Last week, over 250 craft companies descended on the NEC in Birmingham for Craft, Hobby and Stitch International (Stitches), the biggest trade show for creative craft industries in Europe. The show runs for three days and is right in the middle of the country so it’s perfect for attracting people from all over. This was my third year at the show with a stand and my fifth year visiting as I used to go as a buyer when I had a shop. It’s always been a favourite show of mine and I was pretty excited to get set up on the Saturday.

New Product Showcase

At Hawthorn Handmade we design and make a range of craft kits for needle felting and crochet which we sell through about 100 stockists and online. The trade shows are a vital source of new customers for us, as well as a great way to catch up with existing stockists and friends from around the country.

This year we graduated from the Bright Sparks ‘Start Ups’ area to the main show. Set up went pretty smoothly. We have a simple stand with hanging shelves, as you can’t attach anything to the walls. The ‘we’ I mention is myself and my Mum who just also happens to be our crochet designer! She’s always helped out at trade shows and since her recent retirement is taking a more active role in the business. It’s easy to get your van near to the doors to unload, and everyone is friendly and helpful. I love seeing a trade show magically appear out of boxes and pallets and it was fascinating to see other stands take shape around us.

Stephanie and Mary Carswell on Hawthorn Handmade Stand

The show started at 9.30am on the Sunday and people started to reach our stand about 15 minutes later. One thing I wasn’t expecting was to take our first order by 10:15am! This was a great start and meant we could relax a little, as it wasn’t going be a total disaster. It was an interesting few days on the stand, definitely different from previous years. We took about the same number of orders, but people were being more cautious with their money and spending less on the day. However, on the flip side of that, we spoke to a lot of very interested stores who, though they didn’t order on the day, have already been in touch and have made this our most successful show yet, and I imagine that is going to keep on rolling over the next few weeks if not months. We take note of everyone we speak to so we can track if they found us through the show. That way we can really gauge how successful it has been for us. A quick five minute conversation can easily turn into a multi thousand £ relationship.

In previous years we’ve been one of just three stands with needle felting, and this year saw eight so we’re right in the middle of a trend which is a great place to be! Something else which really caught my eye across the show was the use of bright and tropical colours and themes as well as geometric shapes and repeating simple patterns. These Zenbroidery designs really stood out.

Design Works Zenbroidery

There was a nice contemporary feel to a lot of the stands with a move away from the more traditional, which felt great. It seemed to me that the craft industry was on a high at the show and everything felt very positive and forward thinking. One of my favourite items was these children’s cross-stitch designs. I think I might make the bear just for myself!

Vervaco Stand

Another key trend I spotted was weaving which has been obvious on Instagram, but it was great to see new products and designs coming through on the floor and has sparked some new product development ideas!

All in all we had a great few days and though I’m still recovering we’ll definitely be rebooking for 2017!

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