It’s Show Time!

From Las Vegas and Miami to New York, Europe and places in between, the fall trade show calendar features a full slate of formats, exhibitors, events and excursions. Here’s your cheat sheet to what to look for as you make your travel plans.

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From Las Vegas and Miami to New York, Europe and places in between, the fall trade show calendar features a full slate of formats, exhibitors, events and excursions. Here’s your cheat sheet to what to look for as you make your travel plans.

Bread and Butter: Quality Control

Jan. 15-17; Berlin, Germany
The Bread and Butter show combines various brands and categories in its sections spanning high fashion to street trends. “Bread and Butter is the platform that provides buyers with a consolidated overview on what’s hot and what’s new in street and urban wear, embedded in an inspiring setting,” says Karl-Heinz Müller, president of Bread and Butter. “We visualized the ‘mix-and-match’ philosophy even stronger by mixing the brands throughout the various segments and by creating new neighborhoods.”

Müller describes the show as the “spin doctor for retail.” Footwear brands that exhibit include Keds, Feiyue, Palladium, Wolverine 1000 Mile, Clarks, New Balance and Melissa. “We focus on original brands and labels, which are authentic and have their very own identity and signature,” he says. “These could as well be market leaders as interesting new labels and concepts that make the difference.”

While Müller shares that attendance at the July edition was satisfactory, he notes they’re always looking to improve the show. “Our main focus for the coming season is to sharpen our quality concept,” he says. “Selection is a continuous process just like the market itself, and the brand portfolio must be subject to change accordingly. It’s not about quantity but all about quality. A quality brand mix attracts quality retailers and buyers.” —Maria Bouselli

Outdoor Retailer: Where The Action Is

Jan. 23-26; Salt Lake City, UT
Shoes, shoes, and more shoes… The upcoming Outdoor Retailer Winter Market will welcome 172 footwear exhibitors, which, according to show director Kenji Haroutunian, is the fastest and largest growing sector at the show. No longer a niche show, the selection has expanded far beyond OR’s roots in hiking and trail running to include road running, après sport and slipper categories as well as an outdoor lifestyle category that melds versatile performance features with casual styles. “It’s six or seven markets all playing in the same sandbox,” Haroutunian says.

Moreover, the outdoor category has entered a sweet spot, according to Haroutunian. “Even though the economic indicators at large are still pretty grim, if you look at the business of the outdoors, it’s pretty healthy. And a trade show is very much a reflection of the industry it serves,” he says, noting that both exhibitor and buyer attendance is increasing. The challenge for OR is accommodating the growing number of attendees—some now housed in locations further away from the Salt Palace Convention Center. In response, OR is planning a travel guide to help attendees use the city’s public transportation and is working to improve shuttle bus service. —Lyndsay McGregor

FFANY: New York State of Mind

Feb. 5-7; New York, NY
With more than 30 years under its belt, FFANY keeps buyers and exhibitors coming back to the Big Apple season after season. The latest edition in November saw a 16 percent increase in retailer attendance from the last year’s show in December, according to Joe Moore, president and CEO of FFANY. Moore believes the show’s fashion capital locale makes it a must-hit for retailers. “FFANY is based and held in New York, which is home to the very best in fashion footwear,” Moore says of what makes FFANY unique from other shoe shows. “Prominent and influential footwear showrooms and retailers are based here. Some 90 vendors present their collections under the image of their individual companies as part of the show.” Though Moore speculates that attendance will increase from last year, he says the economy still seems to be a concern for retailers and exhibitors alike. “Exhibitors are utilizing less space and keeping a close eye on budgets,” he notes. “Retailers are certainly planning their buys more carefully.”

The February edition will also feature the FFANY Industry Appreciation party on the first night at the Bridges Bar in the hotel where Footwear Plus’ 2012 Plus Awards winners in design and retail excellence will be announced. —M.B.

Offprice Show: Opportunity Knocks

Feb. 17-20; Las Vegas, NV
Coco Chanel famously suggested, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.” However, OffPrice Show CEO Stephen Krogulski says the less-is-more approach is one his attendees are bucking. Heeding requests from retailers of all shapes and sizes, the show is incorporating more accessories, footwear and handbags to its mix. “These categories are margin builders and are seeing the most interest,” he says. “They are all items that apparel retailers are buying for women, men and kids.”

As a destination for fashion below wholesale price, Krogulski says OffPrice is an ideal place for retailers to test the waters of a new product, especially as consumer shopping patterns continue to evolve. For example, he says a traditional children’s store might want to add items for moms. “People can integrate new opportunities into their assortment and negotiate minimums that suit their needs,” he notes.

