Monday, April 22, 2013

What I hadn't thought about

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, or subscribe to my email list you've probably heard me mentioning this thing called the Online Needlework Show. You've made some assumptions and I've made some assumptions. It's become clear this week that we've all got a different take on this show. I'd like to share how I view the show, and analyze a little what is/isn't working.

This post is long. I apologize, but say that if you do read it you will understand me better.
TL;DR = Too long; didn't read.  But please do.

I started participating in the Online Show several years ago, back before I could even imagine the logistics and financing of going to a "real" trade show, before I was distributed by Hoffman and Norden and such.  The only way people could buy my charts was to stumble across my website.  Maybe somebody mentioned me in a Yahoo group or showed a picture in a blog and you took the time to Google me. The Online Show was a framework that let shops know I existed. I did really well in those early shows. Really well.  It played a key role in getting to where I am today.

True, only registered shops can order directly through the show, but the public has always been invited to peruse the booths, with the thought that stitchers would see all of the new things and pester their shops to  buy what they liked.  The Online Show seems to always represent a large number of foreign designers and "little fish" that stitchers might not otherwise see. If shops got enough interest from their customers during the sale week, they could afford to order from companies that they couldn't during the rest of the year.  It meant that stitchers had access to things they couldn't normally get. At least it was supposed to mean that.  It was also enough of an event, many designers planned their calendars to time new releases for the show.

So, how to get stitchers to look at the Show?  The door prize gimmick was a built in show option, with the thought that more stitchers would visit to see if they might win something.  Seriously, you could win anything from a chart to a FULL SET of silk floss.  I've given away dozens of charts in these games, thinking that this would be a good way to get noticed, get talked about, build a fan-base one happy winner at a time. This go around, I tried a different approach where you could win for a friend. Maybe introduce someone to Ink Circles, or say thank you to someone you love, or cheer up someone who's had a bad run lately.  (I've had some great nomination emails that make me wish I could send charts to everyone!) It never even dawned on me that folks might interpret this as "selling their friends info" to my evil giant marketing scheme. I'm glad a few of you mentioned it, or I'd still be in the dark.

I do have a mailing list. If you are on it, it is because you signed up for it directly, my friend. I have never added a single person. If you enter my drawing, or email me with a question, or send me your friend's name, or even place an order with me, I DO NOT ASSUME anything about you wanting further contact from me. I consider this just basic respect.  It was an oversight not to explicitly state that with the entry rules, but some of you wouldn't believe it anyway.  In retrospect, I recognize not all people would respect your privacy.

At the point of writing this (five days into the show,) I have had 218 people enter the door prize drawing. I didn't do a door prize last year, because of some other stuff going on, but the previous year I had over 200 entries ON EACH DAY. It begs the question, what has changed and what needs to change. I really do appreciate the entries, and if nothing more it means that those of you who entered stand a rocking chance to get a free chart for you and a bud. I truly appreciate those of you that chimed in with some feedback when I asked on Facebook why things were quiet.

As for new stuff at the show, we are given 30 product slots twice a year.  With that math, yes - most of the stuff in any designer's booth is not brand new.  I do have a few companies that order only once a year via this show and get all the "newish" stuff.  A show debut still means brand new, but for each shop and each stitcher, new is relative. You show up at a physical trade show with more in tow than the few new releases. Why the show has a "new releases" page baffles me, too. It doesn't reflect the new releases at the show. I think you had to pay extra to be featured here. The page does look sloppy and out of date, too, when they talk about "when the April show opens." Duh. It is open.

I paid $425 to participate. The booth price has risen over the years, presumably to improve the show infrastructures and drive out the non-serious designers. In the past there were a lot more people who got a copy of charting software and were suddenly "designers."  There have been some improvements on the show website each incarnation, but there are still a lot of basic obvious flaws.  Go to the main page and try to figure out when the show ends, for instance. Or use the search feature - new, but declared as "buggy" on the show's own homepage. How about the advertising that they are doing for us?  What once was a two-page spread with participating companies' logos in the Needlework Retailer had been shrunk to a half page with a blur of a list of websites.  Other advertising? Well, as a stitcher in the online community - what did you see? How did you hear about it? The number of companies participating has been dropping steadily these past years, which sounds like a downwardly spiraling aspect. Am I getting my money's worth? Unless something miraculous happens orderwise in the next day, I won't even be making cost. I'll be in the October show - it's already a sunk cost. Do I care that this show isn't the same exposure and sales for me as it was five years ago? Sure, but I'm not going to become distraught. It's like the party that you realize you should have left from a few hours earlier, the book you bought but know you just aren't going to finish. But I know a little better who I am, and where you all are.

