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Atlanta Shoe Market – must attend show
Aug '09
In its advertising for this last weekend's 2009 Spring Market, The Atlanta Shoe Market promoted this episode of its bi-annual gathering of manufacturers and retailers as “Incredibly Simple – the one show you should attend this season.”

The claim proved valid, as the show again attracted a record number of exhibitors and retailers to spend a weekend locking down deals on the products retailers will have on display this coming spring. In pure numbers, show attendance was up a remarkable 16 percent, according to Laura Conwell-O'Brien, show manager and executive director of show sponsor Southeastern Shoe Travelers Association. It was the biggest increase in attendance enjoyed by the show that has steadily grown in size for more than a decade. And it looked even bigger, with exhibitor booths spilling out of the 150,000 sq. ft. exhibit hall at Atlanta's Cobb Galleria.

For the first time, exhibits were set up in the concourse outside the hall and the meeting rooms that extend beyond the exhibit floor were sold out. The story behind the numbers is that The Atlanta Shoe Market has grown from a regional show to serve a national – even international – audience. While earlier seasonal shows serve to preview potential shoe and accessory products, manufacturers bring the products they have committed to produce to the Atlanta venue, and retailers know this is their best opportunity to order the shoes and accessories they will have on their shelves in spring.

“We continue to do everything we can to make this the most convenient, easiest place to conduct business,” Conwell-O'Brien said. “That includes having all 1500-plus lines under one roof, being easy to get here by air or car, and having a selection of nearby hotels with affordable rates.” As such, there were substantial numbers of attendees from every state, “from Massachusetts to California,” noted Conwell-O'Brien, “and a growing percentage of attendees from the Midwest, including a lot of people from Michigan and Chicago.” As well, pre-registration numbers showed a growing number of retailers from markets that previously had been satisfied to attend local or regional shows, including large groups from Florida and the Caribbean. Which is making The Atlanta Shoe Market “the one show you should attend” for manufacturers as well.

“It's been another great show for us in terms of sales,” noted Ann Marie Hicks, senior field sales representative for Ecco. Like an increasing number of industry manufacturers, Ecco has narrowed its show participation to what it considers its most productive venues, like Atlanta.

As The Atlanta Shoe Market now begins planning its 2010 Fall Market for February 19-21, Conwell-O'Brien is considering several options to accommodate the growing crowds. For one, she will schedule more exhibit hours, opening the floor at 8:00 a.m. by appointment only and extending the hours to 7:00 p.m. on the first day of the show. For the remaining two days, exhibitors will have the option of opening at 8:00 a.m. and staying until 7:00 p.m. Moreover, she is exploring options with the venue for additional exhibiting space.

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