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Your Business Commentary

Mike's often irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry.

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Evaluations of the CHA Show

Mostly positive, but....

By CLN Subscribers (February 20, 2006)

Great!

We had a GREAT CHA show. Excellent traffic, lot of orders, good contacts. It was very good for Spanish Memories, even though we were at an outer corner. – Omayra Ortiz, Spanish Memories

Not so great.

I have just read your newsletter, and as expected, what I read directly conflicts with my own experiences. While I have no doubt that many were happy, I was indeed not. I felt that the layout of the show was very poorly configured so that those of us in the art supply section had almost no traffic while the rest of the show had plenty, with the scrapbooking section getting most of it.

Apart from the first hour of the first day when all the people waiting in the registration area flooded into our section on the way to the general crafts section, we had very light traffic, to say the least. Anyone going from the scrapbooking to the general crafts sections or vice versa could simply by-pass our section, so any hope of any passing traffic was lost.

Only people interested in the art supply part of the show appeared to come by. The whole purpose of going to a trade show is to find new people, but when people don't happen by, the likelihood of that happening is very poor.

It is my view that the segmentation of the show, while convenient for buyers, is not good for the exhibitors, who, by the way pay for the privilege of being there. Any hope of much passing traffic as people move from one booth to another around the show is lost.

Additionally, I felt that the scrapbooking section's lighting and decor was so much brighter and more attractive; it was like walking into another world. Not only that, since it has become obvious that scrapbooking is where it is happening, many people who have little justification for being in the scrapbooking section are going there just to get the traffic.

I thought a negative opinion of the show might be valid for you. I would be interested to know if others in the art supply section would agree with me. – Name Withheld (Art Materials Exhibitor)

Best ever.

For Martin Universal Design and Martin/F.Weber this was the best show in 20 years, Not just the best CHA [HIA], THE BEST TRADE SHOW IN 20 YEARS. We are looking forward to NAMTA. My feeling is that the economy is cooking so buyers were there to find the new and exciting, and we must have had some. – Dennis R. Kapp, Martin Universal Design, Martin/F.Weber Co.

Tried and true.

We felt the show was good. Our take: while the rate of growth for scrapbooking and knitting are slowing slightly, retailers seemed to be returning to the "tried and true" general crafts. In addition, some of the more successful "scrapbook only" stores seemed to be adding some basic crafts to their mix, realizing that, in the long term, they won’t prosper on scrapbooking alone.

Also, the industry is like a balloon. You squeeze it on one end and it bulges on the other. A good sign that we have plenty of consumers out there, but that we’ve done a less than great job of inspiring and educating them. That spells Opportunity. – Jim Scatena, FloraCraft

"Reigning in".

Many of us buyers were in agreement that having the "new vendor" sections incorporated into each category section would have been much more convenient. For example, new scrapbooking vendors in the scrapbooking section, new craft vendors in the craft section, etc.

Other than that, I think it was a great show and it was nice to see that some of the larger vendors have "reigned in" the number of new items being introduced. – Cindy VanGilder, Notions Marketing

The view from Australia.

From our perspective as an international exhibitor, CHA Las Vegas was much the same as Atlanta results wise, although no one had the big walk between halls which I'm sure was a disadvantage to some of the exhibitors at the Atlanta show.

We had good response to our products; admittedly we only promote the scrapbooking lines at this show, but the booth make-it/take-its and workshop were well attended. Ask me again in a few weeks and I'll give you idea at how successful we were in closing those leads.

As far as floor traffic goes, the trend did appear different than last year with a general slowing on the last day. I feel this had more to do with the show starting on Monday rather than a Sunday than anything else.

We'll be exhibiting at CHA Summer; this is where we can see improvement needs to be made, which I'm sure CHA staff is more than capable of doing. – Mark Ripper, Helmar Australia Pty Ltd.

A shot in the arm.

The CHA show went very well for my clients and myself. In fact , my one client that was in the New Exhibitor section had me scheduled to make an appearance at 9:00 am on Monday and rescheduled me for 10:00 am thinking that there would be no traffic. (This due to the fact that during the October Vegas show there were no warm bodies in the New Exhibitor section for the first hour.)

