CREATIVATION by NAMTA Celebrates a Successful Show

06/04/24

Three years after the merger of the crafts and fine arts sectors, Namta is seeing its hard work paying off. This year’s Creativation by Namta trade show welcomed a record number of exhibitors and garnered positive feedback.

The 2024 show, held March 23 to 27 in New Orleans, brought in 1,625 total attendees, with 472 buyers and 183 exhibiting companies. Organizers determined it was one of the biggest shows that the organization has held in many years.

“It was the most [exhibitors] we’ve had in decades, by far,” said Leah Siffringer, executive director of Namta.

 

Learning opportunities for everyone

The conference kicked off with two days of educational sessions. Attendees had a plethora of opportunities to choose from, including workshops demonstrating the latest trends to business presentations.

Siffringer observed a slight shift in interests. While participants at the 2023 show tended to attend more business seminars, attendance shifted to favor workshops more this year. Seven hundred people attended classes, according to Namta’s report.

This change may be due to scheduling, Siffringer explained. This year, the conference offered 50 sessions – double of last year’s number.

“We got a lot of feedback about how we can change the scheduling a little bit and make it easier for people to attend,” Siffringer said, adding they’re considering block scheduling.

One of the most popular educational offerings was the New Orleans Retail Store Tour. For the second year in a row, participants had the chance to visit local retailers and get a first-hand look at different store experiences.

“We’re noticing that education is a huge draw,” said Namta Exhibitor and Sponsorship Sales Manager Mary McLane. “That’s why retailers attend the show – for the education.”

 

On the show floor

From March 25 to 27, the trade show floor showcased a balanced mix of fine arts and craft retailers as buyers from large and small retailers perused the aisles.

McLane noted that Namta is selective with attendees; as a result, Creativation attracts high-quality buyers who are decision-makers.  “Our membership model, which separates us from other shows out there, shows who really supports us and the high level of business professionals we attract,” McLane said. “The buying power on our show floor is, to my knowledge, unmatched by other shows by the way our organization is set up.”

Siffringer took note of how both the crafts and fine arts booths drew a steady flow of traffic.

“I think people are starting to embrace the industry as one,” Siffringer added.

There were a few more things to enjoy on the show floor apart from sales. Local bands provided live music, adding a bit of the Crescent City’s atmosphere.

“Mary worked really hard securing all of the music we had this year,” Siffringer said. “We’ve heard nothing but good comments about the music.”

Through the years, Namta has steadily introduced social activities on the show floor such as coffee breaks and ice cream socials. On the last day of the trade show, Namta hosted a mimosa bar on the far side of the floor, which drew people from around the space.

“I think next year we’ll be more strategic about moving the events around the floor,” Siffringer commented. “That way, they’ll drive traffic around to different areas.”

 

Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement honorees

On the evening before the trade show floor opened, Namta held its welcome reception at the New Orleans Marriott. There, more than 700 guests had a chance to mingle, partake refreshments and catch up on the latest news.

“It was a great way to kick off the show,” Siffringer said.

The highlight of the evening was the induction of four individuals to the 2024 Hall of Fame and eight recipients of the 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award. The Hall of Fame, which is Namta’s highest award, recognizes honorees for their support, volunteer efforts and championing of the association. This year’s honorees were Stan Clifford of DecoArt, Gail Czech of The Creative Network, Mike McCooey of Plaid Enterprises and Doug Mooney of Mooney Sales & Marketing.

In turn, the Lifetime Achievement Award acknowledges people’s significant impacts on the industry. The 2024 recipients were Yves Darche of Pebeo, Michael Hammer of Sampro, Michael Kalman of Stillman & Birn, Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender of Kizer & Bender Speaking, Denzil Quick of Spellbinders Arts Company, Elaine Salazar of Ampersand Art Supply and David van Berckel of Opus Art Supplies.

 

Creatives unite

Creativation by Namta featured a range of social and networking events to further promote connections. In addition to the welcome reception, the show hosted a Next Generation Happy Hour featuring axe throwing – geared for ages 40 and under – and an Old Timer’s Whiskey Tasting at the Sazerac House, both on March 26.

The first day of the trade show culminated with the president’s reception at Mardi Gras World. There, guests could see floats and figures used during Mardi Gras parades before enjoying hors d’oeuvres, drinks, live music and performances.

“I think it’s really smart for a show to create various networking opportunities for different groups,” McLane said.

On March 23, exhibitors and creative professionals gathered for a Mardi Gras Social. The social, which featured 20 exhibitors, provided an additional chance for creative professionals – a fairly new sector of attendees for Namta – to get to know manufacturers and their products.

“It’s a nice warm-up for the show floor,” McLane said. “It gets vendors talking about their product and receiving feedback from creative professionals. And then, after recognizing people after that social event, you’re warmed up to them.”

 

Looking ahead

Show organizers continue to be dedicated to providing the best possible experience for those who attend and exhibit at Creativation. Namta board members walked the aisles of the show floor, asking for feedback, and the organziation held three roundtables after the show to collect input.

While nearly all of the reviews have been positive – highlighting the music and events during the trade show – there is some room for growth. Siffringer’s main focus points are organizing scheduling for educational sessions and making Demo Alley more exciting and attractive to attendees.

“Demo Alley has gotten better every year, but we don’t feel like we’ve hit the mark yet,” she said.

Broader goals include continuing networking events on the show floor, increase the number of buyers and grow the exhibitor list.

“We really do read all the feedback and take it into account as we make changes,” Siffringer said.

Both Siffringer and McLane enjoyed seeing the arts and crafts industry widely represented at Creativation. The diversity indicated how the different sectors are open to collaborating and innovating together – which has been Namta’s goal for the past three years.

“It’s rewarding to see everything come together,” Siffringer stated. “Everyone feels like they’re part of the same group now. It’s finally come together and all the hard work we’ve put into the show has really paid off.”

“We’re watching companies come together in real time and form creative partnerships,” Mary added.

Next year’s show is set for April 4 to 8, 2025 in Seattle, WA. For more information about Namta’s work and upcoming events, visit namta.org.

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