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CHA Summer Trade & Consumer Shows

A big success, and then an even bigger one.

by Maria Nerius (August 17, 2009)

CHA Summer 2009

I always enter the trade show floor believing that it will be the best show I've ever attended, and I was not disappointed with the CHA Summer show. Yes, there were fewer exhibitors and attendance may have been down, but the exhibitors who did attend came with a positive attitude and were there to do business. I love CHA Winter, but the smaller summer show gives everyone time to talk, network, catch-up, and solve a few world problems.

This is the first year I attended a few of the pre-show presentations by some of the CHA exhibitors. Creative Imaginations and Provo outdid themselves with excellent displays of their new products and lines. It was like attending the "cool" people's party and the retailers seemed very, very pleased. I appreciated the invite by these companies and as a member of the press, I soaked up the positive reactions and comments from the retailers. Yes, the economy was having an effect on their businesses, but they still wanted to bring the best of the best home to their customers. I hope more companies invite the press to attend these retailer events. It's important for us to be able to interact with the retailers on this level.

Although many feel this is a scrapbook/paper show, there were many companies representing the craft side of our industry. Bravo to Clover for demonstrating one great new product (a tool to make flowers) and demonstrating a new twist to two older products (hand-felting tools to make a dynamic silk and wool scarf; the rose-making tool with an elegant wedding twist). Tandy Leather had a fantastic display and really wowed at the consumer show (more about that later). Kandi Corp. showed off their wax technique with demonstrators Suze Weinberg and Lea Cioci. I overheard many attendees commenting they would have liked to see more craft exhibitors at the show.

And there were paper crafts! Many companies are showing they are more than just scrapbooking and have embraced techniques of cardmaking, home décor, keepsakes, and party accessories. One of the biggest observations I made is that cutting machines are hot. Consumers are investing hundreds to purchase machines, the dies, the embossing plates, and many more accessories. This sells more paper and embellishments. It's not just the scrapbooking consumer who is purchasing these products. Teachers, moms, scouting groups, cardmakers, and general crafters are crazy about these supplies. We need more inspiration and to get projects and ideas to our consumer. Companies like Sizzix, Provo, Making Memories, and Craftwell are showing the retailer tons of ways to make these machines versatile. Let's make sure that creativity is passed down to the consumer.

But if you only had one reason to go to the CHA Summer show, it would have been to attend The Future of Crafts celebrity panel, which was made up of four creatively unique women, all of whom had a body of knowledge that no one can match. The panel was Carol Duvall, Donna Dewberry, Kathy Cano-Murillo, and Vickie Howell. Terri-O moderated, but really should have been on the panel! The insight shared during this presentation was invaluable to all sections of our industry. Even more amazing was the fact that in the audience were some of our industry's shining stars like Julie Stepanie, Pattie Donham Wilkinson and Mike Hartnett. If you wanted to spend some quality time networking with people who have incredible insight of our industry, this was the event!

This event was poorly attended and I know there is always so much going on during a trade show, but I noticed that almost everyone in the audience was a craft designer. Just proves that designers are pretty smart!

The panel was asked, "What's biggest change you've seen in the industry?" Some remarked it was the availability to reach consumers through technology, while Carol Duvall noted that the incredible variety of craft supplies and tools was a dramatic change from her first craft efforts with milk cartons and paint. Donna Dewberry shared that she knew who her consumers were, women 35-55 who had money to spend, and she was putting her full focus on these women. Interesting, I've always felt that this group is grossly overlooked by our industry who is currently giving most of their attention to the youth and indie market. Neither group really has money to spend (they do have enthusiasm, energy, and curiosity, which is priceless). Donna also noted that she had to hustle a little more in this economy and she was willing to do it by offering to teach the consumer and continue to educate her teachers on how to continue to earn income through these tough times.

The overall feeling I got was that for most, this show was a success. Designers had a brilliant showcase. Manufacturers got to spend time with qualified buyers. The retailers got the attention they deserve. And CHA pulled off a great show.

Craft Supershow!

Wow! Amazing! Exciting! Absolutely Brilliant! Words can't even describe how electrifying this show was! The CHA Craft Supershow for the consumer was the best thing I've been a part of in all my years in this industry. Many of us volunteered when CHA put out the call on the trade show floor for anyone willing to help during the Supershow. I am so glad I volunteered! The crowds were almost overwhelming. The people were there to craft! As I watched hundreds of consumers line up waiting for the doors to open, I knew without a doubt that these consumers were hungry for anything crafty.

There is one thing that really made me proud to be a CHA member. CHA was quick to make any changes that needed to be done to make the consumer happy at the Supershow. There were situations that arose that just don't happen at trade shows and the CHA staff could not have been any quicker making those small changes, like adding an additional Will Call line upstairs. Board members, designers, and even members of the craft industry press were all there helping to make this a great event.

There were women, whom we see as our traditional audience, but there were also children, teenagers, young mothers, and men! All were lining up for make-it/take-its. They were watching the demonstrations and cheerfully accepting some generous free giveaways from our manufacturers. And they were buying! There were several exhibitors who were set up to sell a vast variety of craft supplies, from paper to jewelry findings to cutting machines to ribbon. And the crowds wanted more!

Three cheers to all the CHA staff and all those who worked so hard to create the Supershow. It had to be a risk, and I'm so glad CHA took it. Sign me up as a volunteer in 2010! I was so energized by all those hungry consumers that when I went home I got out my rubber stamps, I got out my felting supplies, and I unpacked all the wonderful goodies I purchased at the Supershow and I sat down to craft!

Overheard At The Supershow

"This is our future. If we want more crafting shows like this, we must support the shows. I'm coming both days." – Happy senior citizen

"We ran out of product to sell by the second morning, but we do have enough to continue our make-it/take-it today." – Retailer

"I thought I'd see more crafts on the floor. I'd wanted to see more wood, ceramic, and maybe even mosaics. Maybe next year." – Patient gentleman with a credit card

"Let's go to the kid zone." – Six–year-old pulling her older brother along

"They need to make the aisles a little wider. There are a lot of people in here and I can't get to the Micheal's make-it/take-it." A busy grandmother who brought three grandchildren

"Look at all those beautiful quilts. I have a quilt in my head and I need to make it." – Lady In A Crafty Wheelchair.

(Note: Maria is currently working with FaveCrafts.com as an editorial consultant, the DRG Network as the editor of the Creative Woman Newsletter, and with Tiffany Windsor's Inspired At Home Network as the Craft Concierge. She has been actively working in the industry as a craft designer, consumer educator, consultant, writer, author, and on-air talent for the past 25 years. Her email is Mnerius@cfl.rr.com.)



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