Thank goodness I was on the floor because my client called right at 9:04 a.m. and asked me to come on over the buyers were waiting in line!

The energy was night and day compared to the October show. You could feel it in the air. People seemed to be much more positive and excited to be there. All of my stores were in attendance and spending.

My clients all had a great show and reported that new business opportunities were in abundance.

I did attend three classes: "Effective Marketing Strategies for the Art Licensing Business." This class was EXCELLENT! I returned with so much information. In fact, one of the students said to me, "You're in this class? I would of thought that you knew everything". This was not the case; I really learned a lot and was able to use the info immediately in my business.

"Creating the Right Strategy for Successful Internet Selling." OUCH! I was so excited to take this class, only to be so disappointed. The class was obviously over sold. People were sitting on the floor and when the chairs finally did arrive, the workers were so noisy it disrupted the class.

Unfortunately you could not hear or understand the speaker. What motivated me to take this class was the description. It included the top eight mistakes which I thought would be a mind-blowing, "Ah Ha" moment, but it was not. I did the unthinkable and left the class early. I have never done this and felt really bad, but I could not hear, understand, or even see what was going on, so I along with many others left the class early. I would love to know if it did get better.

"A Picture is Worth a Thousand Revenue Opportunities." Well this is where I learned that you cannot do it all. I had no idea how difficult it would be to work, walk, meet, maybe eat lunch, shake hands, give multiple hugs, etc., etc. – and take classes. Needless to say I did not make this one. I don't know how the stores do it.

I had the privilege of being with the Aleene's family at the CHA Theater event. We had a ton of fun! Aleene was in great spirits and funnier than ever! In addition, I was honored to present Aleene with the Outstanding Individual award given by Scrapbook Retailer magazine during the Imagination Celebration. I talked about relationships in this industry and how important they are. Aleene was and still is a master at this.

LuminArte's Twinkling H20's, Primary Elements and Radiant Pearls by far rocked the house! Their product line is unbelievable! They inspire me so much, all I want to do is play with their paints all day long. (They are not a client just a company that is truly delicious.)

Overall, the CHA show was the shot in the arm that I personally needed. I love this industry so much and was quite concerned after the last show as to where it was going. I do believe that there will be much change, but I know that we will all survive in one way or the other. – Julianna Hudgins, Julianna Productions

Fantastic sales, but ...

We were so swamped I never got to walk around myself! So, with that as a tip-off: our CHA sales experience was fantastic! We were very pleased with the turnout and only wished we had thought we would be as busy as we were. (We had to have more catalogs FedEx’d in twice!) All our new products were well received and everyone loved the new, updated Therm O Web booth. I wish there was a "preview" for manufacturers or something; I didn’t get to walk around, so I don’t know what new fun things are out there.

However, while our sales and leads were good, we did note that several things were either misrepresented or misprinted. There was little information about the Innovation awards (when presented, how awarded, who votes, who won, etc.) and our second company was not listed even though we paid extra for the additional listing. (They put Therm O Web down twice, instead of Therm O Web and MiMi.) Also, the Scrapbook Answers Crop was given the wrong location and time on the tickets. And the Scrapbook Retailer Imagination Celebration was pretty much non-existent in terms of exposure or recognition.

I still believe there are too many scrapbooking trade shows. This was our second time in Vegas in only three months! So, while we did well in sales, when you add in hotel expenses, flights, meals, freight, adverting, product handouts and donations, and booth space, we probably broke even. It’s just a shame that there is one big show and two mediocre shows. It’s a tremendous expense for the manufacturers, sales reps, and store owners! – Candace Harrington, Therm O Web

An electrical ripoff.

I and other exhibitors were surprised to see an extra fee of $165 added to our GES bill for "BOOTH INSPECTION, EXHIBITOR PERFORMED TSE ELECTRICAL WORK"

When I questioned the fee at the service desk, I was told that we were only allowed to plug in four small clip-on lights per booth as stated on page G-6 in the manual. As I had plugged in more than four lights in my 20x20 booth, I was charged the fee, which was thankfully cut in half after complaining.

