In April, our President & Chief Executive Officer, Mark Hill attended the Japan Hobby Show, the largest consumer craft show in Japan. Organized by the Japan Hobby Association, the 41st annual Japan Hobby Show took place in Tokyo and attracted over 200,000 consumers over three days. From trends to new relationships, a lot emerged from Mark’s visit. The AFCI staff sat down with Mark and discussed his experience. Read our conversation.
How was your visit to the Japan Hobby Show? How did this experience differ from other shows you’ve attended?
The trip was successful. The Japan Hobby Association came to Creativation 2017 earlier this year, and extended an invite to us to attend its annual event.
The Japan Hobby Show was the largest and busiest consumer event that I’ve ever attended. What is unique about this show is that every exhibitor utilizes hands-on demonstrations to introduce and engage consumers. Think of it as one big make-n-take. Consumers pay a $15 entrance fee and then visit booths to sign up for make-n-takes for an additional fee. They pay for the experience and go home with a finished project having learned how to use the products involved. Both the consumer and the manufacturer see immediate value.
In addition to the exhibitors’ booths, there was an area dedicated to individual designers who were also teaching projects that consumers could pay for and complete. The area was about half the size of a football field, which included about 50 different tables that could seat six to eight people each. There was a menu at the front of the area that showed projects available in each section; consumers would go in, sign up and pay, and then go back at the time the project was scheduled and have an interactive learning and playtime experience.
What were some of the trends you noticed? Did you see any universal trends?
The biggest trend by far was jewelry making produced using a liquid UV adhesive, which comes clear and in many colors. Consumers embellish their rings, charms, story lockets, and etc. with various types of precious and non-precious stones, and then use a UV lamp to harden the liquid.
Indoor gardening and miniaturization is a trend that is occurring globally. I saw it in Europe at Creativeworld earlier this year. Both in Europe and Japan, this trend has evolved from the miniature fairy gardens we’re seeing in the United States. Even more miniaturization is occurring in Japan; model-sized hedges, plants, vegetables and all sorts of things are being used to make attractive table settings and other small décor pieces
Another universal trend is painting and drawing. Yet, at the Japan Hobby Show there was an expanded use of colored markers and paint markers in manga or anime style art. This animated style can be found in coloring books and appeals to many young consumers.
There was so much there: Weaving baskets, and creating bags and other accessories using both natural materials and different colored lacings; Production of small accessories like handbags and hats using small pieces of fabric; Stenciling as part of a multi-media, small finished home décor pieces; Crocheting small projects for home décor pieces was also popular.
One of the most interesting areas was the edible arts section of the show. In addition to cake decorating and sugar crafting, there was a booth showing how to design with sushi.
What were you looking to accomplish at the Japan Hobby Show?
A core focus of AFCI’s strategic roadmap is to expand our global reach by partnering with international organizations like the Japan Hobby Association. During this visit we established a partnership to help boost trade and membership in both countries. Furthermore, we agreed to facilitate new business in each other’s events, to find ways to have Japanese suppliers exhibit at Creativation and U.S. suppliers to participate in the Japan Hobby Show.
You were considered a guest of honor. What did that mean to you?
On the evening of the first day, I attended a reception with Japan Hobby Association member suppliers and the Association’s Board of Directors. As the guest of honor, I had the opportunity to speak of and advocate partnerships with the Japanese creative industries.
In addition, I discussed our 2016 Creative Products Size of the Industry Study findings and the $43+ billion dollar U.S. market, which the companies in attendance found interesting and exciting. This shows the value of our industry research on a global level. As a result of our newfound partnership, the Japan Hobby Association will be sharing consumer insights about the Japan market with us, which will be available to our entire membership later this year.
Did you make any new connections?
I was able to reengage a number of companies that I had prior working relationships with in my career. I was also able to meet the Association’s largest suppliers and distributors and other industry leaders over the course of the three days.
How is our rebranding to the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI) received overseas?
The Japan Hobby Association and its member companies were aware of the changes we’ve made to Creativation and our membership. They were very complimentary of the changes and are look forward to seeing more progress as our new partnership develops and strengthens.