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A Needlework Perspective of the CHA Winter Show

A new, fresh look at the industry's largest show.

by Cathe A. Ray (February 19, 2007)

(Note: Cathe is the proprietor of Needle In A Haystack, a needlework store in Alameda, CA. She first posted these comments on the Yahoo group, Designer Biz.)

I recently attended the CHA show in Anaheim, for a day. I did not go to buy but went primarily for the experience and to hear Martha Stewart speak, who was the keynote speaker. I had not been to a CHA show before and was looking for ideas, trends, displays, etc. I usually attend at least one gift show a year, and I think attending a show outside your core area occasionally is critical in helping you have a bigger vision than perhaps only going to one core show.

This is a very large show, approximately twice the size of our TNNA shows and with a very different market segment mix. I do not have actual show stats (although as a member now of CHA I probably can get them) but my feeling was that about 60%-70% of the show was dedicated to paper crafts.

This covered scrapbooking, card making, and anything else one can do with paper. It included not only the paper vendors but those making stickers, binder systems, storage systems, embellishments (e.g., sparkles and threads), and the high-tech end of it. HP, Epson, Brother and Adobe all had booths there.

Everyone in their booths was well versed on how to use their products for this market segment and had samples of what you could do with their products. Apparently paper crafts people are a pretty high-tech bunch (which I already knew from personal experience).

The buyers were considerably younger than the average age of the attendees at our needlework trade shows. I would hazard a guess that they were in the late 20's or early 30's and were a very energetic crowd. That's not the say there weren't older shoppers as well (myself included), but this was clearly a different buyer than we typically see. There were even a few moms with

babies shopping the show floor! It seemed that store owners brought at least one staff person, sometimes several, and they were having a very fun time at the show.

Booths were very professional, well stocked, well staffed, and an overwhelming number had either demos or make-it/take it events in their booths. Some were new uses for current product lines (new ways to use stickers, for example), but many were aimed at new product introductions.

There were lines in a lot of the booths for these make-it/take it events and the energy was palpable. These people were enthusiastic about what they were selling and about what they were buying. Booths not only were about displaying product but about the experience of the product.

Paper crafts in particular seem to be a very social craft and they were taking advantage of that with their booth displays and ideas for promotions in the stores. Staff in the booths were knowledgeable about all aspects of the products they were selling. ("Is this archival? What other products can I use it with?").

The booths were also set up to show buyers how they could effectively display the product in their stores. In the case of three vendors, their booths were replicas of a scrapbooking store. So you walked into the booth with a complete store set up, including the couch, and could see not only the products and samples of them being used, but how they could be displayed. The

booths were creative, colorful, and very inventive in most cases.

There was very little needlework at this show and the few vendors there primarily sold it in kit form. Their target market is generally the larger independents (e.g. Ben Franklin) or the chain stores. DMC had a large booth with many of their new products that we saw at TNNA, but they focused the booth a bit differently for this market. More about things other than their threads. Several other needlework vendors were there, but less than a dozen as far as I could tell, and this included yarn vendors. The other crafts appeared to be art supplies, a little bit of small wood working, trims and embellishments and those selling storage solutions for a variety of crafts.

The market is somewhat segmented, although with so much of it being paper crafts, that was hard to tell; they were everywhere. The non-paper vendors tended to be grouped together in small clumps away from the paper vendors.

While this could have been advantageous for some, those areas were definitely less populated. Given I was only there for a day, I couldn't tell if this was helpful or a hindrance to the vendors. There were a few similar type vendors mixed in the middle of the paper ones and they were definitely getting more traffic, although who knows if that translated into sales.

Basically I was impressed with the overall professionalism and energy at this show and I hadn't expected that when I went. Somehow I thought it would be more like a visit to my local craft chain, which isn't either of those things. I'm still musing over ways we could bring some of the great merchandising ideas and the whole "it's about selling the experience, not just the product" that I came away with from the show. That's going to take a lot more thought.

Martha Stewart's keynote was quite good (extremely well done A/V set up, since there had to have more than 2,000 in the audience). She talked about her and her staff's love of crafts and how this works its way into a lot of what they do at the magazine.

She did say there will be a new "Martha Stewart Craft" line in the spring and it will be interesting to see what buzz that generates for our portion of the industry. There were not specifics but my guess is it will include everything from paper crafts to hand embroidery. I enjoyed getting to hear her speak in part because whatever she does in her business means dollars follow. Hopefully some of them will follow to us.

(Note: To learn more about Cathe's store, visit www.needlestack.com. To read previous Scene & Heard reports, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)



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