I was told that no matter what size booth space was contracted, each was assigned one booth number so no matter if you had a 10x10 or 40x40, it was considered 1 booth.

In all my years of doing trade shows, I don't recall a union rip-off like this! Judy Swetish, Candamar Designs

An opinion without attending.

Unfortunately I could not attend this year’s show. Many people called me and gave me their opinions, which were just about what I figured they would be.

As usual scrapbooking was again the number one draw of companies, retailers, designers, etc. I like this area because it is so large and so creative that it draws the attention of the world and its consumers. Scrapbooking keeps growing with constant new ideas to stimulate the consumer’s interest.

The downside: scrapbooking is so big that the large chains only understand a portion of it. That's great for the small stores; all they have to do is do what the chains don’t do and they will be fine.

As the manufacturing competition in scrapbooking grows with thousands more vendors added yearly, the sales for the other companies will decrease. The other problem: as thousands of more scrapbooking stores are built, the sales will decrease. The largest challenge for scrapbookers is some day it will die. All crafts die sometime, only to be resurrected at a later time and date. Let’s hope and pray that it is in our lifetime.

As for the rest of the show, I hear it was quite slow. When you only have four or five chains buying, what do you expect? I feel jewelry is making a comeback, but the best way to sell this product is one bead at a time. Chains to not understand that. Yarn is selling great but that is like selling socks; it never dies. Wood is very slow. I am tired of looking at silk flowers and the same old Christmas merchandise.

I feel that basic crafts are steady. Michaels does the best job in keeping basic craft merchandise in stock, and I feel that is why they continue to do well. Some of Michaels subsidiaries may drag them down a point or two, but they will survive. It surely is not their creative minds. – Mike Dupey, Founder, Michaels

Best show ever, but ....

I wanted to let you know that Search Press had its best show ever. I thought it was because we had a make-it/take-it for the first time. Many people who did the make-it/take-it got up and ordered all our books on the topic, so that was a hit and I will definitely do it every year from now on.

However, I also heard it was a great show from everyone else I talked to, so maybe the added business from having the make-it/take-it was just a nice bonus.

Anyhow, I read the post-show issue of CLN and saw your comment about the folks at CHA having "hit their stride." I know you are on the board of CHA but I think you should know from an exhibitor's point of view, they definitely have a very long way to go and there is a LOT of frustration among the exhibitors with the association. So for what it's worth, I'll fill you in on a few "for instances":

1. In the two weeks before the show, it is almost impossible to reach a live person at the CHA office. I called and left numerous voice mails before the show, then resorted to emails and never did get a return call. Finally out of frustration I called Steve Berger on his cell phone and did get my problem resolved.

2. They need more fax lines. The week before the deadlines to fax in forms, one cannot get a fax to go through to their office. My machine re-dials over and over, but after so many failed attempts, it prints out a "busy" report page and I have to try faxing all over again. This year I got sidetracked, meaning to come back and try again, and it resulted in me missing a deadline for the Innovations display. Thankfully Steve made an exception and allowed my product in the display, but only after I had to go over another's head about the problem. (I should also mention that I am on the West Coast and am faxing late at night, so it's not like the whole country is trying to fax in forms at 3 am East Coast time.) I had this same problem last year.

3. Booth assignments. I had to call at least a half a dozen times to get my booth number and kept getting told that they were working on them and that I would be notified soon. At the 11th hour I called the office to get my booth number so I could put it in an ad that had a deadline of that day (and this was getting REALLY close to show time). I was given a "tentative" booth number and told that it might possibly change. I said that was unacceptable, I needed to get my show specials printed, and notify reps and customers of my booth number and it could not change.

Thankfully it didn't, but I could have been promoting the show and our location at it for weeks before then. In the past, as soon as I know my booth number I build an email signature advertising the show with our location in it.

