I’m not 20 anymore.
If you know me personally, you know that most of my life I’ve had this strange obsession with acting older than I am. However, how I feel after this past weekend at Quilt Market in Houston is no act! Candy, soda, and very little sleep for days catches up to you hard when you are no longer 20. Or 30. Or, let’s be honest, 40. I tried Persian food for the first time (amazing), had some of the best tacos of my life (Cuban style), and the kolaches and donuts were on point, but I should have considered more water. I’d say I needed more sleep, but late-night time with sweet friends was totally worth feeling like I got hit by a truck. And I’d do it all again.
Market was really fabulous. I’ve been several times before, but I’d have to say that I felt especially productive on this trip. While yes, it is fun and exciting to see all the new everything, it is also a lot of investment, and takes a lot of focus to make the trip truly useful not only to the business you represent, but also to your clients and customers. I hear a lot of people say they wish they could go, and I think they would think it is fun in a lot of ways, but reality is that it probably isn’t exactly what 0ne would expect it to be.
For most business owners and representatives, Market begins with Schoolhouse. It sounds like you go there and learn how to make stuff, but really, you go there to learn about new product lines and how to market them to customers. Yes, you get to see a lot of the designers and their work up close and personal, but honestly, the presentations have a tendency to be rushed, and are kind of just a series of sales pitches all day long. There are some giveaways, piles of papers, and you go through a lot of business cards.
There isn’t a lot of actual shopping at Market, with the exception of Sample Spree. Sample Spree is in a lot of ways is like Black Friday at Wal-Mart in Smalltown, USA where every resident of the town is there because they have nowhere else to shop. The purpose of Sample Spree is for businesses to get materials they need to introduce products to their customers before they actually get a shipment of goods. It takes time and money for shops to make samples for lines of fabric, and the precuts available at Sample Spree make it so that they have what they need to make a sample before the fabric line comes to the shop. As you may know, The Green Apricot doesn’t sell fabric lines, but what does happen here are workshops. Workshops that I want people to be excited about. So, most of the fabric I buy there is to drum up a bit of excitement about what is happening in the studio. Having said that, I also buy some just because I like it, just like most everyone else there. I also look for the new products I want to review for guild presentations and the like. I can buy one or two of these at Sample Spree, but have to buy multiples on the Market floor.
The Market floor is all about merchandising. It’s all about getting businesses to buy quantities of all that is new. Shopping at Market is not like shopping at Quilt Festival, or other shows. Quantity is the name of the game, and taking a chance that from the thousands of offerings, you’ll be able to choose what your customers want and need and thereby keep your business profitable. What will you do if you buy 15 yards of a fabric, and only 2 yards sell? How about if you buy the whole line, which is more like 300 yards? It’s a risky business, and it’s a lot of money. Vendors know this, and they work hard to display the merchandise in a way that helps retailers to say, “Oh, I see how I could show that to my customer. I see how I can demonstrate how to use that.” Every stop at every booth involves questions like, “What’s your show special? What are your minimums? Shipping rates? Are you with a distributor?” And that’s after you’ve already talked with them about what exactly it is they are selling.
In other words, yes, Quilt Market is a lot of fun. And it’s inspiring. And it’s overwhelming. And it’s an opportunity. And it’s an investment. And it’s a lot of work.