Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Why I Attend Quilt Market

It has been a discussion on quilt shop owners' forums and other industry gatherings - whether or not shop owners should attend market and what they get out of it.  It is an interesting topic with many ideas and beliefs.  For me, however, it has never been an if - never been a question.  I go to quilt market for you.  And of course I love (almost) every minute of it.

Attending the quilt markets in Fall and Spring is an opportunity to pick up on trends, ideas, techniques, new products, etc.. and take them back my customers.  I am not shopping for me, I am shopping for what I can best off to my customers in the shop.  It's not only about the new rulers, patterns and fabrics. It is the ability to take the ideas back to everyone and share - pillows made with stripes, embellishments on quilts, storage solutions - it's endless and ever changing!!  The manufacturers, designers, distributors, shops and quilters are constantly growing, learning and evolving in tastes, skills and interests.  

Market begins with Schoolhouse, mini seminars and workshops where industry representatives, designers, quilters, business advisors, marketing professionals, and many more offer ideas and information for our shops.  It is information overload and all so very useful!  It often is a good preview of some of the vendors we may want to visit when the market floor is open.

Market is a giant burst of energy!  I go with some semblance of organization and focus as to not be totally overwhelmed and distracted.  That would be so easy!  My name badge holder also holds my market cheat sheets - lists of booths I want to visit and what I am definitely looking for and needing to order.  It can be very daunting to be sitting in front of a table full of deliciously tempting fabric offerings and forget that I need to order more red, white and blue blenders.    

Market is filled with many ah-ha moments, when we find the coolest pattern or technique for the rulers we had on our shelf and weren't quite sure how to use them or tool to remove stitches.  Many oohs and ahhs when we see spectacular quilts and stunning prints.  Okay, I could go on and on.

Less obvious and most important are the connection made at all levels.  Big and small, they all add up to hopeful continued success for the independent quilt shop.  I meet and socialize with other shop owners, designer and vendors and each person I meet adds to my quilt market experience by sharing ideas or even just validation of a hunch we each had about a certain supplier.  Time spending in line turns into a discussion among 3 shop owner from opposite corners of the US all sharing the same laments about billing companies.  We all return back to our respective shops feeling a little better about running our businesses,  part of a greater industry and that we are not alone in our retail journeys.  

We make friends and connections within the industry and know that we will see each other again at least twice a year.  We can follow each others' business via social media.  Most of us in this industry understand that we all work together.  While it is not perfect, the system often works very well.  The manufacturers, sales reps, designers, teacher, shops and many more aim to have you get the most out of hobby of quilting and sewing and enjoy every minute of it.  I hope that I am playing my part in this!  

I return from my market trips and present a market recap.  We had a full classroom last week for my most recent presentation and I can't thank everyone enough.  I created display boards to highlight what is coming in, what is hot and trending, what is staying tried and true.  If you came to my post-Portland gathering or viewed my photo slide show, you can see the many things that excited and inspired me.  Yes, I ordered a lot of wonderful fabric, patterns, floss, rulers, books and more!  My goal is to make StitchCraft the BEST quilt shop and it is with the support of you (the best customers ever) along with fabulously talented and friendly staff, supportive reps and the many acquaintances I have made so far that I think WE are on our way.  Thank you!  Four and a half months until Houston Fall Market.  Can't wait!!

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