4. I have been calling since two weeks before the show to get info about the mailing list. On my SIXTH call I finally got a return phone call about it and was told that the info would be emailed to me. I am STILL WAITING for it; our post-show mailing is sitting at our printer in Wisconsin while our show leads are getting cooler by the minute.

5. Show books: where do I start with this one. What were they thinking by telling exhibitors that they could only have ONE copy per company!!!! Each registered badge holder should get a copy and there should be extras. I did see the memos that were delivered to every booth during the show saying that any leftover copies could be picked up in the lobby, but that was after they created an angry mob at registration. Hopefully they will have plenty next year and not try to skimp on printing costs or whatever their motivation was. With what we exhibitors have to pay to exhibit we are entitled to the directories.

6. Move in: The registration desks closed at 5 on move-in days, but exhibitors were notified that they could set up until 8. So there were dozens of people at the doors taking out their frustration on the poor security guards who were just doing their job by not allowing anyone into the hall without a badge. The badge pick-up desk should have been staffed until 8 if people could set up until 8.

We carried three very heavy boxes of catalogs from the Hilton, then had to go through a huge hassle just to get someone to let us take them in and leave them in our booth so I didn't have to take them back to the hotel. And I have to mention, I was the only one that was being polite to the security guards because it was not their fault (and my Nana always told me you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar), so they finally did escort me to the booth, but I had to leave immediately after dropping the boxes off, when I really wanted to get my back walls set up that evening.

7. Express Check in kiosks – a really good idea but it needs to be fine-tuned a bit. The document with the bar code apparently is only emailed to the main contact so not all registered attendees have the bar code to scan. I saw that a lot of the "main contact" people pick up badges for everyone in their company, so when other employees showed up to get their badges, they were shown as already printed, which resulted in more chaos at the registration area. People were trying to reach their co-workers on cell phones to try to rendezvous to pick up their badges, but they were often in meetings, out to dinner, no cell signal, etc., so it was very complicated and didn't have to be.

I did not personally do a workshop but heard from a couple of friends that did that it was a nightmare and resulted in a lot of angry retailers, instructors in tears, and just general stress. This is ALL secondhand but apparently the workshop numbers were changed and the teachers (who often are not the main show contacts) were not notified, the supplies were missing or mis-labeled, and things just generally did not go well with the classes. Again, I have to mention that this part is all secondhand so if you want details, please contact some of the workshop teachers.

I have given workshops in the past and do know how stressful it can be trying to locate a missing box of supplies in the sea of boxes in the storage room. When you have an angry mob wanting to learn a craft and the necessary supplies can't be found and the clock is ticking before the next workshop starts, things can get really ugly!

In my opinion, the staff at CHA has a way to go before they hit their stride. – Susan Kocsis, Search Press

Upbeat and positive.

The industry seems to be picking up with an upbeat and positive attitude. Visit our Top Trends Report at www.d-originals.com/buzzletters/CHA2006/toptrendsk.html. (Comment: the site cites Beading, Home Decor, Clear Stamps, Clay, Ribbon, Tim Holtz, and Flowers.) – Kristy McNeill-Krouse, Design Originals

Looking to buy.

I walked the CHA show with three new buyers/investors and three existing buyers. These buyers were reviewing several platform companies and dozens of add-on opportunities. With any luck I will be able to send several more acquisition announcements to you before the summer show. – Name Withheld, Mergers & Acquisitions firm.

Fun and energetic.

I spent most of my time working in what I call "Paper World" or "Scrapbook land." It was a fun and energetic place to be: lots of things happening and lots of traffic. As scrapbooking has reached its peak, it is now all about packaging! One company, Queen & Co., has captured this wonderfully. The containers for their brads and buckles are cosmetic containers such as nail polish bottles and eye shadow pots. Bravo! Very cute and Creative! – Deb Spofford, Deborah Spofford Designs

Overheard conversations.

Here are some conversations that I, a disgruntled vendor, overhead at the show:

1. "I used to be afraid of competition stealing product innovations at the shows. I was happy to see I have outlasted my competition, but now I'm afraid of my buyers!"

