Somebody pinch me.
I just got back from what I think was my best trade show/business trip yet. From start to finish everything was good. Very strange and has made me happy but a little nervous!
The trip was to Stitches Midwest in Schaumburg, IL. I thought the show would be about as busy as the TKGA show last fall in Oakland, so it was a little hard to justify the expense, but I fell in love with the hotel (or rather the pictures of the hotel online) – and that is truly the one and only thing that sold me on giving the show a try.
I had originally planned on bringing my friend Brigitte with me from CA, but when Dana learned of the show she really wanted to go, and ultimately, for me to fly her to Chicago from Cleveland was quite a bit less expensive than flying a friend out from CA. So, that was the first change that worked in my favor. I took full advantage of Southwest Airlines no bag fees policy and brought two huge heavy suitcases filled with last-minute kits, made with yarn that finally came in to the studio after a 2 month wait.. (This was in addition to the 500 lbs of freight that I had shipped to the convention center earlier in the month)
To save the $150 r/t cab fare from Midway airport I figured I may aswell just rent a car for the same price, which I did. This allowed us a lot more freedom and time. We got a little Hyundai that I named Pepe as I would barely touch the gas pedal and Pepe was hopping into action. A very fast little tin can, but Pepe got us there (and back) just fine.
I was aware that looking at hotel pictures is often like looking at house pictures online, somehow when you arrive the rooms are smaller, darker, dingier. This was not to be the case. This hotel is beautiful! This time I was also going to make a better effort of actually using the workout clothes that I bring with me on every trip.
Once in our room, we got room service as it was too late to find a restaurant. Dana got a Turkey Club and I got an asparagus salad that was really very good – and I don’t particularly like asparagus either, it just sounded healthy and that’s what I was craving – you gotta eat right when you know the hours ahead will be long and hard.
The following morning I got up and went for a swim – this is only the 3rd time I’ve tried swimming in the five years since my back injury. All my previous attempts ended in sharp pains, but this time I thought I would see if I could push through it. The pool was beautiful, a 25M lap pool, the perfect temperature, and it was empty – my favorite kind! I swum 40 lengths that morning, which I learned later was just under 2/3 of a mile – not bad for not having swum in years. And.. drum roll … no pain! I felt great! (Big Smile!).
Went back to the room, tried to rouse Dana (not a morning person) took a shower and went to the trade show floor.. Hmm.. looks like.. is it? Yes, I think it is.. I ordered one booth, but wait, they’ve uh.. given me two? Yup, they gave me two.. I even did the right thing and double checked with the organizers and yup, due to the change in floor layout, I now had two booths. Wow, cool.. but now how the heck was I going to fill them? I mean, I know there are worse problems to have, but it meant rethinking it all.
Dana rolled in a bit later and we did a great job of setting it all up together. This time, since we had the additional space we decided to set up a “cashier” area. I don’t normally like this at a show as I like to walk around and help customers during a show. The temptation is there when you have a table to sit behind it, which just isn’t as customer friendly, but I figured since this show was slower, maybe it would be worth a shot, as a slow show is the perfect place to try out new (to me) ideas.
We had it all set up well in time to take a real break and get a nice lunch. We ate this time at the hotel restaurant, Sam & Harry’s, not cheap, but good. I got the Cream of Spinach soup to start – comfort food – and followed that with.. um.. don’t remember, something good.
The show floor was to open from 5-8pm that night for a preview to students. From the start we were fairly busy, busier than I expected and we sold a lot of patterns, not so many kits. It was fun to meet the customers, watch them all smile and coo over the “Flore” Hat – my not-so-secret weapon that draws customers to my booth!
That night I was very surprised to learn that we had sold almost as much (only $7 difference) as we had at the preview night from the Stitches West show – traditionally the busiest show of all. Wow, if that was the case, and that trend continued, I would be in deep trouble as I hadn’t brought as much stuff as I’d had at Stitches West, but, I suppose again, there are worse problems to have.
The following morning I was again up at the crack of dawn, excited to try my swim once more. This pool is so lovely, it is actually treated with Salt as opposed to buckets of Chlorine, so my skin never got dried out, and if you accidentally got a mouthful it didn’t taste quite so chemically as a regular pool. I could feel it in my arm muscles (I have muscles there still?) this time, but I did my laps, and they were definately easier. Of course, I’m still slow as mud, but who cares – I’m swimming again!
I developed another new addiction (in addition to swimming) while in Schaumburg. The hotel had a little coffee bar, and I thought since I was being so good with swimming, I shouldn’t ruin it with a pastry, so I would stop in and get a yoghurt parfait – yoghurt, fresh berries and granola – sooo good! That little cafe was cute, very modern, and full of knitters! I wore my Raffaela cardigan a lot and got a lot of ooh’s and aah’s and “hey, let me see what you’re wearing” compliments as I would make my way to work. Nice little ego boost never hurt!
Friday was another busy day, a full day this time, from 10-6. We sold so many patterns again, and not as many kits (as Stitches West) which gave me a slight concern – was I going to have to take this all back to CA with me? Not what I had planned. But then again, the volume was good, once again almost as good as Stitches West, and I figured that with the shaky economy customers probably were looking to spend a little less and use up some existing stash, so patterns made sense. Dinner that night was at the Cheesecake Factory, I had some decent fish tacos but the key thing, I brought a slab of chocolate raspberry cheesecake back to the hotel – can’t go wrong with that. Finished the night with paperwork and the Olympics..
A bit more about the hotel before I forget. Our bathroom – the ceiling height mirror had an embedded (behind the mirror) TV – You turn on the light in the bathroom and the TV comes on! I’m not a huge TV fan, but how cool is that?? Then after showering, there are strips on the mirror that are treated with anti-fog so you don’t have to wipe the mirror down to get rid of the steam – more coolness.. and the beds? oooh, soo comfortable! Plus the rooms came with a little fridge and microwave too. And did I say clean? This place – the whole place – is spotless. And the staff are professional, courteous and helpful, and genuinely nice.
Saturday was more selling, this time we sold more kits, as we did on Sunday too, so in the end I had pretty much the right mix. We didn’t run out of Flore and Ripley Patterns until Sunday, which was good, of course, I would have rather not run out at all, but who knew?
Sunday was definately quieter, as expected, but we met our impromptu bumped up goals, and I got three new wholesale accounts who were kind enough to shop from the items that I had left, ensuring that I didn’t have to carry so much back with me – as it turned out I was able to fit everything into one suitcase on the way home – and I think my freight home was pared down to about 2-300 lbs.. not bad – go home with 2-300 lbs less than I came with!
What was most interesting for me is that though there was only Dana and I in the booth the whole time, because of the different layout we were able to handle the high volume quite easily. This bodes well for Stitches West next year. With this new set-up I think Stitches West will be a lot more customer friendly, easier to shop and not quite as exhausting or chaotic for all involved. At Stitches West I pretty much had 3 people on duty, sometimes 4 at all times and it was madness. I think, though 3 is good for that level of show, with this new set up it will all run a lot smoother. Which is good for me as that last show in Santa Clara just about killed me – and I was sort of dreading it, now I’m excited to try this new set up and see the improvement.
The one thing I did forget to bring to Illinois was my camera – so, sorry, no booth pictures this time. But I’m pretty sure I will be back in Schaumburg next year as in the end we did almost double in sales from what I was expecting, and that hotel – I have to go back, I must.. !!
So.. what are the hotels like in Baltimore? Am I going to do Stitches East? I’d said that I wouldn’t, but now I’m tempted…