What's new in various product categories -- and
What's Happened to Needlepoint?
Where are the new, younger
(September 5, 2011)
(Editor's note: The previous issue of
CLN reported on the declining membership of the Society of
Decorative Painters, in part because SDP members are aging, and the
category is having problems attracting younger members. That
challenge is not exclusive to decorative painters, reports a veteran
The most recent trade show I have attended was
the 2009 TNNA show in San Diego. A little background:
In 1999 I was forced to scale down my
needlepoint kit company which I'd run successfully for 10 years
because so many consumers who used to buy and stitch all of my kits
shifted their attention to the then 'new' Internet, that my sales
declined 40% over four years.
I designed for a major company and they
experienced a similar sales drop. Also, numerous craft/needlework
magazines to whom I had sold many designs, closed, and most book
publishers drastically reduced publishing needlework books.
As a result, in order to survive financially, I
was forced to license my kits/charts to other manufacturers and
return to my prior career. I'm still in it today and am still
licensing some of my designs, so I decided to go to TNNA in January,
To me the show was schizophrenic -- the
knitting/crochet side of the floor was busy and had lots of new
fibers and interesting projects & products. The needlepoint side was
like deja-vu; 70% of the designs I saw were the SAME as those I saw
in 2002 (the last TNNA show I had attended 7 years earlier)!
There were very few new companies exhibiting,
and three of the five I spoke with were very frustrated that they
hadn't taken more orders. They said, "We take more direct-retail
orders on the web daily than we have taken wholesale orders while at
I asked the established needlepoint companies
that I know why they didn't have more new designs and they said,
"Our customers are in their 50's & 60's -- they are who we design
for and this is what they want."
I asked, "What about getting younger consumers
to do needlepoint?" They said their shop customers don't get a lot
of younger clients, as most of them are knitting/crocheting or
This dovetails with my recent experience; in
2010 and 2011, I offered and taught several needlepoint classes
through my local adult education center, and most of the students I
got were 45+ and the classes didn't all fill. I live in New England
and my area has only five needlework shops left in the area (from
the RI border up to the NH border and west to Worcester, MA); there
used to be at least 15 shops 20 years ago.
I keep hoping that needlepoint is due for an
upswing (as all the needle arts are cyclical), but it hasn't come
yet. So, unfortunately, I can see why the trade shows may be
But I think it is terrible for the industry,
particularly with products as visual and tactile as needle arts and
Have any of these shows re-explored the idea of
having wholesale days and retail days? I believe the ACC (American
Crafts Council) still does that at their Baltimore show. Certainly
the independent retailers will miss out on a lot of new products if
the shows disappear. It is still the most efficient and effective
way to see (and touch) what product is out there.