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Reports on shows, trends, and more

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The 2005 Bead&Button Show

Reactions to the CLN report.

by Deb Murphy, Kim Clabots, and Linda Augsburg (July 4, 2005)

(Note: Editor Mike Hartnett attended his first consumer bead show and reported his thoughts in the 7/4/05 edition of CLN. Because it was his first bead show, he sent the article to some industry veterans who know far more about the subject. Here are some reactions.)

Consultant Deb Murphy, Deborah M Inc.

(Note: Deb is one of the industry's best trend watchers and product developers.)

I totally agree that this is a robust industry that pays no attention to the craft industry and reflects very little of what is happening in typical chains. If there is a cross-over look, it's "altered." The price points are very high compared to crafts, and the "market basket" totals of typical consumer purchases are in the hundreds of dollars (thousands, too).

The whole industry relies on classes and "kits" mostly instructions/patterns, often black and white, for $10-$150. It's rather like cross-stitch, decorative painting, and quilting in regard to independent stores.

Imports do not threaten hand-blown or lamp-worked beads in this ARTISAN environment; consumers buy both, in a high/low pattern ("Trading Up"). My observations are:

1. Hand-blown and lamp-worked glass have been ascendent for years and now are dominating the show. Etched is a favored new treatment that renders a lovely milky finish and makes dichroic look mysterious.

2. Lots of amphoras as shapes and vessels.

3. Fibers are emerging, especially hand-dyed silk and silk "tubes" (piping).

4. There was a little felting.

5. Lots of charms, coins, and metal pieces.

6. More large holed beads as single centerpieces especially hand blown beads.

7. Ethnic, "world," and indigenous beads, supplies, and finished items, often with the "Fair Trade" label.

8. Ceramics continue to emerge.

9. Knots are playing a bigger role (at the stationery show, too).

10. Shells, bone, horn, polymer clay, metal clay and wood.

11. Basket weaving and pin weaving (dominant at stationery and gift shows for two years).

12. One-hole buttons (sequin style).

Loved all the display trays that featured black beans, rice, and salts as cradles for singular pieces.

I am so intrigued with the bead, knitting, and quilting markets: busy; energetic; very creative; very much about ARTISANSHIP; high price points; reliance on shops, teachers, and conferences (cruises too!); and seemingly invulnerable to direct import because of the recognized value of locally made, hand made, and one of a kind.

And they all provide cross-over influences into crafts (and stationery) while not reflecting a need for or interest in cross-over influences flowing the other way (very little that is "crafty").

Scrapbooking shares characteristics with beads, quilting, and knitting when commercialized and assorted for mass distribution without the benefit of education. Scrapbooking seems different because it requires very little instruction and is commodity-based versus instruction-based.

(Comment: Deb can be reached at dmurphy3388@earthlink.net.)

Retailer Kim Clabot.

(Note: Kim opened her store, The Artsy Crafter, in Green Bay less than a year ago. She is the retailer referred to in the original CLN article who bought her opening bead inventory at the 2004 show.)

1. "Everyone in the industry should attend a consumer show...."

Most definitely, there was a real buzz at the show. I was in a class with an ex-pat living in Saudi. She comes home every year for the show. Now that is love!

2. "The size! Attendance: 16,268 consumers ..."

The Bead & Button show is the largest consumer show in the US.

3. "There appears to be an entire bead industry out there that has little to do with the traditional 'craft' industry...."

There might be some vendors who exhibit in "craft" shows, but art shows are more likely for some.

4. "Many of the exhibitors were truly glass artisans...."

The skill level is way up from last year!

5. "Many exhibitors were selling higher-end beads than can be found in chain stores."

From what I have found, the higher-end beads will be nowhere near the chain stores. The Wal-Marts and Michaels of the world don't have the clientele that are looking at the high-end stuff. Boutiques and independent bead stores will have them.

6. "Many of the attendees were making money by selling their creations...."

True, so true. Five minutes for a pair of earrings that can sell for $20. Not a bad return for the time invested.

7. "Most exhibitors offered substantial discounts for retailers and those with tax numbers ...."

Keystone does not really exist as a standard in the bead world. Some vendors did not offer wholesale at all, while some did better than 70% off retail.

8. "It appeared that some of the exhibitors would not be capable of selling/servicing larger chain stores, so independent stores who want to offer beads that won't be found in Michaels or Wal-Mart (or at our trade shows) might very well think of attending next year.

Very wise move. There is much to be learned!

Editor Linda Augsburg.

The positive feedback from exhibitors was enormous. Many of them mentioned to me that they were 15 to 20% above last year's sales! We have received numerous emails this morning letting us know we are the best and largest consumer bead show in the world.

I disagree with the statement about the industry relying on kits; many shops don't actually sell any kits, as they encourage the "make an original, make it your own" concept and discourage the "make one exactly like the picture" approach.

However, the show floor might have been slightly mis-representative in this regard, because many of the teachers who also have booths sell their class kits for those people who couldn't get into the classes or wanted to make several more of what they learned in class.

I think you also see more kits at the show than in shops because, for the seed-bead stitchers, kits are more like cross stitch (10 different colors of seed beads for gentle shading) and bringing that kind of bead selection to the show can be difficult.

(Note: Linda is Editor of Bead Style magazine, www.beadstylemag.com, published by Kalmbach Publishing.

A Jewelry-maker.

I attended the show and heard that many of the popular vendors made their expenses in the first day; the rest was "gravy."

Many attendees purchase at wholesale in order to resell, or to make money by selling creations. Other than providing a tax number, there is not much in the way of regulation.

It may be a nitpick, but I think that beads follow paper crafts as the #1 crossover category. Many memory crafters have moved to paper crafting, cardmaking, etc.

Another trend I noticed was the growing number of "copycat" bead artists. These lampworkers have nearly exactly duplicated longtime lampwork artists who have been publishing or teaching in the beading community. I saw at least 12 examples of this. Name Withheld

A Final Comment.

"What did I tell you about the beads, specifically the lampworking and art focal beads? What you saw at the bead show is only the beginning! The "beadies" are a huge buying force. There are definitely some products/embellishments/findings that need to be introduced to craft market." Jean Kievlan, Kievlan-McGuffee Designs

(Note: To read previous Scene & Heard reports, click on the headlines in the right-hand column. To comment, email CLN at mike@clnonline.com.)



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