2. Buyer: "What's new in the line this year?"
Vendor: "We don't bring new stuff to the show for fear of being knocked off."
Buyer: "So, why are you here?"
Vendor: "So you don't think I went out of business."
Buyer : "When will we see the new stuff?"
Vendor: "After the lawyers finish the paperwork"

3. "My buyer just asked for samples of the new line, but I think I'll wait till they return from China to send them."

4. "What else do you have new? I'm headed to China next week....(silence)...oops."

5. "No, we don't buy this from you guys; we outsourced all this to China last trip over. So how is business?" – Name Withheld, U.S. Manufacturer

Traffic was up?!?

I thought I should share some of my feelings about this particular show and even the CHA decisions that affected the show. I plan to send most of these comments to CHA directly as well.

I actually heard many complaints, mainly from vendors (textile and general crafts). Your numbers show that traffic was up, but empty aisles indicated otherwise. Traffic at our end was much slower than Atlanta. By Wednesday, there were very few buyers floating the show. We had advance appointments and saw those buyers we needed to see. Based on that, it was not an unsuccessful show. But overall, traffic was sparse.

I thought that this year's show had more aggravations than positive improvements. Many were Las Vegas related – long lines for coffee, long lines for cabs, long walks to and from the Monorail, and long walks through the casinos to rooms. Goes with the territory, I guess. But I feel CHA needs to take some responsibility for much of the following:

Within the confines of the show floor, more conveniences for the show attendees would be helpful. Coffee vendors and snack vendors with actual seating areas would be nice. There was a typical 40-minute wait to buy coffee at Starbucks!

The spread out floor plan only added to the exhaustion. Wide-wide aisles and empty and unused carpeted booth areas offer unbroken vistas, but is that what we need? Empty space equates to not enough people to fill the space (even if it not true, it appears this way) and lowers the energy of the show. Pretty, but pretty quiet. More people, more buzz, and more buying – that's what we needed. A tighter layout adds to that. This show felt very disconnected. The scrapbook area felt tighter – perhaps because it had more people? Or were aisles actually closer together?

Contributing to this were the many mini-aisles. These are created, I'm told, to offer aisle access to small booths (who pay more for the privilege). In truth, they receive little additional exposure and just contribute to the disconnected feeling of the show. These added aisles just add to the confusion when trying to navigate a show. They brake up the flow of the show, increasing floor space and adding to the hike of walking the show. Several times while walking the show floor, I suddenly realized that I was in an aisle I had already walked, because I had taken a turn at one of the smaller aisles (causing me to miss entire areas, and wasting valuable time).

Missing booths were aided and abetted by the lack of show books. CHA apologized later in the show, but this incensed many vendors. We had the equivalent of 17 ten-foot booths. One show book? I don't think so.

Lanyards advertising for specific vendors may have made CHA some money, but why should one vendor be required to advertise for another? This is a great idea for buyers, but give the vendors an option to wear a plain lanyard and not be required to wear advertising for their competition. (Turning them over to the plain side was an unsatisfying option.) Competition is great, but I don't have to wear it around my neck.

My final aggravation was the distance between the scrapbook area and the main show. We are one industry, not two. I thought the traffic was way down on the main show floor, while traffic was brisk in scrapbooking. Predictable, and somewhat acceptable, by trend standards. But by dividing the sections so thoroughly, we were robbed of the benefit of many of those buyers. Did they all make it into the main hall? I doubt it. Some did, I'm sure – but more would have, if access was easier. Even the new scrapbooking exhibitors suffered from lack of exposure to these scrapbook buyers.

Your newsletter suggested that scrapbook stores wanted to broaden their horizons. Add a mix of related product. Great! We need that. Make it easy for them! Tighten up the show floor, fill the curtained-off space with actual booths rather than moving booths to another hall, have less superfluous aisles, and more show books to guide them. Sectioning off categories makes sense, but putting the most active category in a different hall does not.

Gift and stationery shows seem to be laid out in a tighter more efficient floor plan than CHA. All shows are exhausting to walk. And a large industry increases the exhaustion. Before someone looks at our show floor and has the brilliant idea to split us into two shows completely, lets tighten up the show floor. An exhausted buyer is not a happy buyer.

I have been doing HIA/CHA shows for 30 years, and I believe this one was my least favorite. And, discussions during the show with other vendors suggest that my opinion was shared by others. Shows are many things to many people – among them, a place to display your products, to connect with buyers, and place to reconnect socially with industry friends. This was the most disconnected show I can remember attending.

I look forward to Anaheim, where many of the Vegas related problems will automatically disappear. I hope CHA looks at some of these other issues and makes changes to benefit the entire industry. – Name Withheld (Large Manufacturer)

Looked tired.

This is probably something you will NOT hear from someone else. I had the opportunity to also walk the Surfaces show in Las Vegas held concurrently with CHA. While the CHA show was large, it was dwarfed by the Surfaces show. Comparing a sense of gross dollars alone it would be even worse. In terms of attendance I would guess just from the one day I walked it, the Surfaces show probably had well over 100,000 attendees. You could not navigate the aisles, especially downstairs, because they were so crowded. In comparing the two shows CHA looked very tired. – Name Withheld, Industry Manufacturer

Quite upbeat.

I actually had quite a good show. I thought the atmosphere was quite upbeat in contrast to both CHA shows last year and MemoryTrends. I exceeded my sales goal by a bit. The one thing I was a little disappointed by was the fact that most of my orders were from existing customers. I did not get too many orders from new customers. Of course that will still play out over the coming months, so we'll see.

I heard mostly good things from my exhibitor friends. The one thing that seemed to be an across-the-board complaint from both attendees and vendors was the placement of the new exhibitors. CHA certainly didn't do those poor people any favors. I have a couple of friends over there and they were very unhappy and justifiably so. – Mitra Friant, Impression Obsession

(Note: Any comments you'd like to add. Email them to mike@clnonline.com. To read previous Business-Wise articles, click on the titles in the right-hand column.)

xxx

 

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THE DECADE'S MAJOR INFLUENCES, PT. I: SCRAPBOOKING; History, analysis of today, and the future.

CHA RESPONDS TO THE SMART GROUP; CEO Steve Berger on scrapbooking, PMA, and the winter trade shows.

A CODE OF ETHICS FOR OUR INDUSTRY; For retailers, manufacturers - and the rest of us.

PROVO RESPONDS AGAIN TO CHARGES; The Salt Lake Tribune's article is "irresponsible."

PREDICTIONS FOR THE NEW YEAR; The industry, television, yarn, and more.

PREDICTIONS FOR 2007; From manufacturers, a retailer, a distributor, and a sales rep.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN YOU SHAFT INDEPENDENTS; A common, sad story.

THE NEW CRAFT CONSUMER; Where is she? All around us.

SO, WHOM SHOULD WE HAVE ROOTED FOR? Who would be better -- or worse -- for Michaels, Bain or KKR?

WHY TRENDS EVENTUALLY COOL; Yarn sales may have slowed, but that can be true for any trend. Here's why.

CHEAPER TO BUY CLOTHES THAN CLOTH; Imports and "Pile it high and price it low."

ANSWERS TO INDUSTRY QUESTIONS; Blunt, honest answers to questions posed by CLN.

THE MICHAEL ROULEAU ERA; Industry veterans and Wall-Street analysts evaluate Michaels retiring CEO and the board's decision to seek potential buyers.

EVALUATIONS OF THE CHA SHOW; Mostly positive but...

CHALLENGES: YOUNG CONSUMERS, MICHAELS FUTURE, NEW CEOs, MERCHANDISING ... Pricing, and much much more.

CHALLENGES: SCRAPBOOKING, BEADS, YARN, HOME DEC, & DECORATIVE PAINTING / CROSS STITCH; Savvy veterans comment on CLN's industry challenges.

TRADE SHOWS & MEMBER BENEFITS; The discussion continues.

TOO MANY TRADE SHOWS? Stop complaining, make hard choices, and try something new?

TOUGH TRADE SHOW QUESTIONS; Why not cooperation instead of competition?

