What's new in various product categories; monthly
TNNA/INRG Show Report
Most -- but not all -- were pleased.
compiled by Mike Hartnett (June
Crossing lines – and an analysis.
In the past, I have attended this show in a number of capacities
– designer, consultant to shopowners, and as a buyer for client
This time, Wandering Wolf Design attended as a first time
exhibitor, so our expectations (if not our dreams) may have been
different from veterans of past TNNA or INRG summer markets. We
crossed some lines; we brought products not usually seen, such as
quilting and fulled wool/penny rugs. We did not publicize quite
enough that we would have a new line of Russian Punch needle tools
and patterns (which may be why we are the only company able to make
immediate delivery), but we were still among those who went home
tired but pleased with our sales.
Given the task, TNNA, INRG, and Offinger Management are to be
commended for how well it all went. Period, end of sentence. I have
done consumer and trade events in a dozen industries in every major
city in the country. (For all those complaining about the expense,
please join me at New York's Javits Center; never again will you
complain about TNNA.) Was it perfect? Of course not. Do I have ideas
on how it could be better? Will the sun rise in the east?
But all that said, without exception, none were better to work
with than this group.
One thing everyone seems to agree on: TOO much show with TOO
little time; that's always a common complaint, but this time they
just might have been right! The show floor covered an area equal to
more than three football fields, including the end zones and most of
the sidelines with the Food Court/Lounge in the center. That works
out to almost a 1.25 miles of walking even if all you did was up one
aisle and down the next.
Many retailers did not really comprehend just how much territory
they would need to cover, and that their usual time allotments just
would not work. Hopefully this year's experience, combined with
information-sharing among shopowner Internet groups will help them
to better plan for next year.
It seems that all categories saw less than expected sales;
although some exhibitors went home happy, most expressed
disappointment that the larger show did not generate greater sales.
In many cases, sales were down. Many, particularly in the
counted-thread segment, seemed to feel the larger event was the
cause. If that applied to just one category, maybe, but when put
into the perspective of observations and conversations before and
after Quilt Market last month, there is more going on here than just
a single factor making a small influence.
At no time would you ever have called the show crowded, and even
the yarn booths did not seem to have any difficulty making a rep
available to present the line. In the past, it was not all that
uncommon to walk along the cross rows and not be able to see more
than a few booths down because of the press of buyers. At no time
was it ever difficult, much less impossible, to see from the back to
the front – except around the food/lounge area.
About that food court: please put it back where it belongs, and
either eliminate one row or consolidate the back row into a short
So what seemed to do well? Once again, more attention is being
given to how to attract the younger generation; several of the
shopowners who spent time with us had much younger staff with them
and their opinions were being seriously considered.
The Fantasy segment of threaded needle was more apparent, and
there seemed to be more embroidery, even machine embroidery. Several
booths mentioned quilting and some (like us) made it no secret that
we believed the crossover was here for all to see.
Last but not least, Russian Punch Needle Embroidery may just turn
out to the be the "next new thing." Other distributors of
the tools are suggesting delivery in the 3-8 week interval, and
interest in the demos with lots of questions was definitely the
order of the day.
Common in sales presentations and even in some signage,
exhibitors are recognizing that while the Internet exists, they need
to offer more support to local shops because it is the dedication of
the local shops that will nurture, maintain, and grow the industry.
The BIG question: Why more retailers were not at Market, either
Quilt or TNNA/INRG.
Is there a new breed of shopowner out there who does not yet know
they are supposed to order at shows, not just look, then order later
via the Internet?
Might it be that the Internet is not killing retail shops, but
retail shows? Certainly show-only vendors are saying their sales are
down in the past year, and some events are way under attended. It
used to be you went to a consumer show because no local shop could
carry everything; can it be that now if your local shop does not
have it, you go home and order it on the Internet instead of waiting
for or traveling to a show?
In the past, I could not walk this show without running into many
retail show vendors – many familiar faces were not in the aisles
or at the order tables.
