Four Reasons To Attend The Craft & Hobby Association Convention & Trade Show

Twice a year the Craft and Hobby Association (CHA) holds a trade show. I first attended CHA in the winter of 2005 when it was held in Atlanta. I attended as a buyer, as an employee of a local store. I only attended one day, and the experience was exhausting. I remember seeing lots of new product, picking up catalogs, giving feedback to my store’s owner, and doing a few make & takes.

Each time CHA comes around, professionals in the industry have to decide whether they want to attend or not. This is a big decision, because it may be very expensive to attend (depending on needs for expenses like travel, child care, etc). Not attending, though, may cost a business customers or opportunities. It can feel difficult to accurately gauge how valuable attending is for your business.

While considering whether to attend CHA, you’re probably thinking about immediate, practical things like:

  • Do I have the time?
  • Do I have the financial resources to travel and attend the show?
  • Do I have the financial resources to travel and rent a booth at the show (if you are a manufacturer or supplier)?
  • Can other people cover my responsibilities while I am away?
Let’s weigh those costs against the benefits of attending a trade show….

Why should a professional attend a trade show?

  1. Networking. Conferences and trade shows are an excellent way to network. I do a lot of networking online, but it still can’t replace in-person networking. Attending CHA is a chance to do some in-person networking with people you are already networking with online, or even to network with completely new people.
  2. Reinvigorating yourself. I try to attend my full-time profession’s annual conference each year. Each time I go I feel reinvigorated towards my profession. If I get nothing else out of attending, I get reinvigorated mentally, and this is worth it to me.
  3. Staying on top of trends. It is much easier to stay on top of trends thanks to the Internet, but we are often rather selective as to what we see online. We follow the same blogs, listen to to the same podcasts, and so on. Attending the show increases the likelihood that you will stumble upon something really cutting edge that you might otherwise miss.
  4. Bringing back new ideas to your customers & staff ( or readers, or whoever your stakeholders are). You have a lot of people looking at you for new ideas. You don’t need to attend CHA to get new ideas, but it certainly is an efficient way to get them.

Do you attend CHA? What kind of business do you run (e.g., manufacturer, designer, store owner)? Do you think attending CHA is worthwhile? What suggestions do you have for others to make attending more affordable?

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23 Responses to Four Reasons To Attend The Craft & Hobby Association Convention & Trade Show

  1. Susan @ PaperCrafter's Corner June 27, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    Great article, Stephanie!

  2. Theresa Mary Stem June 27, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    I’m sorry… I’m new. When and where is the CHA or can you point me in the direction of where to find out?

    Thanks! 🙂

  3. Gitana the Creative Diva June 28, 2012 at 3:30 am #

    I attended CHA Summer 2010 in Rosedale, IL for three days as a guest of a major craft retailer. As such, I had the advantage of being introduced to industry leaders by my hosts, participate in targeted events and snag a whole lotta swag (merchandise given away by vendors at the event). Lots of goodies are given away as well as make-and-takes so make sure to bring a large bag to carry them home. (I saw many regular attendees there dragging around rollling bags to carry off their loot.) There is no doubt that the event is worthwhile for a retailer looking for new products and for fresh new ideas to generate interest on older products. There is also no doubt that the experience can be expensive. I would definitely encourage anyone to consider attending at least one CHA event every few years if attending more often is not financially viable. Make it a point to connect with vendors who carry product lines that you would sell in your business. Nothing…I repeat… NOTHING beats a personal relationship. Once established, maintain it by regular communications so you are not forgotten. These relationships can become invaluable in tipping you off to upcoming trends and/or products, as well as providing you with support and education for their products that you can then pass on to your customers. CHA is definitely a worthwhile investment. It was an exhausting, exhilarating and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

  4. Karen Bushy June 28, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    Many of the largest manufacturers are not going to be at CHA this year. Couple of reasons: It is very expensive for them to exhibit there, so more than a few are having ‘off-site’ parties and exhibits. They are one day only, geared toward shop owners and their buying STAFF, not all of the ‘extra’ folks who seem to be able to go to the show, but are not wholesale buyers. We don’t have time to stand and wait to make a ‘Make N Take” when we see some of our own retail customers sitting there making things. It is a lovely but shrinking show. I have cut down on the number of buying staff I bring and the amount of time we’re willing to give it. I should not have to pay to come into a show to buy product for my store when I can get many of the same deals direct from the companies. Their system needs an overhaul. The potential is great, it is fun to see the new products that are there, but for the $$$$ it costs, someone better figure out a better system that is actually geared to the wholesale buyers.

    • Stephanie Medley-Rath June 28, 2012 at 10:30 am #

      Thanks for your comments. Isn’t part of the reason they charge to make sure that only those who are serious about the purpose of the event attend? Any ideas for a better system? Some of these off-site events sound interesting, but doesn’t that just mean people would be driving all over the place to get to them?