THE STATE OF OUR INDUSTRY; Some positive analyses, some negative, and lots of questions.

WHAT'S HAPPENING OUT THERE? Some grim answers, and gas prices is only one of the culprits.

BARBARA BECOMES AN ENTHUSIAST, FINALLY; A first-hand view of a consumer getting hooked on a category.

RWANDAN WIDOWS EARN LIVELIHOOD WITH AMERICAN KNITTING MACHINES; $99,000 USAID grant provides livelihood for women in Rwanda.

THE CANVAS "DUMPING" ISSUE: ANOTHER VIEW: What is dumping? And is it necessarily bad?

WHAT TYPE OF BUYER/INVESTOR IS BEST FOR ME? Three types, each with their own pros and cons.

REACTIONS TO THE DECLINE OF THE "SMILING BUNNY SYNDROME"; But what will replace it?

ARE WE LOSING OUR CORE? YES AND NO; Readers respond to an intriquing question.

ARE WE LOSING OUR CORE? Is the industry abandoning many of the categories un the "craft" umbrella?

INTERVIEW WITH HSA'S JOYCE PERHAC; New programs and new trade shows.

CONSISTENCY VS. CREATIVITY; One of our chains just made a major goof.

THE BIG NEWS STORIES OF 2004: Some good, some bad, all of them interesting.

SO, IS THE GLASS HALF EMPTY? Conflicting, but thought-provoking analyses.

A CUSTOMER'S NIGHTMARE; Don't store clerks know anything about products?

WHY A KIOSK MAKES SENSE FOR YOUR; Why force your customers to visit your competition?

THE FUTURE FOR INDEPENDENT SCRAPBOOK RETAILERS; Is the deck stacked against them?

THOUGHTS ON FREE TRADE; It's not nearly as simple or as clear cut as either side believes.

WHAT MAKES A PRODUCT SUCCESSFUL? The hits have certain qualities in common, no matter what the category.

HOT TRENDS AND TRADE SHOWS; A hot category tends to take over a trade show, but not to savvy retailers.

WHY I DID NOT GO INTO RETAIL; The odds were too high.

WHY KATELYN CAN'T SWALLOW; Who pays -- and at what price?

RISING HEALTH COSTS, FEWER JOBS; The problems compound each other.

DEBATE: SHOULD WE JUNK "CRAFTS"?; What's a better word to describe what we are?

GAY MARRIAGES, CRAFT DESIGNERS, AND RETAIL PRICES; The meaning of words.

VENDORS DISCUSS HOBBY LOBBY'S SUCCESS; So many reasons for so much success.

HIA: A MARKETING / DESIGN PERSPECTIVE; Standing out in a crowd becomes a real challenge.

WHAT HASN'T CHANGED IN 25 YEARS; Plus some random thoughts on this wonderful business.

2003 IN REVIEW; As usual, lots of ups and downs.

THE CHANGING (DISAPPEARING?) CORE OF THE INDUSTRY; Bob Ferguson  and Mike Hartnett discuss the year's major issue.

LEAVING "CRAFTS" FOR SPECIALTY STORES; A tale of survival and a sign of the times.

THOUGHTS ON THE CHANGING NATURE OF CRAFTS; Vendors, retailers, reps, and designers share their views.

CRAFTS BECOMES PAPER CRAFTS; That's a sign of ... what?

SOMETHING ACHIEVED, SOMETHING LOST; The end of a hard, but wonderful era.

UNBLOCKING WRITERS BLOCK; How to get those creative juices flowing again.

PERSONAL THOUGHTS ON ACCI/HIA; Why bother combining associations?

THE LATEST ON ACCI/HIA; Further clarification of the ACCI/HIA unification effort.

HIA AND ACCI AGREE TO LETTER OF INTENT THAT WILL UNIFY ASSOCIATIONS; Combined organization to be named the Craft & Hobby Association.

HIA/ACCI: Q & A

ADAPTING TO CHANGE; Why some industry businesses fail.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR; You just might get it.

ARE WE STIFLING CREATIVITY?; How we're driving the industry's creative people out of business.