The show also keys in on the fact that many retailers are buying closer to season. “They are more cautious, but we offer them a chance to fill those inventories and freshen up,” he says. Plus, retailers can get more, thanks in part to the number of deals and breaks on promotional goods that the exec says is available at OffPrice.

The show’s diverse product range, offering everything from flip flops to party goods, attracts an United Nations of retailers including boutiques, sporting goods stores, online retailers, gift shops and more. Registration and attendance are expected to exceed the last show, which reported a total of more than 10,000 retailers. “Exhibitors are pleased because we are bringing in a retail audience that is coming with open-to-buy and making deals,” Krogulski says. —Angela Velasquez

FN Platform: National Anthem

Feb. 19-21; Las Vegas, NV
Leslie Gallin, vice president of footwear at Advanstar, describes its FN Platform show as a must attend for buyers and exhibitors. “The way in which the show lays out gives the buyer an incredible opportunity to see the fashion and the footwear trends,” she notes.

With exhibitor attendance up 30 percent and the square footage of the floor upped by 10 percent from last August, the three-year-old show is raising the bar for its latest edition. It includes a cocktail mixer with the Two Ten Footwear Foundation to present its crystal design awards celebrating aspiring designers. In addition, an opening night party with a vintage Las Vegas theme is on tap. “Shoe people like to have fun, and FN Platform is a golden platform for fun,” Gallin quips.

But FN Platform isn’t all about fun in Sin City—education is just as important. “As the national shoe show, we have a stewardship to inform, educate and bring together,” Gallin says. The day before the show opens, FN Platform will host a visual merchandising seminar about displaying product and a meet-and-greet for agents and reps to network. The February show will also officially launch the “Shop the Floor” digital platform, which gives buyers and exhibitors a chance to connect online after the show. “What ‘Shop the Floor’ does is allow you to go back to the comfort of your office or home and really put together a good assortment,” Gallin offers. —M.B.

The Atlanta Shoe Market: On The Up And Up

Feb. 23-25; Atlanta, GA
Kicking off with a complimentary casino and cocktail party at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center on the opening night, The Atlanta Shoe Market has become the go-to show for retailers from the Southeast and far beyond. Show manager Laura Conwell-O’Brien expects retailer attendance will increase from the record traffic seen at last August’s show. A color and trend seminar will be available to attendees on the second day of the show, offering key insights into the trends that will drive footwear and accessories for the coming season. Work boots will be showcased in “The Work Zone,” while “The Kids’ Shoe Box” will feature more than 100 children’s lines. Exhibitors will > once again take over the food court at the Cobb Galleria Centre and brands like Vince Camuto, Frye, Jeffrey Campbell and Toms will set up shop in the surrounding retail space.

“Our biggest problem is the growth of the show. We have been sold out for the last four years and we have now taken over the entire convention center as well as the connecting Renaissance Waverly Hotel & Convention Center,” Conwell-O’Brien says. “We are constantly weighing the options of moving the show to a larger convention center or staying where we are, as everyone loves the current location.” —L.M.

Sole Commerce: Less is More

Feb. 24-26, New York, NY
As the only edited and selective “better” women’s shoe show in the U.S., and an extension of the ENK Fashion Coterie apparel show, ENK Footwear Group President David Kahan believes it’s a one-of-a-kind format in a city that reaches a unique audience of buyers. “It’s the footwear market for the ready-to-wear better women’s retailers who buy shoes as an accessory in their stores,” he says, noting that attendance was up 12 percent over the last show and the number of exhibitors (particularly European labels) has grown as well. “Feedback is that the show definitely has the most compelling brand assortment in one place.”

Contributing to Sole Commerce’s growing popularity, Kahan says, is footwear’s strength as an add-on sale. “Ready-to-wear retailers see shoes as a great category to add excitement and generate additional sales in their stores,” he notes. But it’s not just any shoe these buyers are seeking to add. “The most discerning buyers always want what’s new and on-trend, and that’s what Sole Commerce is all about,” Kahan says. —Greg Dutter

SMOTA: Hot, Hot, Hot

March 3-5; Miami, FL
Location, location, location—that is the number one reason Beverlee Maier, executive director of Shoe Market of the Americas (SMOTA), gives for both retailers and exhibitors to attend the show at the Miami Airport Convention Center. “Where we are positioned, we draw so much from international [attendees]—more than 40 countries attend from the Caribbean, Central and South America as well as people from the Eastern U.S.,” she says, noting a 4 percent increase of retailer attendance at the latest September edition. “It’s an awesome opportunity to see all these brands in one stop,” she adds.

