For more than a decade The Atlanta Shoe Market has been recording dramatic increases in the number of lines on exhibit at its semi-annual shows. Now, not only is the show floor of the Cobb Galleria Centre sold out, so are the hallways, the meeting rooms, the ballrooms, and, for the February Fall Market that ended today, even what used to be a retail mall. Booths erected in the food court area, appropriately tabbed “The Shoe Court,” and several storefronts accounted for this season’s 5 percent increase in exhibiting companies. Perhaps the most telling exhibitor count was the waiting list of more than 60 companies that were too late to get space anywhere in the show.
Still there were more remarkable growth numbers to report, most notably a 29 percent increase in attending retailers, as measured by pre-registrations.
“It just keeps getting better and better and better,” remarked Sol Bergman of Marc Joseph of New York, who was enjoying the traffic in the corridor outside the main hall.
“It’s simply great,” offered Tommy Fava, a Camuto Group account executive with the Lucky Brand. Eight Vince Camuto lines were on display in one of the retail storefronts, about 2,000 sq. ft. of space. “It’s so comfortable,” he added. “Buyers just like being in here.”
In December, The Atlanta Shoe Market received word that industry trade show attendees ranked the Atlanta show fourth among all international fashion shows in terms of attendee satisfaction. No show received a higher rating in the category, “value, importance for your business.” Once again, the February Atlanta Fall Market provided evidence for such a lofty ranking.
“We’re known throughout the industry as the writing show,” explained Laura Conwell-O’Brien, show manager and executive director of show sponsor Southeastern Shoe Travelers Association. “This is where the deals are made and contracts signed for the upcoming retail seasons.
“We’ve stayed focused on the things that make this show so productive for everyone: convenient, affordable, accommodating,” she added. “It’s what the industry wants and so it continues to works. There’s no doubt: this was our best show yet.”
Levi Sandelin and partner Steven Frazier of Stable & Co., independent representatives, have watched the Atlanta venue grow from a small regional market a quarter of a century ago to today’s largest national shoe show.
“A key factor was when the highly branded lines started coming,” Sandelin explained. “Now everyone’s here.”
And so are the retailers, from Miami to Washington State, from Maine to California.
“It’s been non-stop customers for all of us,” noted Jennifer Cleary, representing the high-end VC Signature and BCBGMAXAZRIA lines for the Camuto Group, adding: “The mood of the retailers is very positive. It’s the best we’ve seen in a long time.”
Sandelin preaches the value of scheduling appointments to get the best return from his show investment. For the February Fall Market, he and partner Frazier had extended meetings with more than 40 appointments, in addition to spending time with walk-up traffic that he also described as “non-stop.”
“If we had time to look up,” he said, “we would have seen them two and three deep in the aisles waiting to talk with us.”
The Atlanta Shoe Market is held twice a year in Atlanta, Ga., to feature fall and spring styles respectively. The show is sponsored by the Southeastern Shoe Travelers Association (SESTA), which was founded in 1942 and today counts more than 750 industry representatives as members.