Buyers Market of American Craft Experiences Major Increase in Attendance

This February's Buyers Market of American Craft reported its first major attendee increase in size since the recession, with growth in the numbers of both exhibitors and buyers.

In post-show surveys, retailers have been praising the variety and quality of the nearly 800 exhibitors in the show, which exclusively offers American-made and Canadian-made products. Final buyer attendance numbers were not yet available, but the show office reported that pre-registrations by retail companies just before the show exceeded the prior year and were on target, with walk-in traffic anticipated, to be the highest in three years.

Retailers shop the Buyers Market to meet familiar designers but also to find something new. Buyers Market organizers invested months before the show seeking out new products: By February, there were 160 artists whose gift, home and fashion merchandise would be new to this wholesale tradeshow.

Among them were five winners of the Buyers Market Merit Award - artists whose products had never before been sold at a wholesale tradeshow: Aleksandra Vali, award-winning designer of carved and cast silver jewelry; Joseph Gower of GDG Studios, sculptor of porcelain wares; Susan Lenz, creator of lace-like embroidered and textured fiber art; Jennifer Merchant, designer of layered acrylic jewelry with printed imagery; Chelsea Foehr and Jeremy Griffith of Delish Glass, artists of hand-blown glass vessels and pens.

Special emphasis in 2013 was put on filling the needs of retailers who wanted American-made and artist-made apparel and accessories. They were showcased in two runway fashion shows. Show organizers reported that the wearable art, accessories and fiber/apparel section of the show exceeded original projections, giving reason for that section of the show to be expanded next year.

The tradeshow included two related exhibitions: One was the annual exhibition of finalists and winners of the NICHE Awards, a prestigious award recognizing excellent design in fine craft. A spectacular display of nearly 125 products on the convention center concourse showed the diversity of high-quality designs made by American artist studios, including clocks, sculptures, jewelry, tableware, Judaica and home furnishings. Among the finalists were 38 studios that had works in the Buyers Market tradeshow: Retailers could visit the exhibit and then meet some of their favorite artists on the show floor. At the NICHE Awards ceremony on Saturday night, 42 artist studios and 18 students from U.S. and Canadian art schools took home trophies for their designs. The full winner’s list is online at AmericanMadeShow.com.

“We want to assure retailers that next year the Buyers Market will be even bigger and better,” says Rebecca Mercado, show director. The 2014 Buyers Market will be a four-day show and Jewelry Preview. The dates for next year will be Saturday-Tuesday, January 18-21, 2014, with a Jewelry Preview on Friday, January 17, 2014, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. For more information, visit AmericanMadeShow.com.