Just mention the words trade show and you get everyone in the industry talking — a lot. So it’s no wonder that when Footwear News convinced the biggest show operators in the business — ENK founder and Chairwoman Elyse Kroll and FFANY President Joe Moore — to sit down together for the first time on stage, the impassioned audience was riveted. The pair gamely addressed concerns about dates, traffic and the outlook for trade shows. Here, excerpts from their conversation.
On the future of trade shows:
JM: I am sure there is a future. The exposure alone makes them more and more important for people [who want to grow brands].
EK: There better be one, or I am in very big trouble. I’m a trade show dog. I believe in trade shows. [They] are a very important part of the business. It’s an opportunity to bring everyone together under one roof. It’s where retailers get their best opportunity to see what’s going on at a glance.
On the date dilemma:
JM: Dates rule. FFANY is 30 years old this year, and that’s been a 30-year topic. Our industry doesn’t have the same needs, even within our board. It’s a difficult dilemma to appease everyone. We have a committee now on dates, which we never had before.
EK: Every industry seems to have a particular favorite. At Coterie, the show must, for the most part, be on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. In men’s, it has to start on a Sunday. Choosing dates is not always as easy as it would seem. We’re dealing with a great deal of real estate and we need to work with whatever facility to get the dates we want. If I know there is a unanimous decision to start on Monday, that’s what we would shoot for. I need to reach out and touch people and find out: Are the dates right? Maybe the timing that everybody’s been convinced is correct right now isn’t correct. Buyers are buying differently.
On WSA and FFANY working together:
EK: Joe is already working with me. I don’t want to be a competitor, I want to be part of the industry. FFANY is an organization that has been set up by the industry to help and protect the industry, and I want to be a part of that. I’m not trying to compete as much as provide a different service. FFANY is for the fashion segment of the footwear industry. ENK specializes in that [with our other shows]. WSA, now that we’re in every category, we don’t feel that we’re competing. There are many things we can talk about that will adjust the tension. I don’t have the long history that Joe has with WSA, or that some of the people in this room have with WSA, but I’m out there talking to people.
JM: There is one basic philosophy difference, and we have to learn what that means. You’re dealing with a not-for-profit company and a profit company. But that makes it possible for us to work in unison. What the goals are going to be aren’t defined. The relationship is new. This is the first time we’ve picked up the phone and called each other and both talked about how we can help the industry. There’s a desire. You can’t be mad at WSA if they want to make a profit. Everyone in this room wants to make a profit. But maybe there’s still a price issue or operational issue that has to be addressed.
On boosting traffic:
EK: We need to use the same methods everyone else is using. There’s advertising, direct mail, e-mail, your Website, whatever you can think of. What works best for us is getting on the phone. We want to talk to someone when we make a call. We have a whole retail communication department. We’ve started a lot of services that we didn’t have several years ago. We have a VIB [Very Important Buyers] service, we have a VIP retailers service. Or we act as a concierge. For us, the most important thing is communication, speaking to the attendees.
JM: The manufacturer has to work harder and harder to make appointments. I was talking to Macy’s VP and DMM of shoes Tony Pell the other day, and he said that five years ago, they had 14 buying teams around the country and they all came to New York. Things are changing.
On intellectual property concerns:
EK: We will make every effort and do whatever is necessary to eliminate [intellectual property violations] from happening. There’s no reason you should be in that position or anyone else should be in that position.
JM: In New York, the majority of people have showrooms. At the Hilton Hotel, we have the opportunity for closed booths.
On creating identical booths:
EK: The cost for many exhibitors is in the building of the booths. If people agree they want an equal playing field, we’re happy to do that.
On running WSA and Magic together:
EK: It’s a matter of space. The fact that WSA hasn’t been able to fit into one venue is the first issue we need to deal with. For WSA and Magic to be together, it seems simply impossible. The two shows are too large. One of the things ENK is trying to do is organize the show more efficiently. If we can condense it to a size that would allow that … we can certainly open that door.