How Trade Show Organizers Are Maintaining Their Edge in a Tough Business Climate


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    Amid a time of tremendous change and upheaval in the footwear industry, trade show organizers are working overtime to adapt and evolve their events. Delivering more value to buyers is a big focus. Some shows are beefing up their special event and seminar offerings, while others are rolling out powerful new digital tools. To help retailers mine new opportunities, many shows also are making a point to highlight new, up-and-coming brands to discover, as well as facilitating networking and idea sharing through social media and even on-site gathering spaces. Here, the leaders of five of the footwear industry’s biggest domestic and international events talk about how they’re stepping up their shows and share what’s on tap this season.

    Leslie Gallin, president of footwear, UBM

    New this season: “[At FN Platform], we will have an incredible art installation inspired by athletic footwear that will be created by students from Pensole. The designs will be awe-inspiring. We will also highlight all brands new to the show in special glass showcases. We always denote new brands in each aisle and in our directories, but the buyers have asked for more. The showcases will offer snippets of the brands’ products and stories. We also plan to bring back Mobile Beauty [to provide on-site hair and makeup touch-ups to guests], and there are a few other new programs in the works.”

    Five new brands to see: Castañer, Chie Mihara, Danner, Werner, Les Tropeziennes

    Hottest category: “Embellished sneakers and men’s casual shoes. It’s how the consumer is dressing and living today.”

    Social media initiatives: “We are working on enhancing our 24/7 presence via [our digital wholesale platform] ShopTheFloor, and we’ll be rolling out meaningful commentary on-site at the show and through our various social media channels.”

    Attracting new buyers: “We have a robust retail relations team, along with state-of-the-art digital marketing programs. We also listen closely and work very hard at being an integral part of the footwear industry.”

    Attendance forecast: “FN Platform has become the U.S. forum for the shoe industry. Our show is a twice-yearly meeting place for everyone involved in the business. It is a must-attend event. The networking and non-transactional business that is done at our events keeps our attendance robust.”

    Biggest challenge: “The consumer, as we know, is shopping — but shopping differently. Today, it is more about a brand or a retailer telling a story and creating an experience. People like to shop, but it’s more from an artistic, philanthropic and experiential point of view. This means investing in the visual presentations in your store and in advertising, but on a more frequent basis and via multiple channels. The term ‘omnichannel,’ while perhaps overused, is the right word for a 24/7 communications strategy. The goal needs to be to capture the consumer within the platforms that they are paying attention to. This is a hurdle, but it is key to brands’ success.”

    Future outlook: “Retailers always say business is tough, and it is. To succeed, you need to be current and have a head for figures. Paying attention to what the next generation is doing will be key to the future.”

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