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Challenges, problems, and triumphs -- from a manufacturer's perspective.

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Do Trade Shows Reflect the State of the Industry?

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 shows.

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 "perfect"?

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 somebody."

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 framing vendors?

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 cooking spices.

To comment on any or all of "Vinny's" questions, email your thoughts on or off the record to mike@clnonline.com. To read previous columns by industry vendors, click on the titles in the right-hand column.



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Vinny's Recent Columns...
ADVICE ON EXPORTING TO THE UK AND EUROPE; An interview with the former CEO of HobbyCraft.

THE HISTORY OF WALNUT HOLLOW; One of the genuine pioneers of the modern craft industry.

HOW MICHIGAN SCRAPBOOKER WAS LAUNCHED; Substantial growth in 3+ years.

THE HISTORY OF PLAID ENTERPRISES, INC.; It's come a long way in 36 years.

"FLASH" SALES COME TO THE INDUSTRY; Q. & A. about the newest way to introduce new products or dispose of overstocks.

SITTING ON A BULLS EYE; What to do if competitors want your market share, or customers want to cut costs.


FIVE COMMON AFFLICTIONS OF SALES TEAMS; The result: Bad morale and lower sales.

BEYOND MARKET MULTIPLES: INCREASING THE VALUE OF YOUR COMPANY BEFORE THE SALE; How to create a company with greater appeal to buyers.

CHA SHOW NEW PRODUCT REPORT; Hundreds (thousands?) of products, many from new exhibitors.

THE SOLUTION TO MEXICAN DRUG CARTELS; A sure fire way to inspire them to quilt.

ATTRACTING YOUNGER CUSTOMERS; Yes, we aren't our mothers' knitters.

NEW PRODUCTS TO BE UNVEILED AT THE CHAS SHOW; Two parts: new exhibitors and veterans.

WHAT SCRAPPERS ARE SAYING ABOUT MANUFACTURERS AND PUBLISHERS; Scrapbook Updates' readers analyze the problems.

ANALYZING THE CHA ATTITUDE & USAGE STUDY; The rationale and the science behind the number.

REST IN PEACE: JEAN HOWARD BARR; JHB International's Founder and CEO.

POSITIVE NEWS ABOUT THE INDUSTRY; What they want/need from the industry.

COMMENTS FROM INDIE CRAFTERS; What they want/need from the industry.

UNDERSTANDING INDIE CRAFTERS (BY AN INDIE CRAFTER); What they want, what they buy, and how to reach them.

CHA EVENTS FOR MANUFACTURERS; How to get more out of a trade show besides selling your products.

CREATIVE INDUSTRY TURNS TO EDUCATION TO BEAT RECESSION; Simple solutions for vendors and retailers to create online video classes.

WHAT HAPPENED TO CREATIVE MEMORIES? Not adjusting to the times.


HOW A VENDOR SCAMMED A SCAMMER; A sharp eye, a sense of humor - and be wary.

HOW A SMALL VENDOR WAS ALMOST SCAMMED; A savvy, suspicious mind averted a serious financial loss.

COMPANY FOR SALE; The owner is retiring.

EXHIBITORS: YOU'RE WASTING YOUR MONEY! Check your customer list before pre-show mailings.

PLAID CONSERVES TO PRESERVE; Simple changes can mean big savings.

SUGGESTIONS FOR THE CHA SHOW; How to attract more buyers and exhibitors.

CHANGES AT A.C. MOORE; They may not be what they seem.

THE TERRI O SHOW IS COMING; Building industry sales by empowering consumers' creativity.


BOTTLES OF HOPE; A polymer clay grassroots movement.

SEWING SMILES FOR KIDS; Pillowcases and quilts for kids in hospitals.

HELPING THE WORLD IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE; Mrs. Grossman's, C&T Publishing, and Tara Materials.

HELP PEOPLE -- AND THE WORLD; How one company contributes to charities and to Mother Nature.

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS AND HELPING THE WORLD; Plaid employees' long list of charitable activities.

A SAVVY WAY TO INTRODUCE A NEW LINE; Put it in the hands of consumers and teachers.

CHA AND PMA: SHOULD IT BE EITHER/OR? Why not take the best of both worlds?


RESPONSES TO CLN'S CODE OF ETHICS...from chain store execs, vendors, and reps.

PROVO RESPONDS TO CRICUT CRITICS; Unexpected demand caused problems.

ADVICE TO VENDORS; Common sense, please!

HOW TO HAVE A GREAT TRADE SHOW; It takes more than great products.

KEY CHALLENGES/OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE CRAFT INDUSTRY IN 2006; Office supply, private label, and direct import.

IS MIKE DUPEY RIGHT? The industry's retail pioneer's criticism of chain stores elicits strong reactions.

RETAILERS: CREATE A "PLACE," NOT A STORE; Customers return if they feel a sense of community.

"HOW AND WHY WE CHANGED OUR BUSINESS"; Sometimes necessity forces gutsy businesses into new, scary areas.

WHY INDEPENDENTS ARE DECLINING AND THE INDUSTRY IS SOFT; We can't improve the situation until we understand the causes.

HOW TO MAKE THE SCRAPBOOK PIE LARGER; "Keep it simple and non-threatening."

INDEPENDENTS: SUPPORT VENDORS WHO SUPPORT YOU; "Support goes both ways. It is a relationship of trust and consistency."

WHAT MAKES A GREAT SALES REP? Colleagues and customers remember the late Bob Watikins.

TRADE SHOW PRESS POINTERS; Maximize your publicity for a minimal cost.

HOW CAN A SCRAPBOOK START-UP SUCCEED? The answer may be a "Group" away.

DO TRADE SHOWS REFLECT THE STATE OF THE INDUSTRY? If we're like other industries, trade shows may be in trouble.


THE STATE OF THE FLORAL MARKET; A blunt interview with Aldik's Larry Gold.

YOU WANT JUNK? YOU GOT IT; Pricing pressures are ruining good categories.

PLANNING THE PERFECT TRADE SHOW; Ten tips for CHA Winter Show exhibitors.

MORE VENDORS RESPOND...; A dialog between vendors and a savvy but unhappy independent.

VENDORS RESPOND TO INDEPENDENT'S PLIGHT; Why vendors have minimums and what retailers can do about it.

RETAIL, E-TAIL, AND "UNFAIR COMPETITION"; Expensive advertising, false promises, and little education.

THE TRIALS OF A SMALL COMPANY, PT. II; Expensive advertising, false promises, and little education.

THE TRIALS OF A SMALL COMPANY; Talent, drive, and product -- but no money.


THE THREE L's: YOU CAN'T SELL WITHOUT THEM; How to look, listen, and learn.

IT WASN'T ALWAYS THIS WAY...; but why does that matter?

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO STRAWBERRY?; Does every new product have to be cheap?