I read a comment from Sue Hillis on a board explaining why she wasn't in the show. It wasn't where her customers were finding her.  I think I'm in that same realm.  Now I do have distributors, do attend physical trade shows, and do have an active social media presence (as active as I can manage :-).  If you're looking for Ink Circles, you know where to find me.

My best,

PS. Did you like the Teal Dear that I designed for my friend Wren?  Rather fitting for this post; I expect most of you will skim through. It was just some stuff I needed to get out of my brain so I can move on to other things.

PPS. The number of door prize entrants is likely higher now, as I hadn't counted any that came in during the three hours I've been gnashing at this post.


  1. Thanks for the read. Does explain your side of things past and present.

    Have you gotten significantly more door prize entrants since posting on FB?

    And as a fan of yours (and stitcher of your patterns) for many years, I've pointed a whole bunch of people your way, and continue to do so. There are a lot of us out here who don't like traditional samplers, the kitchy country kitchen look, etc. I love your geometric and symmetric patterns.

    Thank you!

    1. You have been a gem, Christine. Although we've not met in person (yet!) I consider you to be a real friend, not just a fan.

    2. I am at 252 total right now. I had ~80 from Thursday and Friday combined. Given that some people have their names in four or more (as nominators and nominees) the odds are good. As I said of FB, it's not really about the door prizes. That is a symptom and means I need to be looking at things differently.

      BTW, next post I'll discuss my wanderings off into the Bad Neighborhoods, recognizing they are not everybody's cup of tea. ;-)

    3. :) And your name is on my "want to meet" list for next time we get out to the west coast.

      Sounds like your numbers are up a bit, at least. But I go understand about the needing to look at things differently.

      I'd love to hear more about your wanderings off into the Bad Neighbourhoods. I do like looking at all of your new patterns, even if some of them don't appeal to me to stitch.

  2. I had forgotten about the show because it wasn't as publicized this year. In fact, I didn't get the email from them about it being open until this morning. How weird.

    1. I got it this morning too. I wonder if she read my facebook? Ha ha.

  3. - I like the Teal Deer, yes.
    - I didn't even know the show was going on until you tweeted - but I figured that was me; I've dropped out of cross-stitching social media in favor of knitting.

  4. Love the Teal Deer! Very funny.

    I know exactly what you mean about the show. As both a seller (a couple of times) and a buyer, I've watched it decline. I'm not sure why, but it's happened. I do enjoy looking at what everyone's showing, and I used it this year to see what new charted needlepoint designs are out that I wasn't aware of. (Sadly, not very many.)

    I read the whole thing, btw. :)

  5. I didn't nominate one friend because there are so many friends who would love a chart! Sad excuse but there it is!

  6. Well, I believe that cross-stitch is less popular now than it was a few years ago. I know many people who used to cross-stitch and now have moved to other crafts, such as crocheting, or drawing... I suppose it's normal that crafts have period of great popularity followed by periods when they become less widespread. Some magazines have closed, many internet sites selling cross-stitch material have closed or have started offering other kind of material besides cross-stitch one...
    So there are lot of people around who are ex-cross-stitchers that are selling their stash (or a big part of their stash) , and on the other hand, people who have been stitching for many years by now have a quantity of patterns and kits, and in this moment of economical crisis they are probably cutting their expenses in this sector! For example I love Ink Circles patterns, and there are a few more I would like...But I already have a number of them I haven't yet stitched (as well as a number of patterns by other designers) and I'm unemployed at present, so all I can say is that luckily I have enough materials for years, and I'm not buying more for the moment. So it's probably a mix of causes; the market is shrinking because there are fewer stitchers, and in addition those who are still stitching have less money to spend...

