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IR Show Heads to Vegas this July

The move marks a return to a familiar shoe industry destination.

For decades Las Vegas and the shoe industry went together like slot machines and retirees. Twice annually, nearly the entire industry would converge in Sin City to get business done at the WSA Show. It was so big that, for a stretch, exhibitors filled the Sands Convention Center and the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Exhibitors would erect small-scale cities in a “my-booth-is-bigger-than-yours” game of financial flexing. The effort even extended down to who had the plushest carpets. Well, those days are long gone, and much of the shoe industry has been absent from Vegas since.

Until this summer—if Gary Hauss, codirector of The IR Show, vision comes to fruition. The West Coast regional show is moving from San Diego to the Horseshoe Las Vegas (former Bally’s) on The Strip, for its July 28-30 edition. No offense to San Diego, it’s just that Hauss couldn’t get the preferred dates due to an overlap with Comic-Con, which overtakes the city. But Hauss is also of the firm belief that a shoe show belongs in Vegas. It just feels right.

“So many great shoe shows took place in Las Vegas,” Hauss says. “When we think Vegas, we think shoe show. So, we’re hopeful the move brings the industry back to where it all began.”

In addition to nostalgia factors, there are pragmatic reasons for moving IR to Vegas, according to Hauss. Convenience and cost, for starters. “You can fly there non-stop from most places, at reasonable costs, any time of the day,” he says. “Vegas also provides attendees hotels at affordable rates.” Then there’s the newly renovated Horseshoe Event Center. “The multimillion-dollar renovation makes this one of Vegas’s best new meeting locations,” Hauss claims. “Our guests will be able to walk directly into the convention center from the hotel—no cars or walking in the heat.”

Then there’s the draw of Vegas. “The city is full of exceptional restaurants and things to do,” Hauss says. For those preferring to not stray far, a promenade connects the Horseshoe and Paris Las Vegas. Both feature award-winning restaurants, including Nobu, Gordon Ramsey Steakhouse, Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Sports Kitchen, and The Bedford by Martha Stewart.

So far, so good on the move to Vegas, reports Hauss. “Everyone seems excited and believe it’ll bring more retailers and exhibitors,” he says. “We’ve received calls from new vendors and retailers asking when they can register—and that was even before our January show took place. We’ve also heard from many reps that their retailers are talking about how excited they are about the move to Vegas.”

Tom Schweigert, sales manager for Ecco USA, is looking forward to a return to Vegas for several reasons. “It’ll be easier and cheaper for many accounts to attend versus San Diego,” he says, noting those higher costs include flights, hotels, food, and parking. “Also, Vegas is a destination city, and many people love it. It should give accounts another reason to attend IR.”

Shawn O’Neill, partner and integrator of Comfort One Shoes, say its team is on board with the move. “It should entice others to take advantage of the venue,” he says. “Plus, it’s that much earlier in show season, thus giving us a look at color and trend before Atlanta.” Shara McIntyre, owner of Hedi’s, a chain based in Carmel Valley, CA, will also be heading to Vegas this July. “Gary’s team has done a fantastic job creating an environment that encourages communication and camaraderie amongst vendors, retailers, and service providers,” she says. “We’re really looking forward to the Spring/Summer ’25 show in Las Vegas.”

Hälsa President Tony Adams believes the logistical advantages of Vegas should increase buyer attendance. “It should be easier for a lot of accounts who have some issues with getting to San Diego, particularly with retailers based in the Midwest,” he says. “And we’re in a growth mode, so any chance to work with new customers is always an exciting opportunity.”

The March 2024 Issue

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