Maier says that because of the later timing of the show, exhibitors tend to write a lot of business. “For us it really becomes a strong writing show—buyers have already seen the product, and know what’s been cut, so they can make final decisions and leave some paper,” she offers.

As for how retailers are buying, Maier says its about buying “wiser” with the effects of the economy still looming. That’s why she is committed to making SMOTA cost effective and profitable for attendees. “The big change for us last year was that we moved back to a facility that we hadn’t been in for six years—it had been gutted and renovated,” she notes. “Now we’re back in Miami where we belong, near the international airport, and the hotel and convention center are under one roof.” —M.B.

GDS: Image-Makers

Mar. 13-15; Düsseldorf, Germany
The lively exchange between GDS and its exhibitors and visitors will culminate in a number of improvements to the March edition. The show’s White Cube section, dedicated to premium fashion brands including Michael Kors and See by Chloe, will be revamped to highlight trend collections, Project Director of GDS Kirstin Deutelmoser reports. The children’s footwear area will also be refreshed with a new booth concept and lounge. In addition, GDS will host daily fashion shows and feature a spotlight on up-and-coming designers in the Design Attack area. “The buyers are looking for special and extraordinary styles, which are shown at GDS,” she reports. “It’s not just the product which is important regarding form, function, color and material. It’s the unique story and the image behind the product.”

As for what buyers are on the look out for at GDS, Deutelmoser expects it reflects the interests of consumers, who are interested in authenticity and credibility. “Brands with a high recognition value are becoming more popular right now,” she explains. As a result, she believes it’s essential for a brand to tell a story to the consumer. —A.V.

Off the Clock

You’re not planning to travel hundreds, maybe thousands of miles, and spending just as much in cash to just look at shoes, are you? Discover your inner Anthony Bourdain and turn business travel into an adventure at these fine destinations. —A.V.

Berlin, Germany:
A wander through one of Berlin’s famed art museums may just spark up inspiration for next season’s collection. Skip lunch and fill up on modern design at the Bauhaus Archiv. Take in a view of the city before base flying from the roof of the Park Inn Hotel. And don’t forget to bring home souvenirs that people will really appreciate from 14 oz., the one-of-kind fashion emporium owned by Bread & Butter creator Karl-Heinz Müller.

Düsseldorf, Germany:
Relax along the Rhine river as Düsseldorf locals do with a pint from the Uerige brewery located in the Altstadt, or hop a quick train to Cologne for an evening in the Roman city. Tour the imposing and impressive Cologne Cathedral (conveniently located next to the train station) and then realize your Willie Wonka fantasies at the Lindt chocolate factory and café.

New York, NY:
Watch the Brooklyn Nets take on the L.A. Lakers on Feb. 5 at the new Barclays Center. While you’re there, nosh on some of the borough’s finest delicacies from Junior’s and Nathan’s. Spruce up your digits with statement-making nail art at Valley NYC. Participate in the Empire State Building Run-Up on the 6th and climb up 1,576 stairs to the observation deck, and then treat yourself to a cup of gourmet cocoa at City Bakery’s Hot Chocolate Festival.

Salt Lake City, UT:
Dive into the archives at the Family History Library. You may just discover that you come from a line of shoemakers, or take in the heavenly sounds during choir rehearsal at the Tabernacle. Become the beer connoisseur you’ve always dreamt to be by sampling a flight at the Red Rock Brewing Company. Sweat it off like an Olympian at the Utah Olympic Park bobsled run.

Atlanta, GA:
Park the rental at Varsity, a 75-year-old hot dog institution and home to the world’s largest drive-in. Spice up your trade show wardrobe with stylish accoutrements from Jeffrey. Take a ghoulish evening tour of Atlanta’s spookiest spots on a Segway, or revisit your hippie days in Little Five Points, a bohemian neighborhood known for its record shops, independent theaters and tattoo parlors.

Las Vegas, NV:
Suffering from jet lag, or a late Vegas night? Refresh yourself at the award-winning Bellagio spa and try it’s signature stone massage. Put your rock star putting skills to the test at Kiss Monster Mini Golf, or soar above Downtown Las Vegas on a zipline before heading back to the Strip for dinner at the recently opened Gordon Ramsay Steak. Consider tacking on an extra day to enjoy the smoke-free air and sweeping views at the Grand Canyon.

Miami, FL:
Start your morning with a café cubano from the popular Little Havana restaurant, Versailles. Later, gather on the streets of Coral Gables’ Miracle Mile for Carnaval Miami, a festival chockfull of food vendors, artists and musicians. Pick up a good read at Books & Books for your hammock siesta and experience a postcard sunset at the Sunset Lounge at the Mondrian Hotel.

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