carefully enough.

Scrapbook retailers should also be wary: If they think all they need to do is visit the scrapbook and new exhibitor sections, they will miss lots of products with real profit potential for their stores. They need to walk the entire show for two reasons: 1. Many vendors who are in the other sections Ė craft, painting, needlework, etc. Ė are offering products for scrapbooks. 2. The embellishment trend in scrapbooking has now turned many traditional craft and sewing products into potential scrapbook products. So "craft" products that two years ago would not have been relevant for a scrapbook store now are very relevant.

In other words, donít listen to the complainers. There will be lots of potentially profitable new products for everyone. And lots of buyers for every vendor.

And always, wear comfortable shoes.

(Note: To read previous "Benny" columns, click on the titles in the right-hand column. To comment on trade show issues Ė or any industry issues, email Mike at mike@clnonline.com.)



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