Could it be that the Internet is not really killing
"wholesale to the trade" because shopowners can now pretty
much find everything they want on line, anytime, while sipping a
favorite beverage – instead of sprinting around multiple football
fields of exhibits without adequate time to stop and enjoy the view?
Or, is there something going on that is making shopowners more
cautious in their purchases?
TNNA & INRG are committed to at least one more joint event
– and I for one hope it continues beyond that. The energy in the
new Counted Thread and Embroidery Group – there was a willingness
for all segments to work together to increase the pie so we all get
bigger pieces was apparent.
There is definitely "something happening here, and what it
is ain't exactly clear"....
It will be interesting to see how things go at Charlotte in
Please feel free to "share" your thoughts - other
perspectives are always welcomed. Meanwhile, I vote for BIGGER,
easier-to-read maps, and show books mailed at least a month in
advance to every TNNA member (with addendum delivered on site) so
buyers can plan better.
And, oh yes, I do think crossing the lines can work, but you
already knew that <g> – Wheat Carr, owner, Wandering
(Note: Wondering Wolf Design offers patterns, charts,
tools, and supplies for quilting; Penny Rug Fulled Wool Applique;
counted thread; Russian Punch Needle; and more. Also a distributor
for PolStitches Dragon Floss and Presencia Threads.)
"I was thrilled."
As an INRG member (counted cross stitch & framing) I was
thrilled with the show. The energy of the needlepoint and yarn
buyers invigorated me. It was large and my feet were aching, but it
was a wonderful opportunity to check out such a diversity of
products in one market.
I found cross-over product to purchase within the first six
booths in the first row of the show. I can still see the needlework
vendor telling me to take the literature because she understood I
would want to walk the show first – and my telling her, "No,
I'm ready to place
the order and by the way, I would like to have the product in my
shop no later than June 24th." A win/win for both the exhibitor
and my shop!
Actually, the vast majority of my purchases at this show were
from new vendors for me – TNNA vendors. I went to the show
purposefully to seek out new contacts and products to bring into the
shop to compliment my cross stitch stock.
I would assume that INRG members would be more excited about
combining the shows than the needlepoint and yarn shop owners, since
we were the new guys on the floor. I would guess that the TNNA
vendors wrote more orders from INRG shoppers than INRG vendors wrote
for TNNA shoppers. Those would be interesting statistics to see.
Combining shows and moving forward together can do nothing except
strengthen the entire needlework industry. You can bet that next
year I'll spend all three (or four if a day is added) days at the
show – but I'll bring more comfortable shoes.
If we want to see a resurgence in counted cross stitch, we must
move it from a craft to a needleart and get customers back into
NeedleWORK shops, rather than chains & craft stores, for their
purchases where we have the ability to expose them to more than an
"x" on a piece of aida." – Gayle Horton,
owner of Accents in Stitches in New Orleans
"A merger – finally!"
I was very happy to FINALLY see TNNA and INRG join forces. I
firmly believe that the key to survival in these challenging times
is working together.
I am extremely excited by the opportunities that the Pearl
Jubilee Campaign is offering – and the structure is flexible
enough for each company to develop a participation strategy that
will work for them. I think that we are limited only by our
I saw a LOT of networking and education going on as different
groups were able to interact with each other for the first time in a
I felt that the TNNA and INRG management did a very good job. As
always, with a first time show, issues and problems became obvious
and thus can now be addressed. With one show under our belts, we now
have a common frame of reference as we work to craft a show that
will work well for our diverse membership.
I was THRILLED with the participation in the inaugural meeting of
the new Counted Thread and Embroidery Group. We had over 80
participants, we accomplished a lot, and we should be up and running
with an official committee by the end of the year. What was most
exciting was the degree of commitment shown by those who attended.
While I didn't get to talk to very many counted thread vendors,
what trickled down to me was their disappointment with sales. Peg
and Tink Ink represents three companies with diverse product lines
in each company. Our sales were lower than we would have liked BUT
it was evenly distributed across the board. I think that shops are
being conservative in all of the disciplines right now, not just in
counted thread. – Tink Boord-Dill, Peg and Tink Ink
"The buyers were not there."
