Creativation 2020 in Phoenix, AZ featured a co-location of the AFCI (Association for Creative Industries) and TNNA (The National Needlework Association). TNNA and AFCI are now both managed by SmithBucklin.

Many attendees commented on the noticeable decline in size over the past two years, although statistics were not available at time of publication. This year, there were approximately 210 companies in total with booths on the show floor and 43 of those companies were located within the TNNA pavilion. Notable absences from the show included Spinrite (who announced their purchase of Red Heart Yarns following last year’s show) and the needlepoint/cross-stitch sector in the TNNA pavilion (which left to form their own show). Across all industries, trade shows are on the decline.

Special sections of the show floor included the Stamping Village, New Exhibitor Area and TNNA pavilion, as well as an interactive AFCI booth, an Innovation stage and an Education Theatre.

A bustling New Product Showcase Networking Event kicked off the event Friday evening.
Gwen Bortner’s sold-out class on Planning a Retreat.

Susan Lane left SmithBucklin at the end of 2019, Janet Rapp takes her place as Executive Director of TNNA.

While the show floor was open Saturday through Monday, education began on Thursday. Classes were presentation-style, 1-hour long, and included in the registration fee (except certain classes with materials). For the first time, the Digital Content Creator section hosted an educational track of content. With topics like Email Marketing and Instagram Stories, sessions were widely attended by all segments.

One of the mind maps created by on-site artists during classes.
One of the many make & takes happening on the show floor.

Trends on the show floor

It is clear that video content and digital access is here to stay. Numerous influencers and content creators made content live on the floor, with brands inviting featured influencers into their booths. Penless demonstrated a product that allows consumers to bring their video content into scrapbooking by introducing a line of decorative QR code stickers that link to customer-created video content.

Ease of use was on the minds of many companies, with beginner-friendly tools having a strong presence to suit both craft dabblers and children. OLFA introduced a beginner craft knife, citing the desire of customers for products that could be used for first-time crafters. The cutting knife features a minimally-exposed blade which is easier to change, and is suitable for children aged 8 and above. A number of products with claims of ‘quick-drying’ (pens and glues), ‘odorless’ (glues) and ‘mess-free’ reinforced the ease-of-use trend.

Organization for crafters’ burgeoning stocks of supplies was another healthy product category on the show floor.

The floor literally sparkled with a proliferation of glitter and gloss options. From new irridescents and mirror-finish paints to glitter in various shapes and colored gilding. Multiple brands touted the rise in bling-y options in their line-ups.

In a seemingly contrary focus to the sparkle trend is an increased focus on earth-friendly materials. Wow offered EarthSparkles, a biodegradeable glitter. Multiple companies mentioned a move towards plastic-free packaging and sustainable procedures.

Cosmic Shimmer’s Aurora Flakes are just one example of the many innovative glitters presented.

Interaction abounds

In keeping with the interactivity consumers are expecting, AFCI presented an interactive experience for attendees at the show. Attendees were invited to write on a giant wall (with a rainbow of markers, of course) about their experiences.

Photos using the hashtag #Creativation2020 were live-streamed onto a video monitor and were printed and hung in the lounge for display.

The future

During meetings, AFCI emphasized the importance of providing year-round value for members, including access to educational content and networking opportunities.

Although there are no concrete plans for AFCI and TNNA to co-locate their shows together in the future, many in the industry speculated this was a likely path as both shows face declining trade show participation.

Stacey Trock

Stacey Trock


Stacey Trock helps small businesses in the craft industry put their best foot forward in the digital world. She specializes in developing a company’s branding, marketing + social media to build customer-loyalty, community-building and engagement. She writes, teaches and consults on a variety of small business marketing topics. 

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