What’s Live, What’s Virtual: Everything You Need to Know About 2021 Trade Shows

In 2020, organizers of the biggest trade events in the footwear and fashion industries faced an unprecedented challenge: finding ways to foster commerce and community amid a global pandemic that restricts the way that people can gather.

Many responded by implementing extensive safety measures for their in-person shows, while a number of others transitioned to online, hosting virtual marketplaces and educational series.

As this year winds to a close, these executives are now shaping their plans for 2021, by factoring in learnings from their own and other events this season. But the ability to plan ahead remains incredibly challenging, as uncertainty abounds about how COVID-19 will impact communities and economies this winter, and the timeline for a much-anticipated vaccine remains cloudy.

Here’s what we know so far about who’s going virtual in early 2021, and who will be meeting in person. Stay tuned for more updates.

Informa Markets Fashion

After launching its digital trade event in September, Informa Markets Fashion revealed to FN that the organization will continue to offer a virtual marketplace for its Magic, Project, Coterie and Micam Americas shows in 2021. “As this was always part of our longer-term plan for enhancing our product portfolio and offerings, our event data has confirmed our digital event is both beneficial and extremely useful for continued commerce, discovery and connectivity for our fashion community,” said Nancy Walsh, president of Informa Markets Fashion. Additionally, she noted that live events are in the works for next year as well. The company is exploring hosting small, curated pop-up events in key parts of the country — and larger gatherings will return when they are deemed safe by officials. “This hybrid approach is the way forward in modernizing and globalizing the fashion wholesale communities,” said Walsh.

Outdoor Retailer

On Oct. 14, show director and SVP Marisa Nicholson emailed partners announcing that the next Outdoor + Snow Show, originally scheduled for Jan. 27-29, would become a fully online experience. “Continued developments have made it impossible to bring our community together safely and successfully in Denver,” wrote Nicholson, citing government limitations on large gatherings and travel restrictions. The event, now called Outdoor Retailer Winter Online, will feature an enhanced marketplace powered by artificial intelligence, to allow for better product discovery and buying. Additional elements will include a networking hub and an education center.

FFANY Market Week

The newly united FDRA/FFANY organization is still in “wait and see” mode in regard to plans for its 2021 trade events in New York. “There continue to be so many factors outside of our control that will impact our ultimate decision on our plans,” said John Heron, marketplace strategic adviser. “We want nothing more than to welcome the industry back to Manhattan in February, but we are not yet prepared to make a final decision at this time.” He noted that FDRA will host a “marketplace working group” on the topic, on Nov. 5 at 1 p.m. “FDRA (and former FFANY members) can join in an industry call to discuss the realities that we are facing and to align an industry response in regard to how we will move forward.” Those interested in participating in the call should email jheron@FDRA.org for more information.

The Atlanta Shoe Market

Organizers of the twice-annual Atlanta Shoe Market confirmed with FN that the show is moving ahead with plans to meet in person on Feb. 20-22 at the Cobb Galleria Centre. “We feel that everyone is ready to get back to person-to-person trade shows,” said executive director Laura Conwell-O’Brien, noting that safety precautions will be in place. “We will be following all the guidelines that the CDC and the state have recommended.” Conwell added that registration forms are available on the TASM website and the deadline date to register is Oct. 30, 2020. “So far, registration has been on target from previous years. In addition, the retailer registration has been ahead of previous years. I think our industry is ready to get back to business.”

Footwear Show New York Expo

The Footwear Show New York Expo, held during FFANY Market Week at the Warwick Hotel, is currently planning for a face-to-face event on Feb. 2-4. Applications to exhibit are available online here. Discounts are now available to welcome brands back to the New York show, with daily hotel room rates starting at $189 plus tax.

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