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The power of face-to-face

We caught up with some key players in the craft industry exhibiting at CHSI Stitches in February to discover what the power of face to face means to their business.

From left to right: Stuart Caller, Group General Manager for Korbond; Tilly Walnes, Tilly and the Buttons; Louisa McLean, Brand Manager, Crafter's Companion; and Adam Elkins, Sales Manager from ICHF.

We caught up with some key players in the craft industry exhibiting at CHSI Stitches in February to discover what the power of face to face means to their business. With digital technology revolutionising the way we do business it's easy for weeks to pass without a face-to-face meeting. However, even the most sophisticated video calling systems are no substitute for meeting in person.

What is the biggest benefit to you of meeting customers/potential clients face-to-face?
Stuart says, "The internet provides a wonderful series of marketing tools, with websites, e-newsletters and more recently social media. However, buyers still like the ability to touch, feel, be inspired and educated. Tradeshows provide this tactile environment, which help to facilitate that face-to-face connectivity, especially in our creative industry where design and style are as important as function and margin. Engaging face-to-face is one of the best ways to listen to your customer and check what's working and what's challenging them within their own environments. Listening is vital to ensure that we continually modify our approach to suit the needs of the evolving marketplace."

Tilly says, "Stitches puts us in front of new customers who we may not have met before, and gives us the opportunity to show them in person how our sewing patterns are original. They can see (and feel) the quality of the products we make, and get a sense of how our brand stands out from the crowd. It's also a chance for us to chat with existing stockists - something we don't often get to do."

Louisa says, "Meeting potential customers face-to-face at a show like CHSI Stitches is of huge importance to a company like ours, as it helps us to understand who we're selling our products to, and get a sense of their needs and concerns. Being available to discuss things with a wide variety of your customer base will always bring opportunity for improvement across a range of different areas of your business, from customer service to the range of products you provide. It's also a great chance to show them our newest releases and keep them up to date with the company's plans for the future - so they can feel they know us a little better too!"

Why is CHSI Stitches an important trade show for your company?
Stuart says, "CHSI is the largest UK show for the creative industry and a hugely important trade show for Korbond. We've attended the show for many years now, and have found it an excellent opportunity to meet with existing customers and introduce our business to new clients, as well as engaging and networking within the industry. As well as the selling and networking, CHSI is an important date within our yearly calendar and one that focuses us to continually improve and innovate our offering. We gear our design, sourcing and new launches for this event to ensure that our spring and summer collections are launched at the show. The show offers a vital opportunity within the calendar to showcase our new concepts to the industry.

Tilly says, "Stitches is not only a great way to meet new stockists, but we can also meet other exhibitors who are potential suppliers to work with on new ventures. We have big plans to expand into exciting new products!"

Louisa says, "CHSI Stitches is the only dedicated craft trade show of its kind in the UK, so it's our only chance to get everyone in the industry under the same roof at the same time. We find it hugely helpful to speak to other companies and to have the chance to network - the craft industry is so friendly and inclusive, and there's always a great atmosphere and buzz around the show! It's also wonderful to see first-hand how the industry has changed in the last year and discover the exciting new products and ideas that are emerging onto the market."

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of exhibiting at CHSI Stitches?
Stuart says, "I'd certainly speak with the show organisers as they've a wealth of experience and information to discuss your needs. Also visit the show to understand who is exhibiting and what types of products they're showcasing, and try to get a vibe of what type of buyers are attending. Don't be afraid to talk to other exhibitors, I'm sure they'd be glad to assist with your questions. Once you've seen the tradeshow with your own eyes, it then fundamentally comes down to your product and business proposition. Are you competitive? Are you showcasing something that the market needs, and does this show will offer a connectivity with buyers that will provide a return for your investment? Make sure you take advantage of the product presentations and workshops, which are free and can highlight your new launches or any specific knowledge you'd like to pass on to potential customers.

Tilly says, "Set up a mock-up of your stand in your office before the show. It will give you the chance to see what it looks like from the point of view of customers approaching from different angles. Also, take time at the show to network with other exhibitors, we can learn so much from each other."

Louisa says, "It's definitely worth exhibiting at the show, as it's a fantastic chance to build both your customer base and receive some invaluable feedback on your products. Try and give your stand its own one-of-a-kind appeal, so that your brand personality comes across and you can really grab the opportunity to showcase your business to a bigger audience."

Finally, we asked Adam Elkins, Sales Manager from ICHF - why businesses should exhibit at trade shows.
Adam says, "Exhibiting at a trade show like CHSI Stitches can benefit a business in a number of ways and can be very profitable. Meeting people at a show and communicating with them on a personal level can lead to new business and build better relationships with existing customers. Trade shows are a great place for collecting customer feedback and testing new products or ideas - face-to-face discussions with customers can provide vital product development information. Finally, exhibiting creates great brand awareness - a vital ingredient in building and maintaining a strong business."

CHSI Stitches 19th - 21st February 2017 NEC, Birmingham
For further information about exhibiting or visiting email info@ichf.co.uk or call +44(0)1425 272 711 or visit the website www.chsi.co.uk.

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