After months of putting retail on hold, stores around the country headed to the Dallas Market Center shows last week as they looked forward to resuming business.
According to the organizers of the Apparel & Accessories Market and KidsWorld Market, held from June 23 to 26, attendance was at about 85% of the previous year. The number of new buyers increased, totaling more than 17% of overall attendance. While most came from the immediate region, about 30 states across the Central U.S. and Southeast were represented.
“The retailers [came] to the Dallas show and they are clearly eager to order,” said Cole Daughtery, SVP of marketing communications for the Dallas Market Center. “Our message is that we are wide open in Dallas, and we’re supporting retailers and new exhibitors on the rebound and who want to expand their business. They also need to rest assured that we’re exceeding all recommended guidelines by our local health department, state agencies, and the CDC.”
New safety guidelines were implemented that included requiring temperature checks for each visitor every day, strict social distancing and mandatory masks. Other changes included deep cleaning and rules about gathering.
The Dallas Market Center has more than 500 permanent apparel, accessories and footwear showrooms, with 138 carrying footwear exclusively or part of the merchandise mix. They include Ugg, Minnetonka, Vionic, Merrell, Toms, Sperry, among others. There’s also a growing roster of Western brands such as Dan Post, Corral and Lucchese.
According to Daughtery, last month’s event featured more than 400 showrooms, approximately 70% of the usual number, plus more than 80 temporary exhibitors, which are up 20% over the last three years.
Adam Schiffman, sales rep for Dansko, said his retail traffic was on par with last year as the country continues to open up. “I expect the August show to be my biggest ever,” he noted. Given the state of current airline travel, he said retailers in the region may opt to attend the Dallas show rather than fly to the Micam Americas event in Las Vegas. He added, “I anticipate those who go to Vegas will pivot and come to see me in Dallas. For many of my accounts driving would be the easier choice.”
When it came to adhering to safety guidelines at the event, Schiffman said he maintains a permanent showroom in the center and was able to keep traffic flowing in and out safely. “At this point, many people are going about their daily lives. You just put on your mask and go out the door. There were signs posted at the [event] that encouraged best [health] practices. Given the new normal, everyone has gauged what they believe is safe,” he said.
For Corky’s Footwear, business was strong, according to Bill Fransioli, SVP product development and sales, noting the brand did $100,000 over last year’s show. “In small towns, business has opened up big time,” said Fransioli, who sells mainly to independent boutiques located in states including Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana, as well as the Midwest. “Towns with 50,000 people and under are doing well. Everyone is shopping locally.”
Not all shoe vendors attended the event, however. Stephanie Raade, territory sales manager Southwest for Alegria Shoes and Traq by Alegria, said she relies on appointments at the show — and decided not to participate as her accounts were not planning on attending. “They didn’t want to travel,” she said.