I've just returned from Salt Lake City where I attended the Spring Quilt Market 2016. For those of you that haven't been, it's the wholesale market where publishers, fabric designers, tools and notions distributors, sewing machine manufacturers and anyone who sells anything in the quilting world, puts their products on display. Quilt shop owners, buyers and anyone who works in the quilting retail world attends the show to see what's new. So it's kind of like cramming everything quilting related into one giant convention hall and then throwing a party!
It's wonderful and overwhelming and crazy all at the same time. I had a great time while I was there, but I know I didn't see everything and I certainly didn't meet everyone. I do feel like I had a successful trip and got the things accomplished that I wanted to. So here's the top ten things I learned while I was at market (I learned lots more, but you don't want to read all of it, trust me!)
1. Wear comfortable shoes
There's a ton of walking to be done at market. My hotel was across the street from the convention hall, but once inside the convention center is where the walking begins. It's huge. I kind of wish I had worn my fitbit just to log the steps. So wear comfortable walking shoes. And I find it helpful to wear a different pair each day, to give my feet a little variety. It seems to help.
2. Bring your own snacks
There were snacks and food available, and there were even healthy choices. I will admit I'm kind of sad that I had to pay $8 for a tuna sandwich and $3 for a hard boiled egg. Think of the fabric that could have bought? So plan ahead and pack a few snacks or grab some at Starbucks on your way to the convention center.
3. Make a List
Organization is key to getting a lot done in a short amount of time with more distractions than you can possibly imagine. Make a list of things you want to look at and people you want to speak to before you leave home. Then refer back to your list often, because you will get distracted!
4. Map out a plan
As soon as you check in at market, you will be given the show book with the layout of the booths and information. Find a quiet place to sit down and study this. Mark the map with the places you must not miss. Also, find out where the classes will be and schoolhouse sessions, and sample spree, etc. You'll be glad you are familiar with this when you are rushing to the next event.
This event is held the day before market opens and is geared mainly toward quilt shop owners. The classes are 30 minutes long and the schedule is ongoing all day long. The menu of classes, locations and times is not available until the morning of schoolhouse. So plan to arrive early and make your selections ahead of time. There are about a dozen choices for each time period, so you can't see them all. It's best to just select your favorite for each time period and then go back and verify that you're not missing something important. You can expect free promotional materials at the door as you enter, you will also drop a business card in a basket for a drawing at the end of class. So bring LOTS of business cards. You'll be swapping them with everyone you meet as well. Then a presenter (or two or three) will pitch their product, book, etc. They are like fun little infomercials with prizes! I attended several before and after I presented my own.
6. Sample Spree
This event is really hard to describe. It takes place the night of Schoolhouse or the first night of market. It begins at 7pm but folks start lining up in the early afternoon. This is not necessary. The fabric and thread companies will have loads of inventory stacked high on tables. People swarm to their favorites and buy up as much stuff as they can, as fast as they can because the prices are at or near wholesale. The products will not be shipping to stores for months, so getting to sew with the fabrics ahead of time is great for store samples or just for bragging rights. I did buy some fabric and thread. I would have happily bought more but I set a budget and stuck to it. Also, I knew my suitcase space was limited. See #10 below.
7. Meet & Greet
I think this is the most important aspect of market. You can email and text all day long. Meeting people face to face gives relationships so much more meaning. I was able to meet all of the magazine editors that have published my quilts. I was able to meet the people at C&T that I've worked with for two years but never met in person. I also got to meet fellow authors. I can't express how important it was to meet people who have been through the same process as I have and realize that my experiences were very similar to theirs. I found out that it's normal to have no idea what's going on, or how things work, or who to ask. That's just the nature of the game. But now I am relieved to know that it wasn't me failing to make the right inquiries or connections. Being an author is a very solitary experience and there are no co-workers. There's no one to talk to or to bounce ideas off of. It's up to you and only you, period. I honestly have no idea why I ever expected it to be any different!
8. Trends and colors
Market is a great place to spot trends and see what colors will be available and trending in the next year. It's also a great place to get ideas for marketing materials and branding information. I walked around looking at pattern covers to see what the styles are for those. I want to rebrand my pattern covers and while I don't want them to look just like everyone else's, I do want them to appear current and be comparable to others on the market. It's also fun to see what colors and fabric prints will be popular. I'm happy to report that bright clear colors and light prints are trending. Gorgeous prints that will look fabulous in patchwork and applique. Woohoo!
9. Be realistic
You've seen the photos on Instagram and Facebook of gorgeous booths, smiling faces and large dinner parties. All that happens at market. But it may not happen to you. I ate dinner alone every night, and that's okay. I was tired and probably wouldn't have been a great conversationalist. The companies I work with don't host dinner parties or plan social events. But if you do want to party at market, hook yourself up with Moda. They know how to throw a party! Their event was held at my hotel and I had fun just peeking in the door and seeing the decorations! But hey, my hotel gave out free cookies every day at 5pm, so I had a free to look forward to!
10. Bring an extra suitcase
What you buy at Sample Spree will take up a whole extra suitcase (or it should!) But you will also get lots of samples and freebies, promotional materials and gifts. You'll be given copies of books and magazines as well. All of these things need to come home with you and they are heavy! So pack an empty bag in your suitcase that you can fill and check on the way home. If you're not flying, the bags you are given will be more than enough. I came home with a huge Moda bag, several Aurifil bags, and several others. There is no shortage of totes at market. But if you are travelling by plane, you'll need an extra suitcase, just trust me on this one.
I hope I'll see you at the next market!
PS: I have no idea what's wrong with the fonts, spacing and sizes. I've checked everything I know how to check, and they are still funky. Sorry for that!