Atlanta Shoe Market Preview

The Atlanta Shoe Market has a few surprises for buyers this season, including new exhibition spaces and dozens of first-time vendors.

The trade show, which runs Feb. 18-20 at the Cobb Galleria Centre, continues its steady growth, with exhibitor participation up 4.3 percent for this edition and retailer pre-registration up 13.3 percent.

Event organizer Laura Conwell-O’Brien, executive director of the Southeastern Shoe Travelers Association, said more than 800 vendors will be featured, including 40 brands that are new to the Atlanta show. Among the newcomers are Eileen Fisher, Emu Australia and Nine West Original Sneakers.

To accommodate the rapid growth, Conwell-O’Brien is using every available exhibition space, including empty mall stores in the lower level of the Galleria. Jeffrey Campbell tested out one of the stores last season, and will return there this weekend, joined by Frye Boot, Ugg Australia and Camuto Group. Camuto Group, which made a three-year commitment to the storefront, plans to display its entire brand roster.

Visitors also will notice that the Garden Court booths, formerly housed in the adjacent Renaissance Waverly Hotel, have been relocated to the Galleria’s food court area. “The Garden Court looked beautiful [before] and I though it would be desirable because everyone walks through there, but no one was stopping,” said Conwell-O’Brien, who hopes to use that space again but with a destination category such as men’s or workboots.

Other aspects of the trade show will not change. The meeting of the Southeastern Independent Retailers is slated for 6 p.m. on Saturday. And on Sunday, the Color & Trend Breakfast Seminar will take place from 7:30 a.m.-9 a.m., while the complimentary Casino & Cocktail Party will be held from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

And show organizers said that in spite of any current space constraints, they have no plans to move the Atlanta Shoe Market to a new location. Conwell-O’Brien said she is in talks with other venues, but has so far struggled to find favorable dates for future events. “It’s a hard decision,” she said, “because you don’t know what’s going to happen two years from now.”

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