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Posted by Andrea Ashfield on 3 February 2020

Simon Burns, managing director at ICHF Events, reveals what's coming up at CHSI Stitches this February

Simon Burns, managing director, ICHF Events What can we expect from CHSI Stitches in 2020?
To make sure every day spent at Stitches offers the best possible use of visitors' time, we have tailored the content of each day to fit the profile of attendees. Sunday 16th February, will focus on independent retailers, with seminars and workshops designed to meet the challenges facing the sector. Monday 17th February is for multiple retailers, while Tuesday 18th February will feature content that will be of value to designers. Of course, everyone is welcome on each day, but visitors should head to our website to check out the seminar and workshop lists to see which day best suits their requirements.

Are there any new features for this year?
We have several new initiatives for the show. We are working with exhibitors to create a brand-new Papercraft Zone, focusing buyers' attentions on the new products, opportunities and innovations within this sector. The segment will host a separate workshop area dedicated to papercrafts, with each exhibitor bringing something new to the market. We will be working with AFCI on two new projects. Firstly, we are hosting our own craft industry version of Dragons' Den – Creative Dragons. Any visitor with a business or product idea can apply for a private 10-minute slot with a team of dragons who will give expert advice and feedback. It really is a great opportunity to receive guidance from professionals with years of experience and knowledge. Slots are very limited, so anyone who is keen to apply should email info@chsi.co.uk or check our website for a full line-up of dragons and timeslots. Finally, Craig De Souza, CEO of AFCI will be offering visitors and exhibitors free consultations in the new Creative Business Hub. Craig is available for bookable sessions throughout the show.

The Craft Report has become one of the show's defining features – will there be any changes to the format?
For the 2020 report, we have developed new lines of research based on feedback from exhibitors and visitors. Themes to be covered will include environmental concerns, world trends, sources of customer inspiration, the power of influencers, the importance of innovation, wellbeing and the new generation of crafters. Overall trends will be at the heart of the report, but to continue to inspire exhibitors and visitors alike, we are extending the research to drill deeper and monitor changes over the last 12 months.

Stitches is where many of the craft industry's trends are debuted – what do you think we'll be seeing in 2020?
We are privy to the new product plans of many of our exhibitors and while I can't give too much away, we can expect a lot of launches this year. Key players in the craft industry choose to unveil their latest collections at CHSI, so expect new yarns and fabrics, gift lines and innovations for papercrafters. We have also developed a curated new product area on the CHSI website giving a sneak preview to visitors.

We've seen enormous changes in the retail landscape over the past few years – how has the show adapted to stay relevant?
We are always working on new ways to keep up with the fast pace of change for retailers. Our focus is to provide a platform for face-to-face marketing, offering a chance for the industry to meet and do business. We also provide a hub for knowledge, sharing ideas, product information and industry insight. Visitors can attend CHSI Stitches and get vital knowledge, free of charge, from key industry speakers on the latest market intelligence and business ideas.

The show has been running for more than four decades – what makes it stand out from other trade events?
The interactive show experience is often mentioned by visitors and exhibitors. The chance to see, touch and understand products and talk to the people behind the trends is invaluable to many retailers and something only a trade show like Stitches can deliver. The atmosphere is always sales-focused.

How do you think the UK's craft industry has performed over the past 12 months?
The craft sector is vibrant and resilient; even in challenging times it continues to move forward with product development and innovation. Our own Craft Report will give an industry health check to visitors at the show in February, but it seems to be riding the ups and downs of the wider economy. The show is always optimistic, with exhibitors looking ahead and retailers keen to find fresh ways to reach new crafters and keep loyal customers.

Do you have any tips for visitors?
Pre-register for free entry and use our meeting planner tool to make connections and set up meetings with exhibitors matching your product interests. Spending a bit of time planning your visit will pay dividends on the day and help you stay focused. It's very easy to go into 'magpie mode' at the show, with so many shiny new products on display. That said, do make sure you build in a good chunk of time for browsing and be open to new ideas and lines. We've got all the exhibitor details on our website, so go with your head first and note down the must-sees for your business. Plan stand visits around the education opportunities which are right for your company. It hopefully goes without saying that everyone should make time to hear the results of The Craft Report, which will be presented each day of the show. Parking is free, so you needn't worry about clock-watching and can immerse yourself in the world of Stitches.

How can exhibitors get the most out of the show?
Investing in your stand is a must. This doesn't necessarily mean the biggest space – a small but cleverly laid out area can have great impact. Demos and hands-on activities always help to draw people in, both to discover a product but also to pick up sales techniques and acquire skills to use in-store. Make sure you and your team get regular breaks, so you feel refreshed and energised for your customers. We all know that trade shows can be tiring, so looking after yourself is a must. Finally – smile! Our exhibitors are very good at this. The creative craft industry is a friendly community, and this is clear at Stitches – it's a great atmosphere.

On a personal note, what are you most looking forward to?
For me, CHSI Stitches is a chance to catch up with colleagues and friends in the industry and see a year of hard work come to fruition with a show we are very proud of. The three days fly by in a whirl of meetings and in-depth conversations and I look forward to it every year!