Trade Show Guide

Chock-full of must-see reasons to attend, the August round of trade shows offers a comprehensive industry overview of the latest Spring ’13 trends from established players and the latest crop of up-and-comers.

By Mary Avant and Lyndsay McGregor

FN Platform: Bigger and Better

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Chock-full of must-see reasons to attend, the August round of trade shows offers a comprehensive industry overview of the latest Spring ’13 trends from established players and the latest crop of up-and-comers.

By Mary Avant and Lyndsay McGregor

FN Platform: Bigger and Better
With more than 1,500 brands (and counting) at the last show, FN Platform is poised for a bigger-than-ever event on Aug. 20-23 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Leslie Gallin, vice president of footwear for FN Platform, says the show is tracking ahead of the previous event and that an improving economy is creating a more upbeat mood among attendees. “Our show is a six-month window into the economy and it’s looking very healthy,” she reports. “The footwear industry has gone through a lean period and tightened up their ship, so they’re poised for progress at this point.”

The show—whose opening night party has an “Americana” theme—will be featuring a made-in-the-USA component to meet the growing demands of buyers who Gallin says are contacting the FN Platform team each day to find out which brands are homegrown. “We will be identifying those footwear brands that produce here in the USA,” Gallin notes, adding that these brands will have an identifying tab on both their booth signs and in the show directory to let buyers know they’re American-made.

FN Platform is also working on a program that will help prospective ready-to-wear retailers “connect the dots with those vendors that will have open-stock programs, smaller minimums and all of the things necessary to make an impact for the ready-to-wear retailer,” Gallin explains. In addition, the show is collaborating with Len Pesko of footwear consulting firm Modern Pulse to create a forum that’s geared toward helping start-up vendors, small businesses and European retailers in search of information about logistics, financing and options for running their businesses.

Gallin also notes that attendees will have easier access to the show, thanks to shuttle buses that drop them off not only at the front of the south hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, but also at a new secondary entrance in the grand lobby. In addition, there will be inter-venue shuttles running between WWD Magic and FN Platform. Gallin adds that the show intends to make good on attendee requests to upgrade the food offerings, which is always a challenge, but organizers will do their best. Last, but surely not least, Gallin notes that sister show Magic is opening a day before FN Platform to accommodate the ready-to-wear buyers who prefer to shop apparel trends before footwear. “The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive,” she notes. “It’s an exciting time both for our show and the industry as a whole.”

The Atlanta Shoe Market: Ready and Able
Running from Aug. 17-19 at the Cobb Galleria Centre, The Atlanta Shoe Market has become the go-to show for retailers from the Southeast and beyond and, according to show manager Laura Conwell-O’Brien, last year’s mild winter hasn’t dampened the overall mood when it comes to shopping for spring goods. “I think the general consensus is that everyone is very encouraged with the upcoming election and ready to get on with business with a positive outlook,” she says, noting that attendance is projected to be up from the record traffic at previous shows. “We keep adding new venues that give us the ability to accept more exhibitors.”

One such addition can be seen at the Renaissance Hotel’s Garden Court and Habersham Ballroom, where work boots will be showcased in a new area called “The Work Zone.” Exhibitors will once again take over the food court at the Cobb Galleria Centre and brands like Vince Camuto, Frye and Jeffrey Campbell will set up shop in the surrounding retail space.

On Friday, the complimentary Casino & Cocktail Party, sponsored by show organizers Southeastern Shoe Travelers Association, will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Cobb Energy Centre. On Saturday, Ellen Campuzano, president of the Committee of Color and Trends, will once again offer key insights into the trends that will drive footwear and accessory styles for the coming season at the Color & Trend Breakfast Seminar, taking place from 7:30 to 9 a.m.

FFANY: Timing is Everything
From Aug. 1-3, the New York-based FFANY show will once again welcome the Italian Trade Commission and the National Association of Italian Municipalities (A.N.C.I.), along with more than 30 of its brands, to the Hilton Hotel as part of its Italian Footwear Pavilion. Not to mention, FFANY will also feature a host of brands from around the world showcasing new styles, colors and textures for the upcoming spring season, as well as more than 80 FFANY member showrooms doing the same.

“FFANY is the first show in a key month of trade shows where the market is clearly concentrating on launching fashion for Spring ’13,” reports Joe Moore, FFANY’s president and CEO. “The timing of the first week in August simply works for wholesalers and retailers: Samples are ready and retailers are ready to place orders.” He adds, “Exhibitors who show in New York will see buyers first at FFANY.”

Attendance is expected to be up from last year’s show, with five floors of exhibit rooms at the Hilton confirmed so far, as well as the entire concourse level of meeting rooms. FFANY has put forth major effort in keeping the show conveniently based in Midtown, where buyers can shop the exhibiting brands while in close proximity to showrooms—many of which are offering extended hours and days to provide retailers more time during market week to view and buy collections. And, as Moore points out, street fashion is at its best in the Big Apple. “While buyers are in New York, many take advantage of the time to trendspot firsthand by shopping the major stores and more fashion-forward boutiques from SoHo to Madison Avenue to the Upper West Side,” he says.

FFANY organizers will make buying easier for the June edition with the launch of an interactive show planner and iPhone app. Now buyers can easily preview show exhibitors and floor plans and aggregate a hit list of brands they plan to visit to make shopping the show a snap.

For the benefit of exhibitors, FFANY has introduced an updated sponsorship program, which includes moderately priced packages offering sponsors increased visibility to promote brand awareness and recognition among show attendees.