  7. Can I tell you what I see as consumer? The only way I knew about the show was from you and another designer posting about it. I've not seen it anywhere else. When you posted about the door prize I went and looked at your booth and the site. I viewed nearly every page that was accessible to me including all the vendor pages. Here's what I've observed:

    1. The graphics and design of the site are clunky and unappealing.
    2. The site is difficult to navigate. If you click on the 2013 vendors you get simply a list of vendors. I can't click on your store name and go to your booth page like you can with the General page. The new release page has only the designs linked and not the name of the shop, which is counter-intuitive. The design should go to the design page and the shop name should be linked to their booth page.
    3. Lack of information. When does it tale place? What is it? I've never been to a vendor show. I have no idea, aside from this post, what the purpose of it is. When will it happen again?
    4. Vendors were unclear on their door prizes. I came across more than one page that had a simple unlinked sentence at the bottom of their page like "Win a basket of goodies." As nice as that is there is no explanation or direction on how to enter for that prize. Many other door prizes were for things I have no interest in which overall made the door prizes not worth the effort of scrolling through every vendor pages.
    5. The content or perhaps the vendors is a better word. I was...disappointed in the variety of designs. I wouldn't want to attack anyone's expression of art, but I think a better representation of younger designers could have been helpful. There was a distinct lack of geeky cross stitch as well.
    6. Purchasing. I thought, perhaps mistakenly, that I would be able to purchase items from the show perhaps even at a sale price. So for me there's no point to go look at it. I follow all the designers I like and I typically find new designers through social media.
    7. Sponsoring. The sponsor page has a list of five sponsors. The only place I ever saw their name was on the sponsor page and their booth page. There was a revolving link in the top right hand corner which seemed to rotate through the all vendors. It doesn't seem like there is much benefit, at least on the website, to be a sponsor for the show.

    In the end the time that it took me to go through each page, the clunky navigation and graphics with seemingly little payoff makes me highly unlikely to view another in the future.

    Is that helpful feedback at all? Also would you please consider some type of Bramble and Rose style thing with tentacles. It would be amazing

    About me: I'm an avid cross-stitcher. I've stitched for 33 or so years of my 37. I enjoy patterns that are very graphic like yours, reproduction samplers, art nouveau, all things geeky and some art made into cross stitch. I think that the people around me are into many of the same things as well.

    1. I think you've hit the nail on the head. Or perhaps seven nails around the perimeter of its coffin. I'm not letting it suck any more joy out of my week - just going with the flow and moving on. I'd much rather be designing and stitching a tentacled Celtic thing!!! I agree about needing more geeky and smart things for cross stitch. Sometimes I feel like I straddle the line about as far into the fringe as I can go without losing my base. Meanwhile...I've got a few projects in ink you might enjoy looking at.

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  9. Like Silence Dogood, I only knew about the show when you mentioned it and I checked out the show after commenting on your Facebook question about it. I found the same problems. From your description of what it's supposed to be, I think that it's a brilliant idea that's being poorly managed. If they want it to be effective, it needs to be more modern, more social, and have more information about what it is and how to "use" it, for both shops and potential retail customers like us. From my personal perspective, they also need more modern and innovative shops (like yourself) participating if they want me to visit. The amount of time I spent browsing the difficult to search/navigate site would have been better spent doing a Google search or following links from my favourite bloggers/sellers.

    All that said, I did take advantage of the Canadian listing to get some more stores to look into.

    Honestly, I think in this online age you really only need a few things to stay out in the open: a product that is innovative and different enough to catch people's eye, some degree of product diversity, an active online presence (checking in to various online sites at least weekly keeps my attention), good customer service, etc. As far as I can tell, you have all of these. The only thing I would suggest, from the perspective of someone who has to pay hefty shipping because I'm out of country, would be PDF versions of the charts (I love your charts enough that I bought some anyway, but I would have prefered to buy more with the money I had to use for shipping). I assume that's something you'd have to work out with your dictributor.

