Buyers Market of American Craft - Winter 2011 E-mail




DATES: February 18-21, 2011


PAID ATTENDANCE: 2,100 Retail Companies (The Rosen Group)

BOOTH COST (10x10): $1,875 and above





First off, when more than half of the exhibitors at a wholesale crafts show respond that sales metbmac-1 or exceeded their expectations – as 53% did in the survey accompanying this review – there is reason for optimism.

For many of the exhibiters at the recent Buyers Market of American, the specter of spending four long days breathing in stale convention center air, wondering why they ever decided to waste money they don’t have trying to impress phantom gallery/gift shop owners who just want to buy one of these and one of those, was somewhat lessened when they actually witnessed real-live buyers with some real-live intentions on placing orders enter the second floor exhibit hall of the Pennsylvania Convention Center at the start of the show.

It is my opinion that as the BMAC goes wholesale craft shows go. There is little argument among craft artists who sell wholesale, and gallery owners that rely on wholesale shows to fill inventory and meet new artists, that the winter Buyers Market of American Craft is the best show of them all.

There are artists that do better at other shows; other shows that focus on different levels of work; and gallery owners who would rather not be in Philadelphia in February.

But the work you see for sale at this show is what you see at pretty much every craft/gift gallery in America. So if the buyers don’t come and the artists don’t sell, it doesn’t bode well for artists that make a living selling to galleries.

As I walked the show on Saturday it looked to me that the aisles were fairly empty.bmac-2 The atmosphere wasn’t as slow as the past two shows, but it wasn’t exactly bustling.

I was bracing for a lot of disappointed comments from the artists I would speak with at the show.

Funny thing is that most of the artists I spoke with admitted it was slow, but that they were making sales and that those buyers that were at the show were placing orders.  In fact, one exhibitor I spoke with, who has exhibited at the show for more than a decade, said it was the best BMAC she’s ever done.

Of course, not every exhibitor has a positive outlook on the show. What’s especially hard for these artists is that most of them have had enormous success at this show in the past and/or rely exclusively on gallery orders to survive.

They are seeing less of their older customers at the show, so success for them is now measured primarily on how many new retailers can they meet or sell their work to – which puts them in the category of every other exhibitor on the floor, new and old.

Those buyers that in the past would make a beeline to that artists’ booth and place a large order, aren’t making the trip to Philly anymore – or just aren’t around.

One gallery owner, who has done the this show for years but skipped this year, told me she’s seen many of the same artists over the years at the these (ACC & BMAC) shows AND in local shops, and seeks new territories to “explore to keep things interesting and fresh.”

Although this show may never reach the attendance levels it achieved in the late ‘90s, the show bmac-3is moving in the right direction. The number of exhibitors is where it should be – no more no less – until the number of retailers increases, and the show is starting to see an increase in new buyers.

Things I would address/change/eliminate from the show, even though I have absolutely no experience in producing a show:

  1. Corner Booths. It seemed that every other booth was a corner booth, which meant that at every other booth there was a cross aisle. Cut back on the number of corner booths and keep the buyers in the aisles longer even if, God willing, it creates a bit of a logjam. With less left and right turns to make buyers will see more. Besides, I find it hard to believe that every artist with a corner paid a premium . . .

  3. Fashion Shows. The one fashion show I was able to witness had full seating. To some that may be proof that the buyers want them, but I believe they actually distract buyers from why they attend the show – to buy.

  5. Extra-curricular activities. Eliminate those events that keep buyers off the exhibit floor, such as any seminars that don’t end before 10:00 and extended luncheons.

  7. Don’t invite a comedienne, who makes a living on satire and just wrote a book on crafting, to speak at the show.  In case you didn’t get it, the joke isn’t on Amy Sedaris.

  9. GlobalDesign. I know it generates revenue for TRC, but by renting out space to another show that features jewelry, and advertising their artists in the BMAC program, aren’t you shortchanging those jewelers in the BMAC exhibit hall?

With all that said, the staff at the Rosen Group is making strides in building this show back to where exhibitors can have confidence when the exhibit hall doors open there will be buyers lining up to walk the aisles.

Which is good, because the success of so many is riding on them.



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