I think that the show was well handled and well laid out. The
class selection was diverse and interesting, but the buyers were not
there. I am in the Counted Thread area and we never
saw the numbers that we were told that were there. The yarn areas
were busy and the other areas had people in clumps, but there was
never anyone that was busy the whole time.
I know of a lot of counted thread companies have said they will
not do it again, due to the expense and the poor showing of buyers.
Most of my regular customers asked me to hold off sending my auto
till the end of August. This is my fist show that I did not do the
numbers that I would like since starting in 2000. The comment I
heard the most was, "I am going to do Nashville and then send
my new stuff to my distributor."
I have friends and business associates in the needlepoint area
and they were not busy either. The majoirity of them said their
sales were down or flatl. With a few exceptions (very few), if
someone tells you they had a great show-they are adding the fluff to
The show was dead from about 1 pm on Sunday till we closed Monday
afternoon. The floor was like a ghost town and it looked like
Charlotte last year with all the vendors chatting and waiting till
the bell would ring so they could get the heck out of there.
We need to find out why buyers did not come. I think for the
expense that I had to pay, I did not get enough work on the TNNA end
to encourage buyers to come. I think a lot of work was put into
organization and layout. There was no effort put into getting shops
there. I know that you can not make a shop go, but I am not sure
where the shops are going to get their merchandise.
The Charlotte cash-and-carry market has about 50 or so vendors,
but I am not sure there are buyers. I can't do the show, nor do I
want to enter that can of worms.
We need to figure out what is going on and try to fix it before
the counted thread area gets lost in the shuffle – Name
"Don't blame TNNA/INRG"
I am concerned that the unhappy counted thread vendors will blame
their poor sales on the combined show. Certainly there is a LOT of
fine tuning that needs to happen with the show structure and
organization, but that is only to be expected. I think that there
are many factors that are resulting in soft sales but the easy and
least threatening explanation, and possibly the least true, is to
blame it on the combined show. Name Withheld
Note: CLN asked members of the Yahoo group, NeedleworkBiz for
their comments; here's a sampling:
1. The knitting and needlework was mixed in together and the
show was too big to see everything. If they had only kept the
knitting together and the needlework together it would have been
much better. That will never happen since the exhibitors are place
according to seniority points.
We have asked for segregation of the different types of vendors
for years. It is a significant waste of time and energy for us to
walk the entire floor. TNNA seems to have been particularly unaware
of the interests of retailers and unresponsive to needlepoint shops.
Although bigger shows are necessary to get the spaces we need, if
they are not made easier to attend we will be less willing to go.
Most retailers cannot afford to have more than one or two people
attend. I suspect that when a shop has four or five people working a
show it is because most of them are paying their own way. That's
fine if we want to be dominated by shops that are not profitable
businesses. It is not good if we want to be a growing strong
2. I was part of the Wandering Wolf Designs booth at the back
of the hall and we had a pretty good show. This was my first
experience at a non-quilting show. My products are not considered
"normal" for knitting, needlepoint, or cross stitch, but
there was a delightful amount of interest; they were well received
and we wrote enough orders to be happy.
If you think there were a lot of booths to cover, you might
consider a way to get used to it, like staying for the full show.
Quilt Market is that big or bigger and all types of vendors are
mixed together. I wouldn't want it any other way. If you stick to
only one section (i.e, charted work), how will you and your shop
ever expand or move into other venues and grow? At Quilt Market, –
and, I believe, at TNNA – there are lots of classes to take, which
is valuable if you are considering a new product area or if they are
I am very happy to have been able to attend and will be adding
some new product to my retail business as a result.
Also, my kudos to TNNA for recognizing that the counted thread
and other embroidery needs a group to represent them. I am very
happy to be a part of this world as well as the quilting world!
3. TNNA and INRG did a great job with the layout of the show.
Many shopkeepers I spoke to had only allowed one day! They were
overwhelmed by the size of the market and realized that they needed
to plan a route; I know of one who extended her stay at the market.