    As for the giveaway, I think that the idea was good, but, yes, a bit more of a "I won't sell your info" disclaimer may have helped. For me, it was (as mentioned on Facebook) simply a case of not having enough stitching friends. Your's was one of the few giveaways that looked appealing to me. A "basket full of goodies" isn't something that interests me as it might be charts I don't like, tools I don't use, etc.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I've actually been really considering pdfs for international customers. The shipping costs have grown to be astronomical and I have very few companies and individuals that are willing to pay them. I just have to figure out a way to do it and NOT hurt all of the wonderful shops that support me.

    2. Yes. That would be tricky :( I'm glad you're at least thinking about it. I've run into one or two designers who have told me to basically suck it up and pay the shipping ... which isn't very good customer service :/

  10. I've found that the Online Needlework Show has been helpful in getting to know of the work of a few newer designers. I had an email from the Show, announcing it, but no reminders since then, and an email from my great LNS/ONS, telling me about it and encouraging orders through her. I often have good intentions of spending more time there the first day or two of the show, and then forget to visit it over the weekend. Looks as if tonight will be a good time to browse :)

  11. An email from you, and your mention on fb was how I knew about it. It is too clunky to navigate very well.

    I think the biggest factor is the economy. People have really had to cut back since 2008 and hobbies have suffered. I also think the popularity of needlework hobbies seems to cycle in and out of vogue every few years. Just my opinion.....but I am going to have to break down and buy those monkeys!!

  12. I wonder if the people who run the show are now bored with the whole idea so put less effort into running it now.
    I don't really stitch any more. Non-stop watering eyes just put a stop to it a few years back and I've pretty much removed myself from xs social chat. I do miss my stitching friends but don't feel I have much to say to them now, or they to me.

  13. Wow, I really, really love being able to "see the other side". I appreciate all that you said (and yes, I read it all, LOL). How I heard about the show-a retailer sent an email stating she was offering a discount on any items ordered through her from the show (note that she did not have a presence AT the show). A couple of problems with that. I get emails from her daily, so the fact that it caught my eye is a small miracle. Second, I am fairly active on several XS sights, that (and you) were the only places I saw mention of it. Not great marketing. I realize it is my problem that I am into instant (or close to it) gratification, but in all honestly, I am not going to tell the online retailer I want a pattern and then sit and wait while she gathers her order and then orders it and waits for it and then mails it to me. I don't have that much patience. That is probably just me, but it is a factor.
    With that said, I have to agree with both Beached Librarian and Silence Dogood on (so) many of their points.In particular, #6, I also thought it would be more like a "real life" show where you could directly support the vendors/designers. There might be specials. Maybe an exclusive download? I am ALL for supporting a LNS, however, I live in Southern California (can you say gas prices!) and my "L"NS is 45 mins away (on a really, really good day). So, I try to support designers when I can, directly. After that I go to online retailers. I also DESPERATELY wish that you (and other designers) had more download options. I know US shipping is better than international, lol, but, it is still shipping. All in all, I really loved your perspective. I think the power that put the show on failed, in particular at that cost. I highly doubt any designer/vendor made any money from it, or even broke even.
    As for the door prize, to be honest (again) after a few "goody baskets" I quit looking at the door prizes, I ignored them. So, I simply didn't "see" yours. Sad, but true. Hope you have a great day. Love your work!

  14. In earlier years I used to look forward to the online show. The past couple of years, not so much. I almost missed this latest show. It took me less than an hour to scroll through all the vendors. Most of the vendors were VERY quick. I don't bother with doorprizes. As in previous years, many vendors were 'not ready for primetime' so to speak. In other cases I made sure I saved certain vendors websites in my bookmarks. I am not sure what changed except that it might be a case of same old/same old, a huge stash and little incentive to order anything immediately-right-now. I added a few things to a wish list which may be acted on at some point later this year but nothing made me want to rush to order.

  15. I'm way behind on my blog reading which is why this is so late a comment to this post! I'm also behind on many other fun things in my life! I did know about the online show ahead of time and did log in to look through all the participant pages, but I usually log on through either my phone or my tablet. To enter drawings from either of those devices just doesn't work that well for me and I'd rater do that from my trusty laptop! But, with all the interruptions and time constraints, it seems like I rarely get into the show from the laptop.

    I love your designs, Tracey and I know that if this show ends up no longer working for you, I will still hunt down your new designs. Keep up the good work and keep us in the loop as to what your future holds!!!