The National Needle Arts Trade Show has come and gone...what an incredible learning opportunity! The retail shop attendees were enthusiastic and eager to do business. We had a vendor booth and went with the intent to introduce our latest product line and make some contacts. Order taking was not part of our plan; rather, we envisioned an opportunity to meet and greet while testing the market for our new kits and embellishments. The retail shops would have none of it! They saw innovative product and they were ready to buy.
Those with whom we spoke were excited about the state of their businesses and were weathering the economic storm nicely. They were seeking out new markets and working hard to attract the Cross Over Crafter to their retail establishments. This was our first experience with the TNNA show, and according to show staffers, the numbers were down about 10% from the previous year. Maybe so, but we did not feel the pain! Of course, there were plenty of denim vested, duck appliqued grannies (not that there is anything wrong with that!) who were not interested in anything outside their comfort zone, but there were many others who were eager to learn about a different segment of the DIY market. It was very cool to see, and a heck of a lot of fun!
We recently added a new product line featuring hand dyed luxury wool and silk top for felting and spinning. We had a tiny booth and needed to get some attention directed our way in the midst of some spectacular (and expensive) well established displays. In the days before the show I was out feeding the chickens (who reside in Cluckingham Palace, pictured at left) and pondering the booth dilemma when inspiration struck! Chicken Wire! Yup, chicken wire was the answer to my prayers.
I hit all of the local thrift stores ---and managed to catch two of them on their 50% off day---to stock up on wooden picture frames. I painted them black and replaced the glass with chicken wire. I was able to weave the beautiful roving in and out of the chicken wire to create an eye catching "art gallery" of fiber.It was easy to make, inexpensive to ship, and we did it all for under $30. The same concept would work equally well in a retail store to display a yarn sample, beaded necklace, or fabric.
The always innovative Pick Up Sticks had a spectacularly fun "Bake Shop/Ice Cream Parlor" Theme. It was adorable...beautiful apron adorned attendants serving up ice cream inspired balls of yarn. Cute, cute, cute and most important....MEMORABLE! Even the most exhausted shopper will remember where to go for knitted felt kits!
We were equally inspired by some of the awesome folks that we had an opportunity to meet! It was a personal thrill to have an opportunity to spend some time with my felting hero, Carol Cypher. Carol has written a number of extraordinary books and if you have any desire to learn the ancient craft of felting, you will need to add two of her books to your library: Hand Felted Jewelry and Beads and How We Felt. In addition to serving as an ambassador for Tulip Company, Ltd., Carol was nice enough to take some time to teach me the intricacies of bead crochet.
The Fun Shop Owner Award goes to Steven Berg of The Yarn Garage. We first noticed him at the end of the long first day and watching him was like a breath of fresh air. He was dressed like a rock star and looked like Rod Stewart's cooler younger brother. I had an opportunity to meet Steven and his mother, Christa, on the last day of the show. What a treat! The man is charismatic and passionate about fiber. His enthusiasm is contagious and I can only imagine what fun it is to be a Yarn Garage customer. Steven co-owns the shop with his sister, Monika. His mother was a hoot....as she left the booth she looked back at me and said "I know that you see a lot of people. If you can't remember Steven, you will certainly remember me. I am the old lady who knits." Too funny. Forget Steven? AS IF! Special kudos to The Yarn Garage---those folks know how to use technology and social media to promote their store brand. Check out Steven's Facebook and the store blog to see how it is done!
Cool New Product Update: I couldn't leave the TNNA show without snagging a KNIT KIT. This is one of those items that makes your knitting life so easy that you can't imagine what took so long for someone to invent it! It is the Swiss Army Knife of knitting accessories and retails for $19.95. The product launched in March 2009 and the company has already sold 30,000 units! It has a built in measuring tape, scissors and more....perfect for the cross over crafter!
7 months ago