Not even Mother Nature can thwart The Atlanta Shoe Market. Despite a forbidding ice storm that shut down Atlanta’s airport and left highways clogged with abandoned vehicles, vendors and their retailer customers made their way to the February 13-15 edition of the semi-annual show, which was celebrating its 70th anniversary.
As paralyzed as Atlanta was by the storm, the turnout was testimony equally to the importance of the show and the grit of the people scheduled to attend. Exhibitors reported spending as much as five days fending off cancellations and hopping flights to get to Atlanta from as far away as California. Others braved the hazardous road conditions, including people from states like Kentucky where drives were two days directly into and through the path of the storm.
The latest industry survey of trade show attendees ranks The Atlanta Shoe Market among the top three fashion shows worldwide, the event’s highest marks coming for its importance, value and organization; the challenges presented by the weather served to confirm voter opinions.
The host Southeastern Shoe Travelers Association (SEST) and the Cobb Galleria Centre, who together have staged the event for the past 19 years, responded to the crisis conditions with characteristic spirit and smarts. The doors to the hall were thrown open Monday afternoon, three days prior to the show opening, to accommodate early arrivals, including buyers from Belk and Tops and many others who left their home cities early to beat the storm to Atlanta.
The Centre remained open around the clock, welcoming exhibitors at all hours of day and night. When Galleria employees were unable to make it into work, management did their jobs, from waiting tables to cleaning bathrooms. Show management was onsite around the clock responding to attendee and exhibitor calls and emails, and providing updates twice daily to all pre-registered attendees and exhibitors on everything from weather conditions to transportation issues to rescheduled show events.
“Exhibitors and retailers alike did whatever it took to get here because it was important to them and the businesses they represent,” offered Laura Conwell-O’Brien, SEST executive director who has overseen the Atlanta show for 30 years. “I never cease to be amazed by the people in this industry. This wasn’t the way we expected to mark our 70th anniversary, but perhaps it was testimony to why the show has been around all these years.”
To connect manufacturers and suppliers with buying houses and fashion brands, Fibre2fashion.com is coming up with an online fair on Leather “Skin Show 2014” scheduled in Mid March-2014.