Friday, July 22, 2005

Fall Preview 2005 (Part 1)

As shop owners, one of our biggest treats is the chance to attend quilting and knitting markets. These markets are held several times a year, in various locations across the country, and provide shop owners a chance to preview the newest yarn, fabrics, patterns, books, notions, tools, and techniques. In other words, we get to go shopping!

The most recent market that we attended was TNNA (The National Needlework Association) in Columbus, Ohio, in June. This is a huge market for both knitting and needlework and it's where we plan and place our yarn orders for the fall. We wish we could have pictures for you, but they're not allowed. The convention is held on the floor of a huge convention center in center city Columbus.

You need a retailer's badge to get in. The market is made of both yarn and needlework companies; since we don't do needwork at our store, we can skip past a lot of booths. But we still walk for miles on that floor. We've been there twice. Last year, we were completely overwhelmed, but this year we were ready for it, and we knew what we were looking for.

The planning for market begins long before we pack our suitcases and head out. Shoppping for a store is quite different from shopping for a stash. We have to understand our customers, evaluate what sells (and what doesn't), and anticipate trends in our region. In the weeks leading up to TNNA we undertook a thorough evaluation of all the yarns in our shop. We thought about the qualities and types of yarns that work best for the kinds of projects our customers create.

We carry about 100 different types of yarn in our shop, and we ranked them all from best to worst sellers, we evaluated the characteristics of the yarns that were good and poor sellers, and we discovered gaps in our current inventory. We found mainly that clear or bright colors work best in our store. No surprise.

As a result of our analysis, we were on the lookout for a few new things: More variegated, large-needle yarns (Berroco Foliage and Hip Hop, and Lang Tosca were some final winners); a high-quality, D.K.-weight, superwash, merino wool for babies; some yummy alpaca; organic cotton (we get many requests for it); any interesting yarn that is good for felting; and, of course, any new patterns or yarns that we might run across and "need." You have to be flexible in your planning.

We found and have already gotten in our baby yarn. It's called Biberon, by Aurora yarns, and it is incredibly soft, in lovely baby colors; Cynthia's mother has made this adorable yellow sweater from it and has proclaimed that it is one of the best yarns she has ever knitted with. Whew.

We were lucky in that two of the sales representatives from our main companies, Berroco/JCA and Crystal Palace, had come to our store to show us their fall lines the week before the show. We spent the entire day with each sales rep, and placed our fall orders with those companies. That freed up a great deal of time for us to be able to scout new things on the market floor.

By the way, our Foliage and Tosca have also arrived! The beautiful mitered throw sample we have is made from Foliage.

Market opened Saturday, June 11th at 10:00. It takes us about 6 hours to drive to Columbus, and also there was a fashion show and jubilee party the night before so we left Friday morning. After a 40-minute detour (Cynthia had left her suitcase at her house, but didn't realize it until she got to Kim's), we headed out. Despite a few more detours (construction on I-80), we arrived in Columbus with plenty of time to relax before the fashion show.

Yarn companies and pattern designers enter garments in the fashion show to entice us to visit their booths the next day. Cynthia went crazy over a Berroco suede cowgirl jacket. We had already ordered this pattern the week before, and we had ordered Suede in a number of the new colors, including Suede Tricolor, which is a self-striping yarn. Cynthia apparently has a redneck streak in her and cannot seem to forget about this jacket. So when she is done--or at least very far along with--with her new shadow-knitting sweater, her Wool in the Woods Pizazz sweater, her mitered squares sweater, her blue/purple Mango Moon poncho, her Maggie Jackson shawl, and her Manos sweater--older stash and all her quilting projects don't count--you just may see her starting this jacket over the winter. There were many incredible sweaters, wraps, jackets, and felted bags. This is the year of the shrug and the shawl.

Before and after the show there was food. You could get prime-rib sandwiches, veggies and dip, and desserts. More desserts arrived after the fashion show. At first we were excited about the chocolate fountain, where you could dip cookies or pretzels--but it quickly became apparent that we might be wearing chocolate on our good clothes. We went to the other side of the room where waiters were putting out trays of chocolate cake. The waiters could not even get the trays all the way down before all the cake was gone. We felt lucky to be in the right spot at the right time, and we each were able to grab a piece of cake. (It seems obvious from the amount of chocolate available that this is a female-oriented industry.)

In addition to the fashion show, we browsed The Great Wall of Yarn and New Items area, noting booths that we needed to visit.

The Great Wall of Yarn is a large wall of grid, about twice as long as our store, with yarn hanging from almost every company. One the table at one end of the wall, there are packets with lists of company names. Store owners can grab a packet and walk down the wall of yarn, snipping and taping yarn samples into their packets. Last year we went crazy and snipped almost every yarn, but this year we were more experienced and just picked out a few things that seemed as if they had potential for our store.

The New Items area has .... new items! We particularly noticed some beautiful buttons there that we found inside and bought. (They have arrived.) We also found some really cool purse handles; they're clear plastic tubing, and you can run your yarn through them to make fun handles for your felted bags.

Next time: The yarns we thought about or bought.

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