Dylan sang “the Times they are a changin'” and this is certainly true in needlepoint. Those changes are very good for you as a stitcher, and they should be good for the needlepoint industry as a whole. But whether what we saw at the recent TNNA market is a sign of things to come or not remains to be seen.
Running a small business is hard, especially if the business has only you, or you and your husband. You need to do everything, even things you aren’t particularely good at such as accounting or sales. If you’re an inventive designer but you hate being in front of people, being a needlepoint designer might be a pain. You know you could design more and sell more if only . . .
There are other needlepoint companies that are really good at sales. Some, such as Fleur de Lis, are already distributors. Others, such as CBK, are shops. A third group, such as Julia’s, are designers. In the past these companies often grew by licensing artists or by buying lines where the owners have retired or died.
At the recent TNNA market you saw thre companies were the harbringers of consolidation so a designer could design. You’ve already read about Amanda Lawford and the new artists licensed by them. These are all successful needlepoint designers. By joining this company they can design or retire but still make money and have their popular designs avalable to us as stitchers.
Besides Amanda Lawford, Elizabeth Bradley is now Kirk & Bradley (you read about that yesterday). The new company name combines two recognizable names and should extend the reach of both.
Finally Painted Pony now distributes Betsy B originals.
For the stitcher these designers become more widely available. For the shopowner, it’s easier to find, highlight and buy a wider variety of canvases. For both parties in the consolidation it’s a way to highlight what they do best. Expect this trend to continue.
In designer and needlework business groups there is much discussion about trade shows and their cost. Exhibiting at a show is expensive. There are shipping costs, travel costs, booth costs, and employee costs. You also lose a week or more work for each show. There are three TNNA shows that highlight needlepoint plus the independant Dallas show.
That’s a month away from your business. Most designers wouldn’t take a month’s vacation and many question the value of exhibiting.
For shopowners it is less expensive but each show means travel and time away from the shop. You might have to close, you might leave your employees in charge, or you might ask friends to help. But you run the risk of losing sales because shows are on weekends and Saturday is often a big sales day.
There are two kinds of shows. Convention Center shows, such as last month’s, generate orders but not immediate sales. You won’t see much product in your local shop this week, it will come in over the next several weeks. Hotel shows allow sales and generate cash. Designers need to ramp up inventory for those shows and shops have new items right away.
But the burden of exhibiting has become too much for both the designers and the shops. Few companies can sustain the burden of these shows. Especially when they can highlight their new designs on the Internet. Everyone saves money. It remains to be seen if designers make enough sales to justify not exhibiting.
At this show needlepoint designers drew a line in the sand. Many stayed home and decided to exhibit at the hotel show in St. Louis in late summer. Most of them brought out new product and highlight it on their sites, so there is new stuff for the shops. For you, this means that you can see what’s new on your favorite designer’s site and order it from your shop without the hysteria of Facebook pages and unidentified pictures taken on cell phones.
Will this work? I don’t know. Up unitil now on-line shows have not been good for needlepoint. But this isn’t an organized show. It’s using something they already have, a website, and working with customers they already have. Attendence at shows has been declining for at least a decade; economic difficultes have only made it worse. It seems to be a good time for a change. This show could signal an important change in how designers and shops do business.
For both the stitcher and the shopowner this is good news. You both have greater access to new products. You can see more of what you want and order it. When shops save money on travel, that money can be spent on inventory.
Designers can concentrate on what they do best — design. That could mean more new stuff, wider distribution in shops and a better business.
More is good, saving money is good, information wants to be available and free. These changes have the hope of all these things. It remains to be seen if it works out.
About Janet M Perry
Janet Perry is the Internet's leading authority on needlepoint. She designs, teaches and writes, getting raves from her fans for her innovative techniques, extensive knowledge and generous teaching style. A leading writer of stitch guides, she blogs here and lives on an island in the northeast corner of the SF Bay with her family
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