Scrapbooking Retailer Trade Show Tips

Trade shows are the prime place for scrapbook retailers (you!) to learn about what’s up and coming in scrapbooking, place orders and build relationships with vendors and distributors

There are two big shows in the scrapbooking industry, and if you don’t make it to at least one of them, you’ll likely be playing catchup with your competitors. The first is the Craft and Hobby Association (known as “CHA”) whose summer 2008 show is set for July 18-20 in Rosemont, Illinois. CHA also holds a winter show in Anaheim, California. In 2009, CHA West will be January 25-28 at the Anaheim Convention Center and the theme is “Going Green Is Easy.” Some 20,000 people from all over the world join some 3,500 booths to take in the latest and greatest in the craft world. There’s also Memory Trends, a 9-year-old show sponsored by CraftTrends magazine that is usually held in late January or early February in Las Vegas and focuses on scrapbooking and papercrafts. There are about 300 exhibitors in more than 1,000 booths and nearly 5,000 people attend altogether.

There are also numerous scrapbooking conventions and “expos” across the United States that focus more on the consumer but can be beneficial to retailers as well. Watch for updates on these events.

Not just anyone can attend a trade show. When you register, they’ll want to see proof of membership in a trade organization, or your resale tax number or business license. Some store owners “sneak” in friends or employees who are there more for entertainment than business. This is frowned upon, as their presence clutters the trade floor, but if you are looking to get into retail, it could be to your benefit to break this rule of etiquette and find a store owner who will let you tag along to a show. (You may have better luck if you’re not trying to hitch a ride on the heels of a storeowner in the same geographic region as yourself.)

When you arrive at your first trade show, expect to be overwhelmed. You will be one of thousands of attendees, ranging from the owners of tiny, hole-in-the-wall scrapbook stores to professional buyers who work for large chains. But no matter how “jaded” you may be, it’s always exciting to be among the first to see product that won’t be in stores for several weeks.

Try to get a sense ahead of time which distributors and manufacturers you want to visit. (There will be a show map listing all the exhibitors.) Your list will probably consist of some mainstays (such as Creative Imaginations, Chatterbox and Colorbok—and that’s just the C’s!) as well as a few new companies you’ll want to peep in on. Sometimes a special area is set aside for new exhibitors. Bring a pad of paper and take notes! You don’t want to get confused about what great new product was in which booth.

Trade shows are a place to do lots of product ordering. There are lots of “show specials,” which means that you’ll save money, but also that you’ll have to decide on things and fill out lengthy order forms while competing for attention with dozens of other frazzled store owners. You will also be getting precious face time with vendors and manufacturers that will help you in the long run. Take advantage of it. And pass out business cards!
Set a budget and try your best to stick with it. You don’t want to end up with buyer’s remorse and an over-the-limit credit card, especially when you’re just starting out.

Wear comfortable shoes. You will literally be walking miles across a hard trade floor.

Consider packing a lunch. You’ll barely have time to eat, and food at these shows is notoriously bland and overpriced. Bottled water is a good idea, too.

If you took a plane to the trade show, be prepared to go over the weight limit on your luggage. Paper is heavy, and you’ll be coming home with plenty of product samples and catalogs.

Know the rules. Shows may place limitations on everything from whether or not you can bring a baby stroller (generally: bad idea) or rolling cart to whether you can take pictures of products, pages and designs on display (always ask first, at each booth).

Finally, as long as you’re out of town, take the opportunity to check out some scrapbooking stores in the area. You may get some ideas for merchandising and other tips.

When you get back to your store, be sure to let your staff know of all the cool things you found. Tell your regular customers, too. It will whet their appetites for what’s to come! Consider having a sale to clear out old stock and make room for the new.