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Needlework Expo Wrap-Up

What can I say? – it was wonderful to be participating in my first wholesale needlework market last weekend. Just to catch folks up, as I wrote here, the Nashville Needlework Market – which is the wholesale in-person shopping experience for store owners and designers that typically takes place at the beginning of March – was canceled for 2021. Just like so many other conferences and events. (Hey, but we are on an upswing in the world and let’s keep moving forward and keep positive, right?) Janis Note, of the Noteworthy Needle, took it upon herself to organize a virtual market instead. Nearly 100 exhibitors were on board – mostly cross stitch pattern designers, but also fabric and thread dyers and accessories makers (think needle minders and grime guards). Just about 200 stores registered. What an awesome coming together (virtually) of our needlework world!

So, how did this work? Exhibitors logged into their accounts and went to their “booth” and started a video chat. Sat in front of a computer screen and waited for someone to “enter”. Meanwhile, store owners logged in, began in the “Main Hall” where they saw a long list, with pictures, of each of the designers. Click on any of them and it brought the store owner to the designer’s “booth.” For the sake of making this simple, it basically brought them to a webpage. At the top, along with an introduction of whatever type, most designers had instructions on how to order. You could click “video chat”…but you could also just message the designer or, as many of us did, offer a link to an order form, a google form, etc. On my end, I was in front of my computer for three days, just waiting to hear the doorbell sound (yes, it really was a doorbell!) and for someone to appear on my screen. Did I have some stitching and other things with me at all times to keep busy? Absolutely. I will say that most of my sales came from store owners using my google form, but I absolutely loved when I got to speak in person. A couple even came to say hello and chat a bit, but also saying that had just ordered through my form.

During our “practice run” a couple of nights before the Expo began, we discovered that we could open a second tab on our computers and use that to go visit other designers. If someone came to your video chat while you were talking with a fellow designer, you would hear the doorbell and be able to immediately leave the chat you were in by switching to your main tab. Awesome. It gave a little of the flavor of being in person, of meeting some fellow designers. A couple of times, I went to say hello to someone, immediately saw that they had a customer and easily left and came back at another time. In addition, at the end of the days, there were some Happy Hour open rooms. A little chance for the mixing and mingling that typically happens in Nashville during those end of the days’ hours.

Now, doing a market this way flipped a few things around. The need for invoicing, packing and shipping…all of that doesn’t happen for Nashville. Designers show up with lots and lots of copies of patterns. Store owners go around and purchase on the spot and take patterns away with them. This is called a Cash-and-Carry market. There is also the whole effort of packing up, traveling, possibly shipping if driving is not possible – a lot of work for a designer to get to Nashville. But, when it’s done, the designer’s work is basically done.

Instead, for the virtual Expo, there was no need to “guess” how many patterns to bring and certainly no need to make travel arrangements. However, there was the word of sending invoices, recording payments, packing up orders, and shipping them out. I personally think that this work is probably easier than the work it takes to get to Nashville, but what do I know. Hopefully, by this time next year – after a Nashville Market 2022 – I’ll actually be able to make that statement, or amend it, because I’ll have some experience.

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to meet folks and get a better sense of the wholesale needlework world thanks to this Expo. Janis’ plan is to have a fall market, likely the last weekend in August, just in time for September 1st releases. You bet I’ll be taking part. The vision going forward – an in-person Nashville Market for the spring, a virtual market for the fall. Sounds like a great plan to me.

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