Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Some thoughts about Road to California

On our last road trip we were at Road to California.  Road was celebrating its twentieth year.  Like all shows it is affected by the increase in the number of shows that exist around the country.  Fortunately, Road comes early in the year and many have not attended a show for several months.  Caroline does an outstanding job of advertising the show and the result is Road is well attended.  The weather in Southern California in late January is mild.  There were high winds one day that caused a bit of concern in the Pavilion (tent in any other language) But the Santa Anna winds blow every year in the winter time.  It is after all sunny Southern California.

Like every business Road is seeking ways to grow their business.  They have chosen several avenues.  Last two years they added the Pavilion.  This allowed them to give some vendors more space; Quilter’s Rule picked up 5 feet which has aided us in our presentation.  Road was able to add some vendors.  Their business grew.

This year Road added the Marketplace!  So what is the Marketplace? Most importantly to the other vendors, it was comprised of vendors one would normally only see if you attended Quilt Market in Houston and they were not selling product out of their booth.  Revenue grew for Road but not competition between vendors for dollars.

So I stopped in and talked with a few Marketplace vendors to find out what they were thinking about when they decided to come to Road.  I also observed what was happening in the interaction between customers and Marketplace vendors.  And I have thought about a lot of possibilities for the future.  But that is for the future after more careful thought.

Our industry is supposed to work by many manufacturers selling to a few distributors and those distributors selling to many stores and stores selling to the consumers.   For simplicity I will not address the myriad of variations on that obsolete theme.  Product education is supposed to happen at all levels.  But we have all played the game where you whisper a comment to the person next to you and it goes around a circle and comes back to you.  Education for the consumer at the store level is after a lot of whispers.  What I saw was manufacturers educating the consumer directly.  The consumer was seeing and hearing things they might not otherwise see or hear.  This is great because for manufacturers, sometimes the information gets lost in the whispers between manufactures and consumers. At Road this year some of the whispers were first hand facts.

When I talked with the Marketplace vendors, each of them said the same thing; they were there to educate the public.  Yes they were sending the consumer to stores that were selling the product they were demonstrating.  Most importantly they were showing people things they had not previously seen.

Do I see problems?  You bet your life.  But not one of them is a problem that will hurt the industry.  I see the possibility of improvement for everyone.  I hope the Marketplace vendors will return next year and that there will be more of them. 

Great job Caroline.

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