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Hot for Atlanta

The industry looks to put its best foot forward at the upcoming August show.

From top: Ninety Union; Hälsa; Lamo; Freshy; Twisted X; Dingo.

The gang will all be there. At least, if you count the expected record attendance of exhibitors and retailers heading to The Atlanta Shoe Market (TASM) Aug. 10-12 at the Cobb Galleria Centre and Renaissance Hotel. Show Director Laura Conwell-O’Brien reports space sold out earlier than ever before, and even though she accommodated another 94 booths in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom, there is waiting list currently of 30 companies.

“We have a big international presence coming to this show—50 of the new 94 booths are international,” she says, adding that the exhibitor list stands at near 1,100. “The Brazilian and Portugal trade associations are coming, which is about 30 brands, and we have 10 brands from South Africa, which is a first for us. We also have a lot more international retailers registered to attend.”

Evan Schwartz, president of Aetrex, sees the upcoming TASM as key for the company’s continued growth. “We’ve always had a very a strong spring/summer business, and one of our key strategies is to leverage our success and grow the assortment from the core out,” he says. “The goal is to create newness and generate momentum for some leading styles with fresh design details, embellishments, and updated materials.”

To that end, buyers in Atlanta will see Aetrex’s largest expansion to date across multiple categories. For example, the Vania, a style introduced in Spring ’24 and now its number-two selling sandal, will include flatform and low wedge takes on that construction. The brand is also building off the Sydney, its most successful wedge, with a few new versions for next spring. “We’re also introducing some new SkyTech sandals, part of our UltraSky-injected EVA line, that pay homage to our top-selling Jillian sandal’s signature braid, this time on a flip-flop upper,” Schwartz says, adding that Aetrex will also continue to build on its year-round casual offerings. “We see opportunity in creating more product for transitional time periods—styles that we think are great for the early part of the season as well as year-round core styling.”

Hälsa is also coming to Atlanta armed with an expanded product assortment, according to Tony Adams, president. “Our team has been working tirelessly on developing new materials and designs to ensure that we bring the best of the best to the show floor,” he says. “That includes new wedges and flat sandals, improved sustainability efforts, and an enhanced customer experience. We believe that our customers deserve nothing but the best, and that is exactly what we aim to deliver.”

Freshy is also heading to TASM with gusto. The colorful and casual sneaker startup has a lot of goals, including generating brand awareness, opening accounts, and building relationships. Elizabeth Damiani, COO, says the company will lean into its trademark eye-catching colors with a booth of similar décor. “We’re excited to showcase our newer lines, emphasizing our commitment to being ‘exclusively inclusive,’” she offers. “That includes an exclusive women’s line featuring the latest colors and styles.”

Sneakers aren’t the only segment expected to generate big buzz at TASM. The Western market is in full gallop thanks, in part, to the twin powers of Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. Dingo Brand Manager Ron Owens sees the stars aligning into macro movement of Western fashion, and Dingo is along for the ride. “So many artists crossing over into country music, and that’s greatly expanded our reach across all demographics,” he says. “Country music has become not only the most popular genre, but the most inclusive.” Dingo is hitting on all cylinders with an expanded product line to meet a growing customer base. Think plenty of color, fun, authenticity, and Americana. One focus, in particular, is the wedding market, which is $100 billion annually. Owens says bachelorette parties are flocking to Nashville to get their cowgirl on and an increasing number of bridal parties are swapping pumps for ropers. “The genre is country music, the venue is Nashville, the force is Beyoncé, the stage is global, and the message is positive,” Owens says. “To paraphrase Maya Angelou: We are more alike, than we are unalike.”

Twisted X Global brands is also champing at the bit for Western sales. Its stable of Twisted X, Black Star, and Wrangler brands will feature a wide assortment of new styles. “Western is trending so strongly right now, and we want to also continue the strong growth we’re seeing in work, our fastest growing category, as well” reports Jud Taylor, vice president of sales. The company’s UltraLite X assortment—spanning work, lifestyle, and Western styles—is another highlight. The unique EVA compound reduces weight by 20 percent. “The collection is selling so well, and we’re looking forward to showing retailers our new UltraLite X athleisure outsole,” he says. “It’s thicker and, paired with mesh and leather uppers, is a great new Western look. It’s very on trend for what’s happening in the marketplace right now.”

On the comfort side, John Pierce, vice president of sales for Lamo, sums up Spring ’25 for the California-based brand in two words: court and cork. “These two platforms are dominating the marketplace right now, and we”ll have great looks with these trends in mind,” he says, adding that the goal for Atlanta is to continue to build brand awareness while showcasing updated, trend-right collections. “We’ve got some outstanding collections at value-driven prices while all being based around comfort.”

Statement looks are a top priority for Michael Abrams, senior vice president of Sales for Lady Couture, Ninety Union, and Ashley Kahen. “Lady Couture and Ninety Union need to be different,” he says. “Interesting heel treatments, special materials, and colors drive both brands. Also, we offer a wide range of sizing from 4 all the way to size 13.”   

So many trends, so many shoes, and so many brands. It’s all coming to Atlanta next month. “TASM is the national shoe show, and we’re looking forward to a great event,” Conwell-O’Brien says, adding, “There’s strength in numbers. The industry coming together is reassuring—there’s a collective energy and it shows that we’re alive.”

TASM Will be a Success If...

Exhibitors sound off on what will make Atlanta a good show.

“We’re able to connect with as many retailers and brands as possible. We not only see Atlanta as a major buying opportunity; we also have a lot of industry friends and peers from whom we learn and share with there. Continuing conversations on how to keep the industry moving forward and growing are major parts of our overall success as a company.” —Evan Schwartz, president, Aetrex

“Buyers start challenging brands they currently carry. Hälsa strongly believes in the independents by not selling DTC. Independents are the backbone of America, and we fully support them 100 percent. We’re very excited about the response already. Our bookings are already doubled over last year.” —Tony Adams, president, Hälsa

“We have our normal traffic. It’s one of our most important shows as the Southeast is a massive part of our business and we’re able to hit all different channels of distribution. This is the show to be at.” —Jud Taylor, VP of Sales, Twisted X Global Brands

“We see continued success across all sectors of retail. Atlanta has always been very important to our company, but even more so the last few years due to having less shows of importance to showcase our product. This is a major show in every aspect, from set-up to management attendance.” —Ron Owens, VP and National Brand Manager, Dingo

“We can continue to add new retailers to our portfolio. We don’t want to put a specific number behind this, but success generally is reaching new buyers.” —John Pierce, VP of sales, Lamo

“All of our appointments show up and we open a few new accounts. We used to attend all shoe and apparel shows across the U.S. This is the only show that we now attend.” —Michael Abrams, SVP of Sales, Lady Couture/Ninety Union/Ashley Kahen

“We secure new retailers, increase social media engagement, see a spike in website traffic following the event, and attain media coverage. Additionally, if we obtain valuable feedback from potential customers to improve and refine future collections, gain industry recognition, and establish our position within the market.” —Elizabeth Damiani, COO, Freshy

The July 2024 Issue

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