Monday, March 2, 2009

Stitches West: An update from the world of tradeshows

Annually knitters and purveyors of all things knitting gather from around the country (and even beyond our borders) in the Santa Clara Convention Center for Stitches West. Ok, I'll admit it - some crocheters show up as well. Since I am an avid knitter of scarves and afghans I love to go and see everything they have to offer. Mountains of yarn dazzle the eye - from tiny skeins of beautiful silk bamboo yarn that cost $42 to huge mounds of cotton at $1 per skein - there is something for every knitter. And there is something incredibly satisfying from running your hand over silky soft alpaca, lovely organic cotton and sleek silks. And yes I did shop.

I also took some time out for a foot massage at a friend of our's booth. As Ellen got her back rub I giggled (yes I have ticklish feet) and chatted with the booth staff about the show. The results were surprising - there had been a morning meeting of the vendors and the first two days numbers had been calculated. The show had seen a 10% increase in attendance over 2008 but sales themselves were down 10%. We brainstormed what that meant. Here are our theories:

1. Stitches West is a better value than almost any other event out there for pure entertainment. The tickets were $8, $6 if you had a coupon which almost everyone did. That's $2 less than a movie at the AMC Mercado and it lasted longer. We were there over 4 hours. And the food was less expensive than the Mercado- for another $7 I had a diet coke and a sandwich for lunch - less than a soda and popcorn at the movies. So for a total of $13 I had a full tummy and 4 solid hours of entertainment. Throughout the day there were also demonstrations and if we'd gone on Saturday there would have been a fashion show - all included in the price. And where else do you get to talk to a woman who is knitting with yarn made from cat fur?

2. Knitters just can't resist running their hands over yarn. But people, including myself, were definitely shopping more carefully. All I can say is everything I bought has a target recipient at Christmas time. The yarns were gorgeous but I did refrain from indulging in that $42 skein of bamboo/silk blend though I actually dreamt about it last night. So people may have quelled their urges and stayed on budget.

3. You could see the impact in the difference from last year - several of the aisles that had been full last year were a bit shortened - and the first aisle contained only a single booth - a coat check run by the girl scouts who let you check a bag or a coat for $2 and managed to sell you cookies when you did the pickup. So some vendors may no longer exist or did not want to make the expensive journey to CA for the show.

4. Speaking of the girl scouts - it seems the price of cookies has actually gone down - through boxes that used to be full now only hold 15 cookies for $4 - so the boxes are more affordable but you get less than you used to.

So the lessons learned from this event - keep the quality and entertainment value of your event high and be sure to have some good bargains in your booth.

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