The summer tradeshow slate offers a variety of locales, formats
By Samantha Sciarrotta
GDS: Pillar Plan
Jul. 30-Aug. 1; Düsseldorf, Germany
With a conceptual makeover resulting in a totally new show format, GDS is primed to kick off the season with a bang. In its new three-pillar system, show director Kirstin Deutelmoser explains, GDS presents three distinct but interrelated ideas to improve the show for buyers, press and exhibitors alike. Highlighting GDS’s three main shopping components, the first pillar takes attendees through a spectrum of styles with Highstreet’s contemporary, traditional and sporty shoes, Pop Up’s streetwear display and Studio’s sophisticated styles. A “Highlight Route” guides visitors down a path that leads past exhibition stands, special product presentations, fashion shows and events. The second pillar is all about the press. Exhibitors will be given the opportunity to present their brands in a way that puts their brand message out in the open and ready for journalists to cover.
Focusing on events and entertainment, the third pillar, Out of the Box, plays host to the first Shoes and Accessories festival, on Aug. 1. Exhibitions, lectures and workshops as well as events in galleries, bars and other offsite locations set the scene for a completely new GDS experience. Also part of the third pillar, GDS’s media partner, styleranking.de, will invite fashion bloggers from all over the country to design a partner store’s window display. And that’s not the only role bloggers will play come show time. Maja Weyhe, also known as fashion blogger Maja Wyh, will live blog from the show, and other select bloggers will dress models for the fair’s runway shows. Additionally, more than 100 bloggers will convene at the FashionBloggerCafe Shoedition, where they can network and exchange ideas.
Deutelmoser happily reports that exhibitors are already reacting positively to the changes. “The new concept makes it easier for trade visitors to find what they are looking for,” she notes. “They will enjoy a ‘brand experience,’ which will assist them in their marketing and sales activities.” And with buyer and exhibitor attendance already on the rise, Deutelmoser anticipates a favorable experience for attendees. “Our research has shown that footwear and accessories buyers come to the event, not just to purchase, but also to stay close to the market and assess trends for the upcoming season,” she offers. “Within the new concept of GDS, buyers will be able to explore and evaluate the range of styles
available on the world stage.”
FN Platform: Market Efficiency
Aug. 18-20; Las Vegas
Built “by the industry, for the industry,” FN Platform promises an efficient browsing experience with its six separate lifestyle neighborhoods spread out over 500,000 square feet of space in the Las Vegas Convention Center. It includes Black Diamond’s luxury brands, Cosmo’s women’s fashion, Bond’s men’s footwear, Camp’s athletic and leisure styles for both genders, Zen’s lifestyle and comfort labels and In Play’s juniors’ and children’s collections. Streamlining an experience that can often be hectic keeps attendees happy and returning, offers Leslie Gallin, president of footwear at Advanstar, the show’s organizers. “FN Platform is an international marketplace where leaders and innovators converge to shape, shop and sell shoes,” she adds. “It offers an elevated, comprehensive presentation of emerging and established brands in a conveniently merchandised lifestyle environment.” At the front of the show will be “Leslie’s Picks,” a section highlighting her top styles from each category. “We select the products we feel are influencing the direction of the industry for the coming season,” she says.
And if you’re looking to learn, FN Platform has you covered. “One of the biggest things we’re known for is our educational series,” reveals Gallin. “We do it before the show starts so that buyers don’t have to leave the floor. We understand that they have to take advantage of their time. There’s money on the line.”
With after-hours events like the opening night cocktail party featuring the Peter Monroy Band, known throughout Sin City for its performances at spots like The Venetian and Hard Rock Hotel, Gallin notes there’s plenty of time for one of the most important parts of a show: networking. “It’s the biggest part,” she says. “The people you meet end up becoming the future of the business.” Which is why FN Platform also announces the newcomers, joining the 1,600 other brands from more than 20 countries. “Everyone always wants to know who’s new,” Gallin notes.
