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Editorial blog

Did they influence you?

02 Mar 2017
By Mark Hayhurst

The show organiser

Simon Burns, managing director of ICHF Events

If new products are the meat and drink of the craft and hobby industry, trade and consumer shows are long buffet tables where the industry lays out its wares, chews the fat over what does and doesn’t please their tastes. New
ranges are talked up; deals made; contacts strengthened; competition sussed; and, most importantly, money made. For 40 years ICHF Events have been at the centre of the picture; the annual trade show CHSI
Stitches boasts of being the biggest and most influential in Europe, while Hobby Crafts and its other consumer shows are serious money spinners for many in the industry. “Our visitors and exhibitors remain key to our decision-making,” says Simon. “From events planning to marketing, the focus is always on the balance of our core, popular activities and features, with innovation and fresh content. Craft is multi-faceted and trends do come and go, but the industry as a whole has enjoyed mainstream attention recently with new audiences discovering craft for themselves.”

For Simon, the biggest challenge facing the craft industry in the years ahead is also its biggest opportunity: embracing the digital age.

“Although community will always be at the heart of craft, the challenge now is to keep that sense of ‘one-to-one interaction’ in parallel with on-demand, digital content. Our visitors want to talk to the people behind the brand, they want to try something new and engage with it in person – they don’t want that experience to end when they go home. We work with the Craft TV channels to ensure that content is readily available at any time. Finding the very best products and features is taking us further afield; interest from the international market is growing exponentially and this is a huge opportunity and challenge for us going forward.

The ideas woman

Anna Beattie, joint creative director at Love Productions

Credited as being the ‘ideas’ woman at one of the most influential TV companies in the UK (14 million viewers tuned in to the most recent final of Love’s Great British Bake Off) Anna Beattie and her business partner Richard
McKerrow waved a magic wand over the fortune of haberdashers when they helped create BBC2‘s Great British Sewing Bee. “Everyone said that Bake Off was a ten-minute item or a daytime show; they didn’t realise how much there is in baking,” Anna told The Telegraph in 2014. “When we were thinking about making a sister show, we felt the time was right with sewing. There’s a renewed interest in making things, or watching other people do it. But if Bake Off hadn’t preceded it, I don’t think Sewing Bee would have happened. It was an enormous gamble for BBC Two. Nobody thought an audience would come to a show about sewing.” But come they have; the show debuted with 2.3 million viewers, and ‘the Sewing Bee’ effect on driving sales has been reported by many in the industry.
Series Five is yet to be announced, and with relations between Love and the show’s BBC hosts at an all time low, we wait nervously for its return.

The outsider

Ian Wylie, chief executive of the Garden Centre Association

Sit down to draw a venn diagram of your core craft demographic and the customer profile of garden centres, and you get one very big overlap. The retail environment – easy parking, food and drink offer, broad aisles –
is perfect for an ageing population, and garden centre groups have been keen to reinforce their horticultural offer with a weatherproof category.

The artist

Johanna Basford, illustrator

It’s tough to find true pioneers in an industry built on constant re-invention and reimagining of classic themes, but Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford is unarguably that. Selling more than 1.4 million copies to
date, her adult colouring book Secret Garden remains a publishing phenomenon. Created by Johanna in 2015, and published by British press Laurence King, the book brought global stardom for Johanna, and
led to collaborations with Staedtler, Canon, jewellery designer Jane Gowans and even a hotel chain keen to roll the benefits of colouring out to its guests.

The maverick

Tish Bas, senior buyer at Paperchase

With an in-house team of designers, strong visual identity and unique mix of craft materials, cards and gifts, Paperchase claims to be the number one retailer for distinctive and stylish stationery. Tish, who buys for
the company’s 140 stores, 32 concessions and 36 overseas sites, has worked at the company since 2008. Total sales for 2015 came in at £136 million. “A lot of Paperchase’s core values come from art
and craft; the ability and desire to do things,” said chief executive Timothy Megund in a recent interview. “It’s a completely unique mix of art as we commission a lot of our own paper. We’re the only multiple that buys cards by design, rather than by range, and we stock about 1,000 postcards, which can only be bought in our stores.”

The eclectic buyer

Michelle Rowlson,
senior buyer at Hochanda

Founded by Paul Wright and Val Kaye to offer more diverse range of hobbies than the existing TV craft channels, Hochanda has thrived in its first year. The channel, whose name is an amalgamation of ‘Home of Crafts, Hobbies and Arts’, went live from its Peterborough studios in August 2015, and has been taking on the big boys ever since with its promise to deliver everything from origami to pottery. Senior buyer Michelle Rowlson ended a 13-year stint as a buyer at Create & Craft to help launch the channel, and has used her market insight to great effect in the competitive world of ‘selly telly’. “Buying is the central function to the whole business,” she told Craft
Business in a recent interview. “And the data collated and administered feeds all the other departments with all the necessary information to effectively run the channel.”

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