My First Trip To Quilt Market – Part 1 – Schoolhouse

George R. Brown Convention Center - Houston Tx.

My first trip to the Houston, TX Quilt Market was Fall 2019. I wasn’t sure what to expect although I had read online to bring good walking shoes, a roller case, and more business cards than I though I would ever need to hand out. I decided to fly in early and sign up for all the business classes that I could to help me in opening a real physical shop. The classes kept me very busy as there was a lot to take in that I had never heard of before – for example, what in the world does Open To Buy refer to? And then there was a Retail Boot Camp, and it ended up being exactly what the name implied – boot camp. All new concepts to me. 

Show Floor - 382,000 sq-ft
Show Floor - 382,000 sq-ft

I arrived and caught a Lyft back to the cheapest BnB I could find walking distance to George R Brown Convention Center. This saved me a car rental and the high priced rooms of the nearby luxury hotels. They say everything is bigger in Texas and well they weren’t kidding! Even though I was only 6 blocks away from the convention center, the city blocks were TX sized blocks. And the convention center itself is 3 stories tall and about the size of 5 TX sized blocks at it’s base. The main hall and the vendors are on the first floor. The second floor has registration, Starbucks, the parking garage & hotel skybridges, a few places to eat and a little gift shop. The second floor is small since the main halls on the first floor are two floors high. Then the third floor has the auditorium, hundreds of classrooms, a few ballrooms, and more food stands with tables to eat at and chairs to rest tired feet.

Convention Center Size - 5 city blocks
Classroom Halls

My first day was Thursday and I attended the Retail boot Camp before Market officially opened on Saturday. About 25-30 people, most of whom were trying to start a business like myself, were in the class taught by Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender. I think most, if not all, were women. The class covered everything from email marketing, how to set up your shop and keep product moving, what colors are best to show products (like wall paint color – setting moods), knowing your customer, social media, visual displays, branding, and all sorts of little pieces of information stuffed into questions about the dos and dont’s of business. It was intense and we went home with plenty of study material.

The next day was “Schoolhouse Series” from 10am-6pm. I wasn’t sure what this was and there was no sign up for the class. So I had trouble figuring out what Schoolhouse was until it actually arrived. It’s an all day event that consists of 21 classrooms that people shuffle between every 15-30 minutes with 5 minutes in between to frantically run to the next class that you want to attend. Vendors and manufacturers reserve these rooms and have just a few minutes to set up and show-and-tell whatever they want about their products. In some cases, we would be stuffed into a room with 40 people being shown 20 different quilts while someone is talking about the pattern or the featured fabric being displayed. Many of the items presented are brand new, arriving soon, or are ready to be ordered on Saturday. It’s like a teaser of what the next day will hold when Market opens and new products are revealed. This works great so that the ideas are in your head before you spend all your money on the first two isles of Market.

Fall 2019 Quilt Market Show Floor

Before and after the Schoolhouse Series there are optional daily classes you can take to enrich your learning about the industry. Some examples of classes are: Email Automations, Training Your Staff to Sell, Say It With Pictures, Retreats That Are Fun,  Open To Buy Basics, Take & Teach and more. These are taken outside of the show floor hours so that there is no wasted time during Market. There are also catered Texas Quilt Museum and Quilt Shop Tours if you want to see the town while visiting TX. Market is open from Sat-Mon with classes beginning on Thursday and Schoolhouse and the infamous “Sample Spree” on Friday. You will have to check back next month for Part 2 on My First Trip to Quilt Market which will include my first impressions about SAMPLE SPREE.

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