Because of the vendors being mixed together, I enrolled a
knitting shop as a new customer. This is a good thing. I also know
of a few needlework shops finding great tools in unexpected booths.
Segregation will dilute those unexpected finds.
I visited venues I had never partaken in. The Galleria was
awesome, very smart and professional. I can see counted thread
designers partaking in future years. The Sample Spree by INRG was
interesting, and I can see that expanding to add yarn and
With time the new Counted Thread & Embroidery group will be
organized in 2005 with a great temporary Chairperson, "Tink,"
and will start analysis for a way forward. (Support is required by
all for the boring, business of forming committees and strategy.
Nothing will happen unless
members stand behind this fledgling Group)
The Yarn group's seven-year marketing plan is really making a
dent in the needlepoint and
counted thread & embroidery market. The Needlepoint group now
has the results of last year's SWAT anlysis, and are now working on
the way forward.
I am feeling very positive about TNNA Columbus.
4. No matter how the show is laid out it will never make
everyone happy. TNNA and INRG did a great job of marrying two
different events into and one and pulling it off more smoothly than
I would have expected. I'm sure there were lots of hair tearing
scenes from show management we never saw to put this together.
While you might want to segregate the various segments into
areas, there are problems with doing that. What if you're, say, a
cross-stitch designer who is now doing needlepoint as well? Where do
you get put? Do the primarily needlepoint shops never see you
because they assume you have nothing of interest to them? For
vendors to be put into a separate area means many customers won't
even walk by them to discover they have an item the customer has
been looking for. I heard from one vendor that a customer referred
to an area as "the cross-stitch ghetto/." I'm not sure if
that's a sad commentary on how people view the differences in our
industry or on the fact they were segregated. Either way, it's not a
vision for the future of our industry I want to see perpetuated.
I've been going to TNNA and INRG shows for seven years and I, for
one, am thrilled to have only one summer show to go on the other
side of the country. Did it mean I and my shop manager walked our
feet off? We certainly did, but I also found some wonderful things
mixed in with all the yarn vendors that I bought – and I don't
carry yarn at all.
We planned how we'd attack the show floor (I think of this as
small military campaign.) and set some goals for what we'd get done
each day. In the end the two of us managed to get through the show
floor, see most everything, place orders, and be done by the 3 pm
close on Monday.
Will that happen next year when the show is bigger? I don't know
if we'll get through it all, but I'd still rather see things mixed
up and walk more than have arbitrary boundaries set for me.
Is it a big show? You bet, but you need to plan for that. Getting
through it in a day is not possible unless you have a staff of 8 or
10 people. Plan to spend at least two days and if at all possible, all, three. If walking is a problem then perhaps TNNA & INRG
might be able to solve that with some kind of loaner program for
But we have a big industry between the segments and making
divisions at the show does not help us create a unified needlework
industry; which I believe we all need to not only survive, but
flourish in the future.
5. I'd like to share my impressions of the Columbus market. I
will preface my comments with several disclaimers: I am still new in
the business. I am fully aware that my designs would be classified
as a "niche product" and from the beginning I knew that
mass appeal and large orders were unreasonable expectations. I
acknowledge that counted thread is not what is "hot" right
now. Finally, we all look at situations from our own unique
I believe that one of the values of groups such as this [Yahoo's
NeedleworkBix] is to facilitate the widening of our peripheral
vision. In that vain, as this discussion progresses, let us all
remember to be kind to one another and respectful of our individual
perspectives. With that said, here is my take on the Columbus
I exhibited at Columbus last year, being a brave counted thread
pioneer moving into a market dominated by yarn and needlepoint. I
was pleased with my first year sales. I left with great anticipation
for this year's market, knowing that counted thread would be moving
into the show.
I anticipated exposure to a larger number of buyers than last
year and logically expected to see some increase in sales.