      • Karen Bushy June 28, 2012 at 11:44 am #

        Some of our local stores have been known to give credentials to ‘big spender’ customers; to customers who are happy to pay for their own credentials so they get to do the Make N Takes and get all of the ‘freebies’. If I were to offer credentials to the show to my customers for $50.00 each, we could easily sell several hundred of them…..we’d make money, CHA would have a hall full of people, and the manufacturers would be furious, because their booths would be clogged up by happy ‘lookers’ who have no ability to buy wholesale. Several are easy walking distance from the show, and one is about a 1 mile cab ride. We love those shows…..We see a one-time presentation of the products, then we have a chance to browse the collections, write our order, have a cup of coffee and head out. Everyone who is there is a ‘buyer’, not a ‘looker’. It saves the vendor time and money, and it saves the LSS buyers time and money, too. Some of my staff and I offered a full range of suggestions at a luncheon to which we were invited by CHA some months ago, but doubt many – if any – were considered or heeded. Hard to know – no follow-up communication received.

  5. KIZER & BENDER June 28, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    Attending the CHA Show is a must for any retailer in the creative industries. Tough times are when you SHOULD attend trade shows! An article in the Wall Street Journal said, “participating in trade shows is one of the smartest things a business-owner can do.” And “trade shows are essential for learning about unfamiliar markets, building personal relationships and getting an up-close look at the competition.” We agree. CHA has top drawer educations, essential for growing your business.

    • Stephanie Medley-Rath June 29, 2012 at 7:01 am #

      Do you think it is necessary to attend in the summer and winter or every year (if cost is an issue)?

    • Karen Bushy June 29, 2012 at 10:04 am #

      The products and the deals are available whether you attend the show or not. Trade shows as a generic term are usually good for any business. I do not think the CHA shows are organized and set up to meet the needs of the unique business it is set up to serve. Think about it…..the Chicago Metroplex is about 9,000,000 people – I am the largest (some would say ONLY) LSS of any size serving that market! I’ve yet to see anything so unique or unusual or beneficial at a CHA show that it is worth the amount of money it costs to attend with my buying staff. We go to the summer event because it is right down the street (30 minutes) from my store.

      • DorothyCC June 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

        I live in the Chicago suburbs but had never heard of Karen Bushy’s store before. I clicked on the link, found the website, signed up for the store’s newsletter, and plan to check it out and attend a crop. I like to support local scrapbooking stores, as an alternative to the big chains.

        • Karen Bushy June 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

          Hey, thanks a lot Dorothy! I’m there every day, usually after 2:00 p.m. and until 9:00 p.m. Hope that I’m there when you have an opportunity to stop in to see us. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the visit – I know we’ll enjoy having you there.

  6. Laura H June 28, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    As an LSS owner, if I were to attend CHA, pay for a hotel room, the fee to attend, travel expenses (flying, etc) I would end up without the resources to purchase the great merchandise. If I don’t have the merchandise, I don’t have the sales. It is a double edge sword. In this business we sell low priced items and we must sell a lot of those items to make a profit. I would rather spend the money I would spend going to CHA on the great new product that my customers so desperately want. I wish I didn’t have to make that decision, but unfortunately I do.

    • Stephanie Medley-Rath June 29, 2012 at 7:03 am #

      Have you ever attended? I wonder if there are any business owners that have looked at what their return on investment is for attending. It appears expensive, but does the value in attending outweigh the up-front financial cost? I don’t know.

      • Karen Bushy July 3, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

        No, it is not worth it, really. The CHA has the ability to work to truly promote the scrapbooking industry, but they don’t do that, not with any degree of purpose. I think it is partly because they try to serve so many aspects of the craft industry and the scrapbooking part of the industry isn’t quite a “fit” with the rest of the “craft” industry. They’re trying to shoehorn us into a mold that doesn’t fit what we sell, and we’re seeing the result of it – – – a diminished industry.

        • Stephanie Medley-Rath July 4, 2012 at 7:42 am #

          Should scrapbooking/cardmaking/paper crafting be split off from the rest of CHA?

  7. Gab July 1, 2012 at 4:48 am #

    I’ve always wanted to go to CHA but as “just” a scrapbooker, ie not working in the industry, I live vicariously through this site!

    • Stephanie Medley-Rath July 2, 2012 at 7:01 am #

      Thanks for commenting! At least there are some sites covering the event so that you can live vicariously! 🙂

  8. Michelle Hessler July 2, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    I have attended 2 CHA’s. One in Chicago, as I was only 5 hours away, and another in Anaheim.

    I would say that while I had a great time doing the make and takes and all that, as far as networking, I’ve built better relationships through online forums. Though it was nice to meet a few of the online friends face to face. As a whole, I can’t afford to go and then purchase the new inventory. The cost of attending is just too much, between the travel and all that. Also, the ones I attended, I had a hard time getting into any of the classes offered. The only useful class I was able to get into was a Copics certification.

    I also attended some offsite vendor events too. Though, I can’t really say that everyone there were “buyers” and not just everyday crafting fans….as there seemed to be a good mixture of both. It was still hard to get one on one time with the reps and get an order established. I ended up taking the information back home with me and ordering later.

    • Stephanie Medley-Rath July 3, 2012 at 11:07 am #

      Thanks for commenting. What would be a better alternative, then? Networking online? The off-site events? What if there were more regional shows instead of only two national shows (I’m sure CHA officials would “love” that)?

      • Michelle Hessler July 3, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

        I would definitely love more regional shows. Though I doubt the manufacturers would like the expense on them to do more shows.

  9. Michelle Thomas July 8, 2012 at 6:50 am #

    I am an Australian online retailer and would love to one day go to CHA but don’t really think I would ever be able to afford it being so far away. What are the costs associated with just getting into the event.

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