The lingering effects of the pandemic, like the virus itself, are certainly not over. But, for at least a few days, there was a welcomed air of business-as-usual at The Atlanta Shoe Market last month. Masks were few and far between and the booths were abuzz with buyers, which is no small feat as this marked the largest Atlanta show—at 800-plus brands—in its 79-year history.
“Attendance surpassed our pre-Covid numbers, and we had retailers come from 42 states and 11 countries,” reports Laura Conwell-O’Brien, executive director of the show. “We attracted more company executives than ever before—even Steve Madden made an appearance.”
Marty Rose, distributor of All Black Footwear, credits the show’s ease of exhibiting as a key to its long-running success. “The Atlanta show is the most organized and easiest show to deal with from a vendor point of view,” he says. And even though Italy’s Micam show dates overlapped and impacted upscale buyer attendance, Rose reported strong traffic. “We still had an excellent show, and also opened several new customers,” he reports. “The response to our Fall ’23 collection was very positive based on orders. We also received a strong response to our Spring ’23 case packs.” Rose adds, “The general mood was upbeat. Retailers know what’s going on in the world but remain positive about their customer base and the constant need for freshness in footwear.”
Angela Paterson, director of Business Development for Only Partners, licensee for Soft Comfort and Enjoiya, reported a similar Atlanta show vibe. “We had a very successful show,” she says. “Attendance was definitely at high volume with buyers engaged in purchasing in-season goods as well as for fall.” The response to Soft Comfort’s casual styles was a particular highlight. “Comfort is still the king of categories, and our ultra-light covered wedge construction was on the top of the list for spring in-stock purchases,” she says.
Ditto for Kevin Bosco, president of Bos. & Co., distributors of Fly London, Asportuguesas, Ambitious, and Softinos, as well as owners of an eponymous brand. “Atlanta was a very successful show for our family of brands with three very productive days,” he reports, adding that the show continues to grow in importance. “Despite the times we live in, we found retailers open to view new and fresh looks for Fall/Winter ’23.” Bosco notes that Asportuguesas and Ambitious, in particular, received a strong response. The former’s sustainability story is in step with the times, while the latter nails that casual-yet-dressy sweet spot.
Robyn Shreiber, founder of Beautiisoles, sums up its second Atlanta show as a success, too. “Traffic was good, even though we were in the hallway between the Fashion Village and the main floor,” she says. “In many cases, we just reached out to passersby, and they were extremely impressed with our line, especially our eye-catching boots.” The exec adds, “Some placed orders on the spot, while boutiques with lower price points were more selective. But when the match was right, there wasn’t a price objection.” On that note, Shreiber didn’t hear much negativity related to the economy. “We heard a lot more about women who are ready for heels and dress shoes,” she says.
Lester Wasserman, owner of Tip Top Shoes and West NYC in Manhattan, saw plenty of dressier styles as well as a lot of western looks. While that mirrors the migration to states where western fashion is everyday wear, he’s not all-in on a post-pandemic dress shoes boom just yet. “Western is valid,” he affirms. “And while vendors were showing more dress, I’m not sure the customer is there yet. But there was no shortage of white shoes and lots of lace-to-toe sneakers.”