Which Trade Show Should I Attend? AFCI vs. TNNA

how to choose the right trade show for your craft business

In Part One, we looked at the two major industry organizations, the Association for Creative Industries (AFCI) and The National Needlearts Association (TNNA), and gave an overview of the trade shows each organization offers. Now, in Part Two, we’ll help you determine which trade show would be most beneficial for your business.


While there is overlap between AFCI and TNNA, the focus of each organization is clear enough to make your decision simple. If your business is yarn- or fiber-related and you or you and a small staff are creating, packaging and shipping your product, you will find yourself among like company on TNNA’s vendor floor.


If your business involves fabric and/or thread used to make practical items, you want to head to AFCI’s Creativation, where, for example, the 2017 show

“spotlighted sewing & fabric, with a Collaborative Fashion Fusion Workshop, an interactive MakerSpace with sewing instruction on the Show floor, highlighted new exhibitors within the fabric & sewing community, which culminated in a Fashion Show during our After Party,”

according to Andria LaJeunesse, CEM, Vice President of Events & Education, AFCI.

But if your business supports the use of thread in decorative needlework, you may want to find yourself at TNNA as well.


People whose products are tools or general craft supplies may have reason to go to either or both shows, depending on their offerings and the market they want to reach. The same is true for bead and jewelry suppliers–your products are used across a broad spectrum of creative hobbies and you may reach a different market for your brand by attending the “other” trade show. AFCI’s Creativation is a larger tent with a wider variety of crafts and hobbies represented; TNNA is more narrowly focused on needle arts, as its name suggests.


If you are a designer, teacher or blogger, you should attend the show that focuses on the crafts which your designs, techniques, and opinions are most closely associated. In other words, make sure that the show you choose aligns with your vision of your brand. It’s a natural place to start; crossing over to the “other” show is a strategy for reaching a different audience and extending your brand. You can also try asking other people in your product segment which show they attend and the benefits they get from attending it; put your brand in the company you want to keep.


We highly recommend going to a trade show as an attendee before you go as an exhibitor. The trade shows are big, loud, crowded and full of stimulation (not that it’s a bad thing); it can be overwhelming to gather information and process the experience while also representing your brand and making sales. Getting a feel for how the exhibition floor is laid out and the kinds of displays other vendors have created will give you a better idea of how you want to present your products before you make that commitment. Talking to other exhibitors will give you first-hand experience in what’s involved in selling your products to buyers so that you can prepare yourself and your staff for what you will actually need to do in your booth on the exhibition floor. You may even make connections with someone with whom you can share a booth at the next show to lower your expenses.


The next step is attending as an exhibitor; look for a future post from us outlining the logistical details of exhibiting at a trade show. We’ll give you all the inside information on how to set up and staff your booth; when and how you can take breaks, and where to find the best ice cream near the convention center. We’ll do our best to help make this new business experience fun!


If we could boil the difference between AFCI and TNNA down to one factor, it would be scale. First, on the size and scope of the trade shows: AFCI includes all of the needle-arts crafts that are the sole focus of TNNA, but many crafts, hobbies, and decorative arts in addition.


Second, in terms of cost to the vendor: membership and booth rates at TNNA are about 10-20% of the cost of AFCI rates, according to Dave Van Stralen of Louet North America, current president of TNNA. That doesn’t mean that the two groups don’t have a common interest in attracting the largest possible audiences to their trade shows. While there are no plans to merge the two organizations, there is always dialogue about the ways in which they can work together without duplicating efforts.


You can attend AFCI’s Creativation without being a member for an admission fee. Attending the TNNA shows requires membership, but admission to the shows is free. Membership is not inexpensive, but the benefits go far beyond access to the trade show and reduced fees for exhibition. Both AFCI and TNNA sponsor ongoing education and outreach events that benefit everyone involved in some aspect of the creative hobbies industry, as well special benefits and offers for group affiliation.


When your craft-related business has grown beyond your dining room table and your Etsy storefront, you’re an industry professional. Belonging to the appropriate trade organization and bringing your business to the larger creative community is what savvy professionals do.

If you’ve found our perspective on trade shows helpful, imagine what else we can offer as you grow your craft-based business! For more information on the professional services we can provide to businesses like yours, click here to contact Leanne.



Laura Cameron
No Comments

Post A Comment