Outdoor Retailer: On a Roll
No longer viewed as a niche show focused on performance-based outdoor footwear, Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City, UT, is now considered a must-attend shoe show for a growing number of retailers and vendors. At the most recent edition last January, there were 258 footwear brands on display, spanning product selections far beyond the show’s traditional roots in hiking and trail running to include road running, après sport and slipper categories. The show also featured an expanded outdoor lifestyle category that melds versatile performance features with casual styles. That show racked up a record attendance of approximately 21,000 attendees and, for this upcoming Summer Market (Aug. 2-5), footwear brands will account for approximately 23 percent of the total exhibit base—an 11-percent increase since 2010, according to OR’s Marketing Director, Margie Levlis.

Show Director Kenji Haroutunian puts this footwear growth down to two factors: “One is that the outdoor lifestyle, anchored by authentic outdoor activities, has gotten hip or at least is a look that fits into the mainstream. The second is that retailers want context. They want a fully merchandised environment with hard goods and accessories that work together with footwear and apparel,” he says, adding that Outdoor Retailer, where function meets fashion, ticks all the boxes.

And because show offerings include the whole outdoor products enchilada—from tents and kayaks to pullovers and trail walkers—buyers can see how a particular trend or color story is playing out across all categories, as well as get a read on up-and-coming outdoor activities. Many industry insiders point to Crocs, Vibram FiveFingers, Ugg and Keen as just a few of the (now mainstream) brands that found their brand-footing at OR. As Haroutunian points out, it’s because trends are influenced by what’s happening in the real world. “Outdoor Retailer exposes a slice—maybe a fat slice—of that real world and how we adapt to changes in it. We create better gear and footwear to survive and thrive in the extremes that the world offers,” he says.

In addition to the opening night’s industry party, business seminars delivered by renowned market specialists and the chance to meet with key industry players at the Paddle Zone, “Project OR” will be back for its ninth cycle during which five students will compete to design and construct a specified outdoor garment prototype live on the show floor. And anyone interested in the innovative and fashion-forward elements of the outdoor market—from color theory to laminations—is encouraged to stop by the show’s Source & Design Center.

With more than 100 new exhibitors on top of the 900 returning ones, the big challenge for OR continues to be how to accommodate it all. To that end, it’s asking the industry to offer suggestions. In May, show organizers Nielsen Business Media and the Outdoor Industry Association (O.I.A.) launched the Collective Voice platform on OR’s website (www.outdoorretailer.com) to gather feedback from retailers and exhibitors to gauge their expectations in terms of growth and event options. The key question is: If OR outgrows the host city’s footprint capabilities, where should it move to accommodate its expanding needs? Stay tuned.

OffPrice: Let’s Make a Deal
These days, everyone wants a deal. And that’s just what they can get at the OffPrice show, says CEO Steven Krogulski. “The focus on value is still something that benefits us because that’s what our show is: We provide a great value for retailers coming to source new goods for their stores,” he explains about the show, which takes place Aug. 19-22 at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Unlike many other trade shows, OffPrice allows buyers to purchase goods available for immediate sale, allowing retailers to freshen up inventories and receive orders in a matter of days—all at a low price. “That’s what OffPrice allows a lot of stores to do—move goods in and out quickly,” Krogulski states. Made up of more than “130,000 square feet of opportunity,” the show features everything from men’s, women’s and children’s apparel; accessories and a growing footwear segment. Krogulski reports that footwear now takes up almost 7 percent of the floor space.

For the August edition, OffPrice will move to the first floor of the Sands Convention Center, and Krogulski warns that attendees will have to work around construction. To ease their navigation, OffPrice is incorporating tools and maps that let buyers see the selling floor layout prior to the show. “They’re going to want to spend a little time getting familiar with the floor plan so they know where they’re going,” he suggests.

In addition, OffPrice will be expanding upon its “Connection” program, which launched in February and is designed as a “match-making” service to connect retailers and exhibitors that have similar audiences, interests and profiles. “We use it to help retailers mingle and make more use of their time by networking before the show,” Krogulski says. The Connection program will also feature an educational component, in which attendees can learn about topics like using social media to market their stores and introducing ecommerce.

Krogulski says Offprice has a lot to offer footwear retailers that are interested in incorporating other categories into their product mix. Likewise, footwear brands and manufacturers can capitalize on the show’s expanding segment. “Footwear was a natural fit for the show because a lot of our retailers are smaller shops that carry more apparel and maybe wanted to try footwear but just didn’t know where to find it,” he says.

ENKWSA: Fast Companies
David Kahan, president of ENK Footwear Group, is the first to admit that ENKWSA—which takes place on Aug. 7-9 at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas—isn’t the show for everyone. “But for those in the [fast-fashion] industry—affordable fashion chains, boutiques who buy affordable fashion, chains who carry private-label footwear, and design and development teams from the branded footwear companies—this is the show focused solely on your segment of the business,” he declares. While the show will continue to feature exhibitors from all corners of the sourcing world, there are some changes underway for the upcoming August edition.

First, Kahan says there will be a new section dedicated entirely to young, small and emerging resources, as well as an expanded men’s footwear zone. It will also increase the scope of the contract manufacturing area, which will have its own hall in the convention center and will cover all elements of the supply chain, including factory direct suppliers, materials and design resources. ENKWSA is also growing its seminar series and will present a seminar by Lineapelle, one of the leading Italian leather materials groups, who will discuss upcoming footwear trends.

With representatives from more than 35 countries around the world—including factories from China, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, India and more—the show will celebrate with an Olympic-themed opening-night reception. Kahan says ENKWSA attendance is expected to grow and that February’s upbeat mood gave terrific momentum for the upcoming event. “As challenging as the economy may be, the fashion end of the business—especially women’s—is always driven by exciting products,” Kahan notes. “Our exhibitors continue to bring great new styles, dynamic new colors and, most importantly, quick-to-market capabilities that capture trends so that retailers can meet consumer needs as they happen.”

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