exhibitfloorI’m inspired and pumped because it is a big week for the quilt industry!  On Wednesday, May 14th, International Quilt Market opens in Pittsburgh, PA and chances are ~ your local quilt shop owner will there! They will be choosing the best of the latest fabrics and gadgets from their long time favorite vendors and innovative new designers. Quilts, Inc. organizes the event and has tagged it as “An event that sets the standard for both the art and the business of quilting”. This is not a public show; it is an industry trade show and is open only to vendors and merchants in the biz.   For the average quilter, this means the shop owners are going to be out there searching for new products, new lines, and seeking hot new trends to bring back to their local quilt communities and customers.

International Quilt Market is held twice annually. The fall show is always held in Houston and kicks off the week before International Quilt Festival. The spring show moves around to various locations, alternating from east coast to west coast destinations. This year Spring Quilt Market will reign down where 3 Rivers meet in Pittsburgh, PA. The 2014 Quilt Market opens on May 14th and Day 1 will kick off with an all day event labeled Sheer Intensity! THE Retail Boot Camp. This day long presentation will discuss techniques for the retailer to reach multi-generational audiences in the retail space, how to foster relationships in the market place, store planning, and visual display concepts.

That is just Day 1 – the beginning of the experience. There are other industry focused workshops and breakaways throughout the week long conference that focus on the needs of shop owners and the consumer retail experience including workshops geared toward retail topics. Employees 101: The Hiring Toolkit, Powerful Marketing Tips for the Thread Market, Increase Profits by Reaching Todays Powerful Trendsetters, and (my favorite), Social Media Marketing 2.0 Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Plus! are just a few of the presentations on the agenda for the conference. (Download the full schedule of events here)

At Market, the exhibitors are looking to gather quantifiable benchmarks throughout the show, including measuring important objectives, such as reaching a target percentage of attendees in their audience and branding their product image. Their energies are focused at bringing the latest and greatest out to play – showcasing hours upon hours of effort in hopes that their buyers will take their patterns, books, fabrics, and tools back to share with us! Before they arrive, they have a marketing strategy in place and they know exactly how to introduce their brand, showcase exciting new products, and lock in buyers. You never know what you might find.

Most of us will never have the opportunity to make it to one of these industry events. I was fortunate enough to be at International Quilt Market when it was held at the convention center in Atlantic City. During this event I was a runner for the duration of the show. My responsibility was to cater to the needs and wants of the vendors: I helped carry boxes of goodies and gadgets, made sure they had all of the resources needed to set up their displays, and offered them relief when they needed a break from the buzz. Believe me, I noticed one consistent message – everyone was excited to create the kind of buzz that makes you want to go back again, and again. These folks don’t mess around.

To this day, I still consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to work behind the scenes at this intense industry event and see all of this first hand. But here is the EXCITING news! While I am not on any VIP list and will not be attending Quilt Market next week, I took the opportunity to visit with two local quilt shop owners yesterday and talk to them about their expectations and plan of attack at Quilt Market. I asked them to share their strategies with me, and here is what they told me.

Debbie Hansen from The Little Shop, Haddonfield, NJ

Little ShopThe staff at The Little Shop is looking forward to hitting International Quilt Market and will be focusing on visiting with long-standing favorite vendors to see what is new, while also looking for the innovative newcomers to the market. The shop, located in historic downtown Haddonfield, NJ, is known for bringing a contemporary flair to traditional quilt projects. This is what their keen eye will be looking to discover while browsing at Market next week. Debbie said “She loves to look at what is trending, yet gravitates toward finding concepts that fall just outside the expected”. She doesn’t rely on trends as much as her keen intuition in knowing exactly what her customers are looking for when they come into her shop. Debbie said “Recently, she has been focusing on building store followers thru social media sites such as Pinterest, which allow her to showcase small projects with big impact” and indicated she will be sharing her finds on her social media sites. Check out her Pinterest site here!  http://www.pinterest.com/lsquilts/

Judy Engime from Olde City Quilts, Burlington, NJ

OldeCity“Renewing long-standing friendships and enjoying the social aspect of Market” is  high on the to-do list for Judy and Rob Engime of Olde City Quilts. Their shop, located in the downtown riverfront community of Burlington City, NJ, is growing and has a large demographic. While at Market, they are looking forward to catching up with old friends from Montana and building on their relationships with familiar quilt professionals.  They hope to be able to fill their store event calendar with exciting new trunk shows for their customers through these social networking opportunities. As for shopping, their wish list includes looking for projects, books and patterns that will satisfy their customers desire to incorporate their stash and use up bits and pieces of left-over fabrics from finished projects. Judy also emphasized a desire find inspiration for creating in store events and promotions that will showcase the wide range of fabrics and notions in their shop.  They are also planning a stop at the Arrow Kangaroo Sewing Cabinets Booth (Products: Sewing Furniture).  You can expect to see these new furnishings in the shop soon!

Both of these amazing shops cater to the needs and wants of their customers and finding inspiring, creative, and innovative projects are a MUST-DO’s while at Spring Quilt Market. I’m inspired by their commitment to focus on creating a unique customer experience for us – the valued customers! I can’t wait to see what they bring back!   Have you asked your local quilt shop owners what they look forward to at Quilt Market?

Happy Quilting!