FFANY: New York Groove
Aug. 5-7; New York
With everything from private hotel suites for luxury brands to more communal hall spaces for traditional labels, FFANY has room for any exhibitor, and new president and CEO Ron Fromm says that’s exactly what sets the 33-year-old show apart from its competitors. “It’s really all about the format,” Fromm notes. “FFANY is unique in how it has multiple formats in creating a marketplace. It just provides a really tremendous, elegant way of showing a portfolio of brands, and it allows each brand to have this immersion of its own image in the show.” As one of the season’s first shows, Fromm adds that FFANY is a “right place at the right time event. It really kicks off the product cycle all the way from the design stage to seeing it in-store.”
What happens in between those stages is what Fromm says FFANY focuses on the most, though. As the backbone of business, Fromm places wholesaler-retailer interactions at the forefront of what the show sets out to accomplish. “We allow that action to happen. Our number one effort is making that experience better and stronger,” he continues. One way to do that, he notes, is building on the digital platform the show and so many of its attendees have adopted, like its digital marketplace, FFANY365. Fromm also hopes to introduce more industry networking events, like the opening night event at the Hilton Midtown’s Herb N’ Kitchen. “We actually are working on bringing in some key fashion elements into that event as well,” he reveals. “I can’t disclose much yet, but we are well aware that retailers would like to see more and more discovery opportunities. We’re trying to create some at that event.”
The Atlanta Shoe Market: Perfect Space
Aug. 23-25; Atlanta
What could be a more fitting location for a footwear trade show than the Cobb Galleria Centre, a convention center built on top of a mall? Boasting more than 300,000 square feet of exhibit space that has sold out the last five years running, The Atlanta Shoe Market continues to grow. In fact, Laura Conwell-O’Brien, the show’s executive director, says she’s constantly on the lookout for ways to gain extra space as exhibitor attendance continues to rise, so she’s even taken over the food court area, as well as renting out empty mall stores for exhibitors to use. And this is on top of utilizing all of the convention center’s meeting and ballroom space not only for exhibitors, but for special events like a color and trend seminar, an independent retailer seminar and more. The whole thing kicks off with a three-hour Opening Night Cocktail Reception and Casino Night at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
With more than 1,500 lines spanning comfort to salon and work to kids, Conwell-O’Brien notes that the show’s wide selection is part of its draw. “Because the economy has been so tumultuous, companies are choosing very carefully where and how to spend their dollars, and retailers are looking for trade shows to attend that are convenient and affordable,” she says, adding its “all under one roof” mentality is part of that cost and time efficiency.
To better navigate its jam-packed slate, Conwell-O’Brien suggests attendees do their homework before arriving. “I would recommend that they use our online floor planner prior to the show to schedule their appointments to be assured that they will be able to work with all their vendors,” she offers. “I would also recommend the retailers take the time to shop new vendors as there are many new and exciting lines that are out there right now.”
Outdoor Retailer: Born to Run
Aug. 6-9; Salt Lake City
Care for a run with your trade show? Head on over to the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, which plays host to Outdoor Retailer. Kate Blom-Lowery, director of communications, says OR is partnering with Ragnar, an overnight relay race, this year for a little bit of extra topical fun. As an abbreviated version of the traditional race, the show’s version of Ragnar will take place in the morning on day three and wrap up with plenty of show floor time to spare. “It’s a great way for us to support our new running segment,” notes Blom-Lowery.
Footwear exhibitors, spanning performance to casual, mix in with gear, apparel and accessories, which Blom-Lowery says sets OR apart from other shows. “The shoes are in a setting where they can be seen with other gear that enhances their performance,” she says. “It’s all in one place. Shoe retailers will have the opportunity to take a look at the latest and greatest, but they will also be able to see the other items that could go along with the shoes.”
Insoles, Camelbak water bottles and even food enhancement products for runners, bikers and more will all be on display. Held in the street, the opening night party even features products geared towards tailgating. “It’s all under one roof,” Blom-Lowery continues. “You can do all of your buying at one location and be ready to go for next season.” And to help make the most of your trip, Blom-Lowery advises attendees to download the OR app to help plan meetings and devise a schedule. “I would also suggest taking advantage of our lounge area,” she says. “You can get your thoughts together and regroup. Pace yourself. There’s a lot to cover.”
