Your Questions About Tradeshows Answered

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By Jill Davis, Founder of

It's that time again. is getting ready for the first retailer trade show of the year: CHA in Atlanta, GA. For those of you who have never experienced the bittersweet moments of trade-show life, we thought we'd share a bit of the romance and realities of the shows we've been to in the past. Here are answers to some of the questions I've been asked about trade shows:

"How do scrapbook stores keep up with the thousands of new scrapbooking and rubber stamping products being offered?"
Our ever-diligent Trade Show Team prepares for and attends three retailer tradeshows a year:

  • CHA - Craft & Hobby Association
  • ACCI - Association of Crafts and Creative Industries
  • Memory Trends by Craft Trends

"How do you prepare for each excursion?"
Preparations for travel, dining, and other accommodations begin months before we pack our bags and head to the show.

As the show time nears, each team member must secure loose ends in their departments as well as their homes. Prior to leaving, we establish a plan of attack, make sure our business cards are in order, and set a budget (contrary to popular belief, we do not run through convention aisles like a Super Market Sweep contestant throwing whatever we think might be popular into a large basket). We talk a lot about the list of products customers have been requesting, we make assignments accordingly, and schedule meeting times with sales reps.

"Who goes to these tradeshows?"
In general, store owners and retail-store buyers from all over the world come to see new products from thousands of distributors and manufacturers. Some of the distributors are very well known, like EK Success, Bazzill Basics, Making Memories, Chatterbox Inc., Creative Imaginations, Scrapworks, Lil' Davis Designs, Deluxe Designs, Colorbok, Westrim, and more. New companies with fresh ideas also make their debut and sell product too.

We develop a great deal of compassion and gratitude for the vendors who pay a big price to drag their products, booth displays and people from distant parts of the country to let us scrutinize, evaluate, and examine their product lines.

Understandably, there are barriers to show entry. Most shows require that you join their trade organization, register, have a resale tax number, show a valid business license, and present other business identification documents to qualify for admission.

The Team always includes talented staff from the Web department and the warehouse and usually the owners. The four-person team walks miles and miles of carpeted concrete looking for the latest and greatest scrapbooking supplies.

The Team from evaluates each product on the basis of quality, quantity, appeal, and cost. The Team members think about how products will look in your albums, and where they will be stored in the warehouse. The Web people look at each product as a new scanned image, where it will be positioned in the store, how it will affect "bandwidth," and how to best describe it to our customers. Both departments collaborate and decide on the best of the best for the customers!

"Going to a tradeshow would be a dream come true. I think I'd like to be that kid in the candy store! What's it really like?"

  1. Picture the biggest market place you've ever seen (the Mall of America doesn't count).
  2. Pack it full of frenzied (and by the last day frazzled) buyers from around the globe.
  3. Now, add several thousand pieces of literature and catalogs to an already over-flowing backpack and maneuver it through a maze of booths and set-ups; all the while trying to take in the "show specials" and an innumerable amount of new products. (NOTE: It's also your job to maintain your sanity in the midst of this organized chaos.)
  4. Okay, now try to hold in your memory everything you see on the floor and think would be a good fit for scrapbookers this year.
  5. Stand in a long line and pay high dollars for simple sandwiches at lunchtime. (NOTE: There are no lines in the one has time to go there.)
  6. At the end of each day, with bulging totes over aching shoulders, grab a bite to eat and get ready to work well into the night.
  7. Sift through your piles of catalogues to show your colleagues "that one piece of paper with the stuff and the things on it that we'd be crazy not to carry!"
  8. Then laugh, concentrate, deliberate, and laugh some more.
  9. Sort through at least three hundred order forms and get those babies filled out!
  10. Without hesitation, hand over your credit card, and endeavor to deal with the denial of instant gratification since three-fourths of the amazing new product you just saw and purchased won't be available to the avid scrapbooker for at least three months.

Whew! I wish I were exaggerating! Trade shows are rigorous, and astonishingly tiring considering the plentiful and stimulating bits and baubles available at every booth! Our goal is to visit every scrapbook booth and the general craft section at least once in search of great products for your albums.

"Do you get to take anything home with you?"
Sometimes there are freebies and samples, but for the most part you take home lots and lots and lots and lots (you get the idea) of catalogues, literature, and order forms.

The greatest excitement comes when the team returns to work. They share all their new information at staff meetings and everyone sets out to make room for the new arrivals. Our receiving area, during the weeks and months that follow, is like a delivery room. It's common to hear the announcement of an arrival and see staff run to see it. There are always big smiles, touching and comments like, "Oh, it's so cute" or "That's better than the prototype."

The actuality of tradeshows may not be as amazing as the "kid in the candy store" had anticipated, but we know we're guaranteed to leave awe-struck and ecstatic to share our finds with our customers!

"What'll they come up with next?"
We're just as excited as you to find that out. The variety of new products and creativity this amazing industry is providing is mind-boggling. And to think it all happens because of you and your memories.

2005 Jill Davis


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