I was not located in the INRG Pavilion having never exhibited at
Charlotte. I was quite surprised (OK, shocked) to find myself at the
end of day one with zero orders. At the end of day two I had only
four orders, three of which were paid with the fourth to be
completed in late summer. I added only one order to my total on day
three. Four comparison, I took ten orders at the 2003 Columbus
As far as dollars and cents, when my one unpaid order is paid for
and shipped my total income from the market will be approximately
half of what it was last year matching the 50%
reduction in the number of orders. I never dreamed that with the
projected increase in counted thread buyers that my sales would
decrease. As stated earlier, I honestly expected to do at a minimum
what I had done the year before. Although I didn't actually count, I
felt like I saw less foot traffic move past my booth and I know that
I handed out fewer catalogs than last year.
According the several other vendors that I chatted with
throughout the three days, their sales were "off," things
were "slow," and they questioned, "Where are the
Here are some factors that surely must have impacted what many of
us experienced as a very slow market:
1. Several people told me that counted thread shops don't
have much cash available in June as May is historically a slow month
for sales. 2. In June people have graduations, weddings,
family vacations, etc., that could have kept them from market. The
Columbus market is traditionally in June. This year it was
approximately a week earlier than last year. 3. The show was
so big that people had trouble making their way to see everything. 4.
The segregation of counted thread vendors in the INRG Pavilion
was a problem. 5. The expansive food court in the middle of
the floor was a problem.
Obviously, the market was not slow for all vendors and I am glad
to know that. I believe that combining the TNNA and INRG markets was
a wise move and that in the long run offers the best approach to
uniting the needlearts industry. For shops who offer their customers
multiple media options, a combined market has to be the most
economical and efficient way to shop.
I will give careful consideration to my decision to participate
in the 2005 Needlearts Market. I am hopeful that I will receive
orders during the next couple of months from shops who picked up my
catalog in Columbus. I am hopeful that I will see increased sales of
my designs through my distributor. I am hopeful that shopowners will
give us constructive feedback on how to make the market more
"user friendly." I am hopeful that shopowners will listen
to vendors' perspectives.
Participating in market is expensive for both buyers and sellers.
Although I have not added all of my costs yet, I estimate that this
venture cost me approximately $2500. This figure does not include
the amount of money I lost in wages from my "paycheck" job
or the value of my time away from my family. I don't think that
anyone can deny that the vendors were present in
Columbus. I guess that my greatest question would have to be,
"Where were the buyers?" and "What must be done to
encourage buyers to buy?" Although the value of making industry
contacts must be factored into the equation, it doesn't make up for
a net debt of $2000+!
Again, let us all carefully consider each other's perspective as
we identify the problems and seek solutions, all in an effort the
unify and strengthen the needlearts industry.
A final word.
I know that many of the exhibitors were hoping that a combined
show would mean far more orders to write – that old adage about
shooting fish in a barrel (you want more fish to better your odds!),
and I am actually quite thankful to have written what orders I did
considering how badly some designers have reported their show to
My own philosophy has always been to reach out to the stitchers
themselves and try to get them excited about what I do so that they
find their local shopowner and pester them to pick up/bring
in my designs. At least three of the shops came into my booth
this show with a list from customers.
The days of being able to just set up a shop or go to a trade
show and automatically get orders are gone. Designers and shopowners
need to be creative and innovative in how they encourage sales –
but I still think that as everyone worries about which segment of
the needlearts industry is healthiest, we are missing the point.
Yes, we do depend on dollars to be in business doing what we
love. Yes, the hobby industry is a huge source of revenue on many
fronts. Yes, there will always be competition between organizations
and even companies. BUT: if we all spend the next year focusing on
how we were EACH going to raise awareness of our craft, increase the
number of people participating, find ways to make it innovative,
fun, exciting or different, and promote the benefits of being
creative – such as having something to show for your time instead
of just spending hours watching TV.
We cannot afford to wait for someone else to "fix" the
industry. It is up to each one of us to breathe some life and
creativity into what we do then stand back and watch the ripple
effect. – Jennifer Aikman-Smith, Dragon Dreams Inc.