SMOTA: Exotic Offerings
Sept. 7-9; Miami
For Beverlee Maier, executive director of Shoe Market of the Americas (SMOTA), it’s all about using the show’s Miami location to its geographic lure; retailers from all over the Caribbean, Central America, South America and the Southeastern U.S. flock to the show. “Miami’s advantageous position to foreign markets has been well-detailed in the media,” she states. “SMOTA has been very successful in increasing participation from our foreign retailers. The overwhelming difficulty and expense in covering offshore markets are virtually eliminated when you exhibit with SMOTA.” But don’t think it’s priced like a global show. “Although international in scope, SMOTA is a major regional show priced accordingly,” Maier notes. “In addition, because our shows are a combination of open booths and hotel space, an exhibitor has the option of showing in one of the beautifully appointed suites at our partner hotel.”
Held at the Miami Airport Convention Center (MACC), show days don’t have to be all work and no play. Downtown Miami, waterfront dining and shopping destination Coconut Grove, the Miami International Merchandise Mart and South Beach are all located within five miles of the exhibition facility. But once you’re ready to work, Maier promises a high-level, professional experience. “Our markets showcase the entire spectrum of all footwear and accessory companies, from the high-fashion to the large branded businesses,” she says. “Our retailers understand and appreciate that degree of selection. In one trip the customer can view hundreds of lines under one roof. It is a user-friendly, cost-effective atmosphere that caters to him and his needs.”
MICAM: Meet Your Needs
Aug.31-Sept. 3; Milan, Italy
While some trade shows cater to a specific niche, MICAM President Cleto Sagripanti prefers to keep his show a one-stop shop. “Men, women and kids’ sectors are all represented,” he notes. “It is a sound and reliable show of massive dimension. Furthermore, you can conduct business and sign orders. That’s not a common trait in most shows these days.” He adds the late August start date (the spring market show used to fall in mid September) was made to accommodate the industry. “The shift was made in order to allow buyers to better plan purchases, to give exhibitors more time for organizing production and to align the timing with other relevant events,” Sagripanti explains.
With the new start date also comes a new, more organized format that Sagripanti says will “make buyers’ visits easier and optimize the time they spend at the trade fair.” Now, MICAM is separated into eight different halls spanning different categories and price points from contemporary to kids’. “The big players always come to MICAM,” he adds. “Buying mood will be on the rise, but with a particular taste for something alternative, not mainstream. It is the desire for something new and ‘out of the box’ that retailers crave. They will find it in Milan.”
Surf Expo: Surf’s Up!
Sept. 4-6; Orlando
While several footwear categories will be well-represented at the September show, buyers can also get a read on the latest in youth driven categories such as skateboards, surfboards, resort wear, apparel and technology that will be on display at the Orange County Convention Center. It gives exhibitors and retailers the chance to expand their horizons, says Show Director Roy Turner. “Surf Expo gives footwear companies a marketplace to really expand their businesses by getting in front of resorts, surf shops, skate shops and travel-related retailers,” he notes. “It’s a great opportunity to build new revenue streams apart from the traditional shoe store business.” Turner adds that any retail business based around beach lifestyle, board sports and water-specific resort and tourist markets can benefit from the broad array of exhibitors. “Surf Expo offers a unique curated collection of product categories, price ranges and suppliers geared to fulfill your buying needs,” he says. “It simply delivers the best buying opportunity for your business.”
Buyers are taking notice as Turner reports recent “unprecedented” attendance (Surf Expo was even recognized as part of May’s Trade Show Executive’s Fastest 50 list.) that he expects to carry over into the September show. “We strive to achieve the right caliber and mix of buyers to create a strong marketplace for our exhibitors, and it’s been an honor to be recognized for our attendance growth,” he says.
Project Sole: It’s A Man’s World
Jul. 20-22; New York
While the women’s market is more than well-represented at the bulk of shows, men’s styles don’t always get the same amount of attention. That’s not the case at Project Sole NY in the Jacob Javits Convention Center, New York’s first men’s contemporary footwear destination and the only show designed with the male customer in mind.
