January is a busy month for trade shows in the crafts industry. The Craft & Hobby Association and TNNA shows open the month. Creativeworld in Frankfurt, Germany closes out the month.
This coming January, like this past January, I will once again be making the transatlantic trek to Germany to attend the Creativeworld show in Frankfurt as a speaker and member of the show’s official press corps. Why go to another continent for a trade show just two weeks after attending the Craft & Hobby Association show? As I learned last year during my first visit, there are actually several ways in which the international Creativeworld show complements and enhances what attendees have just learned and done at CHA.
For one, the international crafts market is not homogenous with the U.S. market. It has different trends, styles, and consumer priorities than the U.S. market. Especially in the paper crafts market, the European market is at a very different point in its life cycle than the U.S. market. U.S. businesses looking to the international market for expansion need to not only understand that the two markets are different, but also how they are different at that specific moment. Attending the two shows back-to-back gives a stark look at exactly how the markets differ in where they are at in trend cycles relative to each other. This knowledge can inform both marketing plans and product design decisions.
Several contrasts to the CHA show just a week earlier stood out to me visiting last year’s Creativeworld. The pocket scrapbooking that dominated CHA was almost nowhere to be seen on the other side of the Atlantic, but 12 x 12 layouts (considered virtually dead by many watchers of the U.S. market) were very much in predominance. Another obvious contrast was in style trends. Whereas the U.S. market was rapidly being taken over by bright colors and graphic style elements, the show floor in Frankfurt was dominated by shabby chic-inspired soft small floral prints and small hand drawn characters. The difference in color palettes and design icons was striking.
Because trends filter both ways – both into and out of the U.S. market – having a look at what is currently the hot thing on the other side of the ocean can be a preview of where the U.S. market is going (and vice versa). For instance, during my trip last year, chalk paint and faux finishing was one of the hot things on the Creativeworld show floor but wasn’t getting major attention yet from consumers in the U.S. market. Since then, however, those finishes have exploded in the U.S. market.
While the emphasis at the CHA shows is on buying and selling between manufacturers and retailers, there is an additional element of the supply chain heavily represented at Creativeworld: overseas product factories. An entire hall of the Messe is devoted during the Creativeworld show to displays from overseas (mostly Asian) vendors who produce products, with product samples on display. Whether you are a manufacturer looking to source a new product, or a retailer looking to create a house brand, you won’t find this many vendors in one place anywhere else.
And of course, for manufacturers, the Frankfurt show will draw many buyers from Europe – and beyond – who don’t attend the U.S. show. For CHA members looking for an easy way to dip their toe in the water of the international market by exhibiting at Creativeworld, without having to take on the challenge of starting from scratch in an unfamiliar market, CHA is once again hosting the pavilion that it hosted last year at the show. This pre-packaged set-up of basic services in a self-contained pavilion provides extra assistance to the exhibitors who take advantage of it.
Last year, Simple Stories was one of the exhibitors that tried out the CHA Pavilion at Creativeworld:
Those wanting more space can take advantage of simple options outside the CHA Pavilion, like We R Memory Keepers (and BoBunny and several other companies) did:
The craft industry – more literally, the craft world – doesn’t stop at the U.S. border, and stepping outside it to interact with and experience a different perspective can broaden our horizons and our businesses.
Learn more about Creativeworld in my 2014 show reports: