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IR Show Rounding Into Form

Gary Hauss, show director, reports an increase in overall attendance of more than 30 percent.

Booths were buzzing with buyers at The IR Show in San Diego.

Event number two is now in the books, and all signs point to The Innovative Retail (IR) Show in San Diego being on a solid growth trajectory to, at minimum, a major West Coast regional show. Gary Hauss, show director, reports an increase in overall attendance of more than 30 percent with leasable space up 41 percent and exhibitor and retailer attendance up 20.5 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

“The overall feeling of the show was excitement,” Hauss reports. “Excitement about being in beautiful San Diego with its ease of travel and perfect weather; the convenience and affordability of being under one roof; the growth in attendance from both retailers and vendors; the ease of working the show; the opportunity to educate and network; and the perfect timing.”

Adam Beck, CEO of Beck’s Shoes, now a 22-store chain across six western states, gives the recent show an A+. “The timing was great, as was the setting, layout and overall vibe,” he says. “We feel this will be the ‘Atlanta of the West.’ Beck’s will be able to get everything that we need done here and, if we decide to attend Atlanta, it would be for relationship building and not so much buying.”

Speaking of buying, Matt Schwartz, chief revenue officer of Aetrex, reports IR was a strong writing show for the company. “Our booth was consistently busy, and our team booked a lot of business over the three days,” he says. Notable highlights included new patterns introduced in the SkyTech collection, which Schwartz notes sold incredibly well this season and offers excellent margins. “Our new flatforms and cork wedges are driving a lot of bookings growth, as well,” he adds. “And, of course, our Jillian quarter strap sandal collection continues to be a huge success.” Schwartz adds that the IR Show goes beyond writing orders. “IR is about seeing friends and continuing to build long-term partnerships,” he says. “We love to work, but we also love the social time. The footwear retail community is filled with so many wonderful people. We see them as part of the Aetrex family.”

The ability to network in a relaxed setting, Hauss notes, is a key component of the show. The goal is to create a community where the entire industry comes together twice a year. “We added more networking opportunities where vendors and retailers were able to just hang out and enjoy each other’s company,” he says, noting a highlight was the San Diego Padres game outing. “We had 300 shoepeople sitting together watching the Padres beat the Colorado Rockies. It was a great night!” On day two, IR Show hosted a Mix ‘N’ Mingle cocktail party on the floor. “We wanted it to be convenient enough so as many attendees as possible would join us—and they did,” Hauss says, adding that San Diego is ideal for this type of networking in general. “Everything you need is close by and easy to get to,” he explains. “It gives you that Zen feeling: walking in the gorgeous weather from your hotel to the convention center is relaxing as there are no taxi or valet lines to have to wait in. Then, once you get to the convention center, it’s easy to check in, vendors are easy to find (the floor plan features an easy-to-use QR code) and announcements are made during the day informing attendees of upcoming events along with email reminders.”

Shara McIntyre, owner of Hedi’s Shoes based in Carmel, CA, seconds San Diego as a highly workable city for a trade show. “San Diego is very easy to get into and around town,” she says. “The weather is ideal, and it’s just a fun and relaxing city.” What’s more, McIntyre says the vibe of IR mirrors the city. “I found the energy at the show to be positive,” she says. “Our vendor partners put out great collections, and buyers were invigorated and focused on the future of our industry.”

McIntyre’s focus was on putting together an exciting, colorful and emotionally compelling assortment for its four locations. “We want to always be reminding our guests why they love shopping brick-and-mortar,” she says. “And we’re excited by the vibrancy of Spring/Summer ’23 color palette. We’re also loving the resurgence of ’90s styling and materials.”  

Schwartz concurs on the good vibes emanating on the show floor, and that’s despite the strong economic headwinds. “The retailers I spoke with are coming off a strong spring season,” he says. “Although, their overall optimism was tempered with caution on account of rising inflation and negative GDP growth.”

 Perhaps the ample amounts of free food helped brighten the mood of attendees. Goodies included coffee, warm chocolate chip cookies, popcorn and ice cream. In addition, donuts, courtesy of the USRA, were offered on the morning of day one. “We also added a great hot lunch option,” Hauss says. “The wok station featured options to create a delicious bowl with either chicken, beef or tofu along with veggies, rice, crunchy wontons and all kinds of sauces. It was definitely a hit!”

The next edition of The IR Show is scheduled for Jan. 17-19, 2023. “After a lot of feedback, we’ve moved the January dates up a bit,” Hauss says, adding that the show will move to another area in the San Diego Convention Center. “We want to keep evolving and improving the attendee experience. We’ll keep finding new ways to have a good time together, making it easier for vendors and retailers to meet new partners and to catch up with old ones.”

The April/May 2024 Issue

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