The Atlanta Shoe Market Is Back In Person: ‘Everybody Is Kind of Zoomed Out’

After canceling its August 2020 trade show due to health concerns related to the coronavirus outbreak, the Atlanta Shoe Market is making its return later this month — once again hosting exhibitors and buyers in-person at the Cobb Galleria Centre.

Executive director Laura Conwell O’Brien said decision was driven by demand from brand reps and retailers who are eager to return to more-normal business practices. “Everybody is kind of Zoomed out,” she said. “And the retailers want to see the product — they want to attend a show.”

At least 463 exhibitors have signed on to participate in the event on Feb. 20-22. That number is 30-35% lower than in a typical year, said O’Brien, but she’s still fielding inquiries from interested brands. “Anytime we get a cancelation, we fill that spot within five minutes,” she said.

Many retailers are also making plans to attend the Atlanta show. O’Brien noted that more than 690 buyers have pre-registered, and they’re coming from all corners of the U.S. However, several of the major department stores and national chains will not be present, as they have implemented no-travel policies for their employees.

Overall, though, O’Brien said the past year has taught businesses how to operate safely despite the presence of the coronavirus. “We’ve learned how to navigate through COVID, but it’s going to take everyone to work together to make it safe and sound. And I believe that can happen,” she said.

Here’s what attendees can expect at the show:

COVID Safety Measures

Masks will be mandatory for all attendees. “If you don’t want to wear it, you will be asked to leave. That’s as simple as that,” said O’Brien. “We have to respect each other.” In addition, all five entrances have been equipped with temperature-check kiosks, and those who clear the check will be given a wrist-banned with a different color for each day. Hand-sanitizer dispensers also will be provided throughout the show floor. And exhibitors have the option to rent a plexiglass shield that can be installed on their booth tables.

The Floor Plan

ASM is again utilizing its usual spaces in the Galleria complex, including the main exhibitor hall, adjacent meeting rooms and the lower mall space, as well as a nearby ballroom, which will house The Fashion Collection. However, the floor plans have been adjusted to create wider aisles and allow for more social distancing.

Educational Opportunities

The National Shoe Retailers Association will host a panel talk on the morning of Feb. 21, led by new president Mark Denkler and chairman Phil Knight of Vernon Powell Shoes in Maryland. Speakers include Brenda Felger of Felger’s Footwear in Louisiana; Sue Orischak of Foot Solutions in Arizona; Phil Perlis from The Big Store in Georgia; and Jill Snyder of Snyder’s Shoes in Michigan. They will offer tips on what’s working during the pandemic as well as advice on how to buy for the upcoming fall season.

Guest Amenities

While the Atlanta show will not be holding its popular cocktail party this month, organizers will offer breakfast and lunch to attendees. But gone is the usual self-serve buffet. “There will be attendees giving out boxes,” said O’Brien. “And there are designated areas with socially distanced seating throughout the convention center where people can sit and eat.”

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