With the demise of the long-running CHA Summer show in Chicago (which was transplanted to Las Vegas last year for its last iteration), the CHA PaperArts section needed a new show to promote and sell its critical third and fourth quarter holiday releases. Thus, the CHA PaperArts show was born!
The new show was a completely re-imagined experience from the former summer show. The CHA PaperArts show was designed as a hotel-based show, with all events taking place under the roof of the Hilton Atlanta. The high-rise hotel sits in the heart of downtown Atlanta, in the neighborhood surrounding Olympic Park. From my room on the 13th floor, the view spread expansively across I-75, which was only a block away, to the Emory University building and other downtown highrises.
The Atlanta location definitely had a signature local flavor: Coke. Pepsi fans had to search pretty hard in the world-wide home of Coca-Cola to find their beverage of choice!
At CHA’s convention center shows, attendees are usually greeted by a banner on the outside of the building. At Hilton Atlanta, attendees were welcomed to the inaugural CHA PaperArts show with a banner hanging in the atrium of the hotel.
The first day of CHA PaperArts on Tuesday was devoted to education. There were nine sponsored workshops, with two or three running per time slot. The schedule was dominated by offerings from die cutting companies Sizzix and Spellbinders, who were both title sponsors of the PaperArts show.
Stacey Caron of Spellbinders taught a class called “Stacey’s Favorites”.
Graphic 45 sponsored a travel-themed shadowbox class using their new collection “Come Away With Me.” Jeff Filimoehala was the instructor for Graphic 45’s packed class. Stephanie Barnard’s class for Sizzix showing off her new card dies received rave reviews from attendees. Stephanie’s card dies create cards with intricate moving parts. Art Impressions sponsored a Christmas-themed class. Instructors Kate Swanson and Bonnie Krebs taught attendees how to make customized gift bags and also cards with their new stamps that are designed to be used with Action Wobbles. One of the Art Impressions projects, a gift bag, is pictured below:In addition to the workshops, there were also two business seminars offered on Tuesday, organized by the CHA Paper Arts section. The first one, on inventory management, was taught by Lee Kellogg, who owns Guadalupe’s Fun Rubber Stamps in Santa Fé, NM. Lee described her inventory management process using her point-of-sale system. She also urged store owners to not become attached to their inventory, and not be afraid to discount stale inventory to move it out.
Later in the day, I made a guest appearance to talk about social media in a seminar by Denzil Quick of Spellbinders, and Laurel Pollard of New England Paper Crafts. The topic was Holiday Marketing Plans, and Laurel presented a plan for a 12 Days of Christmas promotion designed to be run in October.
Tuesday evening, it was time for a first look at the exhibit hall. The Welcome Reception allowed for a casual look around the re-invented show, while enjoying heavy hors d’oeuvres. The biggest hit of the evening was the beef carving station with small rolls so that attendees could make mini roast beef sandwiches!
The food stations were set up right in amongst the booths. The cheese station was right alongside Sizzix’s booth, and drink stations were spread all over the show floor. Attendees each received two drink tickets for the event with their show registration.Attendees casually wandered the show floor during the event, food and drink in hand, browsing the booths and catching up with other CHA members. Since the show floor wasn’t officially open, there was no pressure to buy or sell. It was a great chance to get a feel for the layout of the show and how the new show concept operated. The event was also a great chance for exhibitors to get out of their own spaces and visit each other. Casual conversation was such a great way to learn about new products. Anna Dabrowska of Prima explained to show attendees about the company’s new mixed media line over a glass of wine! In the Art Impressions booth, attendees watched a demonstration video during the party while enjoying the refreshments. Seating areas around the outside area of the exhibits attracted clusters of people to socialize and eat as well. The Bella Crafts Quarterly ladies were soon joined by a whole table of friends and colleagues! (l-r: Teresa Cifali, Lisa Rojas, Ann Butler)
The Open Market
The next evening, after the first day of the show floor, CHA PaperArts hosted another event that was new to CHA show attendees: the Open Market. Described by CHA as a “trade-only cash-n-carry market”, it was an opportunity for show attendees to buy products from participating manufacturers. Most product was offered at a deep discount. Some companies offered brand new product (including some not on store shelves yet), and some offered product that was close-out. Sales (that I saw) were all cash and check only.
The Crafter’s Workshop was selling templates for $1, and sold out after a brief frenzy at their table. Spellbinders was offering $5 mystery boxes from their new Celebra’tions line designed by Richard Garay. The boxes contained a stamp/die set and an inkpad, along with materials about the collection. Many attendees bought several. Spellbinders was also offering deeply discounted cardstock packs from the same collection, as well as some die sets and the Grand Calibur machine. Their inventory sold out quickly as well. Several other vendors were also on offer, including Anna Griffin, who was selling some of her bags.
Newly launched manufacturer Pink & Main attracted quite a crowd selling their new 4 x 6 stamp sets for $7 each (MSRP $14.99). The picture below was taken late in the event, when the biggest crush of shoppers had passed at most booths, but Pink & Main was still busy.
Several manufacturers had difficulty getting their product delivered for the event and bowed out as a result. Art Impressions’ products did not arrive, but the company manned their table and took orders for the missing product from grateful fans.
After all the shopping was done at the Open Market, attendees mingled in the ballroom enjoying drinks and a dessert and cheese station.Even after a long day on the show floor, the attendees turned out in force for the Open Market! The room buzzed loudly with conversation.
The convenience of the hotel venue was generally well-received by event attendees.
The only real complaint about the venue itself seemed to be the layout of the exhibit hall, held in the hotel’s “galleria” space. The space is entered from the hotel lobby by going down an escalator, and then a second escalator exits to the lobby. The escalators criss-cross in the middle of the galleria space, and so exhibits had to be built around them, creating somewhat of a maze. Booths bordering the escalator wall were also very dark relative to the rest of the room, frustrating exhibitors who had not planned for this with extra lighting. But all in all, attendees were very positive about the experience of the event being all in one building, and the convenience of events being so close to their rooms.
Overall, the food that was made available as part of the CHA PaperArts show was a big hit. On both days that the show floor was open, a continental breakfast was offered in the lobby during the show’s hour long “Jumpstart Sesson” prior to the doors opening. In addition, at lunchtime, snack stations were set up on the show floor to feed attendees. On Tuesday, this consisted of fruit and hot pretzels, sufficient for lunch.
The show’s size, both physically and in attendance, was a stark contrast to the immense Anaheim shows, and even the much smaller summer shows of recent years. This was reflected in the attendees’ demeanors. Instead of harried and formal, people were relaxed and moved around the show with more deliberation.In describing the show I repeatedly heard attendees use words like conversational, intimate, and cozy. Everywhere I looked, I saw people in deep conversation – and even joined in many myself. These sorts of meetings of the mind are the occasions that give birth to great ideas, partnerships, and other concepts that move the industry forward.
Despite the show’s smaller size, exhibitors seemed positive about the show experience when asked. The last few summer shows were filled with depressed talk predicting the impending demise of the summer show. In Atlanta, the attitude instead was upbeat and positive and there was talk of a future for the show and discussion of “how can we do this better next time?”