By displaying footwear trends alongside contemporary apparel, “we’re offering the opportunity for retailers to view a curated assortment and then validate their purchases head to toe,” says Leslie Gallin, president of footwear, Advanstar. And though Gallin acknowledges that the experience is “all about what goes on on the show floor,” she notes that the show’s laid-back feel allows her team to get a little more creative. “It’s a little more indie,” she points out. “We have juice bars, shaved ices and more unusual things.”
Gallin says Project Sole, like other MAGIC shows, is set up as if they were the buyers. “We curate and merchandise and basically lay out the show floor as if we were merchandising and buying for a retail store,” she says. “Buyers get it. The product comes first.”
Liberty Fairs: Free Reign
Aug. 18-20; Las Vegas
Just a year old, Liberty Fashion & Lifestyle Fairs held in the Sands Expo & Convention Center has already started making waves with its curated selection and ultra-hip styles, and this summer’s Las Vegas offering won’t be any different. Focusing on clothing, accessories and, of course, shoes, Liberty boasts trendy labels like Vans, Chippewa, Asics, Thorocraft and more. “Liberty is incredibly tuned into the market,” says Marketing Director Rachel Zimmerman. “We are part of the community we represent rather than an outsider looking in. We feel we have a responsibility to our industry to provide the best possible tradeshow experience. That includes delivering a stellar brand lineup, the best buyers in the business, superior customer service and an inspiring design-driven environment.”
That environment receives an update this year with the launch of Quest, a new area on the show floor designed to showcase a collection of European and American brands “known for setting the industry standard and providing a wardrobe for the modern man.” Exhibitors include Fifteen & Half, Boglioli and Herno, along with 20-plus others, allowing shoe retailers to catch a glimpse of the head-to-toe look. “The space will be designed to embody the values and quality of the brands,” Zimmerman says. “That includes custom fixtures, black booth walls, community tables and central display areas featured within the main aisle.” With attendance numbers steadily growing, Zimmerman anticipates lots of on-the-spot orders and additional exhibitors, though, she notes, “it’s about quality over quantity.”
Transit LA: Curated Collection
Aug. 4-6; Los Angeles
In need of a more specialized, pared-down shoe selection? Transit LA has just the solution. The longest-running running footwear trade show in Los Angeles, Transit provides a carefully-chosen selection of sought-after labels like Jeffrey Campbell, Steve Madden and Dolce Vita on top of a number of some of the hottest emerging brands. With a tightly-edited assortment of exhibitors, the show focuses on quality rather than quantity. “It strictly focuses on presenting fashion footwear brands with appeal to a Los Angeles Fashion Market audience comprised primarily of fashion boutiques, better retailers and specialty footwear buyers,” notes Senior Tradeshow Manager Oscar Rodriguez. “It creates a fertile discovery zone for scouting standout new lines while shopping established brands.”
After increasing amenity offerings across the board, Rodriguez reveals that both exhibitors and buyers have reached out in appreciation. Daily footwear giveaways from brands like Frye and Vince Camuto, opening night mixers, espresso bars, snack stations and blogger programs are among the most popular. “They’re creating a significant increase in exposure for exhibiting brands, as well as more interaction with buyers,” Rodriguez states.
Held in the California Market Center’s main lobby Fashion Theater, Transit’s August show is an abbreviated version of its normal offerings. “It spotlights just a sampling of footwear brands that regularly exhibit at Transit for a traditionally scaled-down edition of Los Angeles Fashion Market during the trade show-impacted month of August that takes place industry-wide.” Rodriguez points out that the show’s more intimate atmosphere is advantageous for attendees. “Transit’s location in the California Market Center’s Penthouse venue makes it easy for buyers to walk an entire show without missing any important exhibitors,” he adds. “It’s a great opportunity for exhibitors to take advantage of being part of a select showcase of lines highlighted before LA Fashion Market buyers.” Rodriguez anticipates the exhibitor list will triple once Transit returns to its regular format in time for its October show.