The National Stationery Show almost seems like summer camp for paper lovers. Only it’s spring. And most of the time exhibitors are stuck in their booths selling their work. The summer camp feeling is because the stationery industry is tight knit, and the vendors are so friendly with each other. They cheer each other on on Instagram, hold the fort at each others’ booths if someone has to slip off to the bathroom, and are supportive and encouraging of each others’ work. Many of the business owners know each other and are glad to be back in the company of their stationer peers each year.
The stationery show hosts the LOUIE awards, the Oscars of the stationery industry. The show is covered by Stationery Trends magazine, and there seems to be a great community and support system in the stationery industry.
Who can attend?
This show is for the trade only. If you have a brick and mortar or online shop, this show is meant for you to connect with the designers and businesses and make wholesale orders, and is free if you register in advance. Suppliers to the trade and non-exhibiting manufacturers or artists can walk the show for $495. Members of the press attend for free, provided that their application is accepted by show personnel. In all cases, you have to show credentials in order to qualify to attend.
Who can exhibit? And what other trade shows might be right for me?
The National Stationery Show mostly centers around stationery businesses selling greeting cards. There is also an emphasis on wedding stationery. However, there are some gift businesses there without a card in sight. We saw toys, wooden housewares, pocket tools, enamel pins, and more. At the same time, in the same building, Surtex, the surface art & design show, and ICFF, the luxury furniture fair, were going on. Earlier in the year, the NY NOW gift show takes over the entire building.
Deciding which show to go to is different for different types of businesses, and can be a matter of trial and error. We didn’t attend Surtex this year, but my impression is that the big difference for an artist between Surtex and the NSS is that you need a full ready-to-go product line with the NSS. At Surtex, buyers will be envisioning your art on their products, but at the Stationery Show, they want to envision your products in their store. The NY NOW show includes many stationery brands, but the buyers aren’t all there specifically looking for stationery, so for some businesses, the NSS is a more targeted show for them. We also talked to a housewares brand at the NSS who’s going to move to ICFF next year.
What does it cost to exhibit at the National Stationery Show?
Exhibitors can expect to pay $32.75/square foot, based on booth size (the price goes up if you choose a corner booth spot). Along with the cost of the booth area, exhibitors pay for travel, accommodations, booth walls and lighting, furniture, shelving, storage, drayage (transporting your booth walls and supplies), florist / designer / carpenter or other skilled help, promotional materials, tools, and office supplies needed to get all set up and looking their best. Exhibitors in smaller booths may be investing around $5,000 – $10,000 on the show, while larger businesses with big corner booths and showstopper displays spend more like $30,000 – $50,000 on the show.
Exhibitors can share booths, but they need to be represented by one group to do this. We talked to members of the Etsy NY Street Team who had banded together to share the cost of one booth. Agents or sales representatives may also set up booths exhibiting the work of all of their clients.
How should I prepare for the National Stationery Show?
If you can walk or attend the show before going yourself, that will take a lot of the mystery out of it. Helping a friend in the industry with booth setup and exhibiting is a brilliant way to get your feet wet and prepare yourself. Aside from that, I’d recommend getting advice from people who have been before. Here are just a few of the many articles available with behind the scenes advice:
- Steel Petal Press’ National Stationery Show Budget
- Sycamore Street Press shares Top 5 Tips For Your National Stationery Show Booth
- Etsy’s Behind the Scenes at the National Stationery Trade Show
- Creative Hive’s first stationery show experience
- An interview with Carina Murray, sales rep for creative businesses
- A great roundup of sources and ideas for booth design from the exhibitors themselves on the NSS site
- How to prepare a great press kit for the NSS
We talked to many exhibitors who had participated in Katie Hunt’s Tradeshow Bootcamp, and were reminded again what a great community is built up around paper businesses. She also teaches classes about selling wholesale on CreativeLive.
Eva Jorgensen of Sycamore Street Press has a class for stationery businesses about selling wholesale: Stationery Biz 200: Selling Wholesale
Go out and get ’em, tiger!
Learn more about creative trade shows
The welcome we got at this show! My goodness. We made sure to stay out of the way whenever an exhibitor might have a buyer in their booth, as we knew we weren’t the point of this show. But booth after booth, we were welcomed warmly with smiles and treats and even hugs. It turns out that our roster of past clients (Rifle Paper Co., Emily McDowell, 1canoe2, and Emily Ley all made a big splash in the stationery industry, and all started out with an Aeolidia ecommerce site) and all the work I put in on our the Aeolidia blog, newsletter, and Facebook group has made us kind of a big deal in the world of stationery. In turn, it was such a pleasure to meet so many of our clients in person for the first time and have a quick chat with them.
They want to share with you! We learned a lot about what goes into preparing for a show like this, and we’re going to be sharing all the details and stories on our blog in the coming months. If you’re prepping for NY NOW this summer, thinking about going to the NSS next year, or have any other trade shows or craft fairs on your mind, we’ll be showing up with advice from businesses like yours about how to prepare, what to know, and even what to pack. Click here to be notified about our new posts on this topic.