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The Atlanta Shoe Market draws largest crowd ever.

The gang was and all there. The Atlanta Shoe Market (TASM) reported record exhibitor and retailer attendance at last month’s show at the Cobb Galleria Centre and Renaissance Hotel. Considering the industry consolidation over the past decade or so, that’s impressive.

“We had 16 percent increase in exhibitors (totaling more than 1,800 brands) and a five percent increase in retailers,” reports Laura Conwell-O’Brien, executive director. What’s more, the buyers list featured big-name, first-time attendees, including Meijer, DSW, Anthropologie, Dillard’s, HSN, TJX, and Costco. “All the big box stores were here as were many leading independents nationwide, and the biggest take away was the collective positivity,” she says. The one area that needs improvement, Conwell-O’Brien notes, is more traffic at the new The Fashion Plaza section in the hotel. “We did our best, but it’s always a challenge directing retailers to new areas,” she says, adding, “It’ll get better this August when we take over the hotel’s Grand Ballroom located next door. That’ll add an additional 100 booths, which will definitely help draw more retailers to that area—and help accommodate the 160 brands currently on our waiting list.”

Michael Rich, founder/CEO of Psudo, had no qualms about traffic at the casual sneaker brand’s bigger, new digs located at the entrance to the main floor. “We were busy from start to finish with new retailers, as well as current customers lining up new shoes for later this spring and next fall,” he reports. “Buyers are looking for something new, and we happen to be one of those new things.”

Shawn O’Neill, partner and integrator for Comfort One Shoes, says TASM was “tremendous.” This marked the Mid-Atlantic based chain’s first Atlanta show since the acquisition of Saxon Shoes in Richmond, VA, and the breadth of exhibitors was ideal one-stop shopping. “That acquisition brought aboard a lot of new vendors, and the set up and ease of this show allowed us to accomplish more than other shows could allow,” he says. “We had a very heavy schedule, and we accomplished our mission.”

Prasad Reddy, CEO of Twisted X Global Brands, reports this TASM was its best to date. It helps to come into the show with strong momentum. “Retailers were in a great mood because they had good sell-through in the fourth quarter and January for Twisted X products,” he says, adding, “They were excited to see what’s new from us, and they came ready to buy.” New product highlights include the extension of UltraLite X work boot construction into men’s casuals. “It was very well received, especially in our driving mocs that made the style even lighter for increased comfort and less fatigue,” Reddy says, adding that the technology will expand into women’s casuals soon. Black Star, the company’s more upscale, authentic Western brand, also saw a strong reaction. “We received great feedback on our new color profiles and wider breadth of collection,” Reddy says, adding, “The Western lifestyle market continues to grow in popularity.”

Gary Champion, president of Clarks Americas, reported strong traffic and feedback on its Artisan collection, notably the Certina and Loriini programs in women’s and the Un.Briley and Monahan programs in men’s. “I asked buyers to hang in there with me, and I think they’re glad that they did,” he says. “We had a strong reaction to the entire fall line, and we’ve already had early success this spring in athleisure with the Mayhill for women and men’s Mapstone. Buyers are gravitating to uppers with more fun and interest, like our metallic leathers.” Overall, Champion is upbeat about Clarks, TASM, and the industry. “The show was very busy, and it’s where our team opens a lot of new accounts,” he says. “Buyers are excited about the future, not just with Clarks, but with their businesses overall.”

Tony Adams, president of Hälsa, reports a similar upbeat consensus among attendees at TASM. Despite it being an election year and general economic uncertainty, he says buyers were on the hunt for new brands to add to their assortments. “Hälsa was busy from start to finish; we were working accounts past closing time on the last day,” Adams says. “We were busy adding new accounts for our spring collection, and  the reaction to our fall collection was well-received.”    

Ditto for Marty Rose, distributor of All Black Footwear. He reports TASM was back-to-back customers the first two days. “The general attitude of buyers was very upbeat, but still cautious because of weather challenges,” he says, noting its new Mod collection was received well. “Our buyers like that we continue to offer unique styles that aren’t found at other brands.”

The March 2024 Issue

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