Trade Show Organizers Prep for In-Person Events Amid Surge in COVID-19 Case Numbers

Across the country, COVID-19 case numbers are on the rise again amid the new and more-contagious Delta variant, with some cities and states seeing particularly sharp increases.

One such hotspot is Las Vegas, which is set to welcome the footwear and fashion industries next month for the Magic Las Vegas show. But other major locales such as New York and Atlanta — home to the upcoming FFANY show and Atlanta Shoe Market — are on high alert as well.

Here is how four of the major footwear trade shows are protecting exhibitors and guests at their in-person events starting next week.

Magic Las Vegas

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nevada’s Clark County (which contains the City of Las Vegas) had a seven-day average of 880 cases as of July 29 — a 34% increase from two weeks ago.

Last week, country officials reimplemented a mask mandate for all employees working indoors, in close contact with coworkers or the public. Informa Markets Fashion — the organizer of the Magic Las Vegas and Project Las Vegas shows, scheduled for Aug. 9-11 — has adopted the mask requirement for all visitors to the Las Vegas Convention Center, both on the show floor and in public areas.

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And as part of the Informa AllSecure protocols, attendees can also expect physical distancing, as well as continuous sanitization and deep cleaning measures.

FFANY Market Week

Next week, buyers from major retailers will head to New York for the FFANY Market Week. Many footwear companies plan to host buyers in their showrooms, among them Caleres, Steve Madden, Camuto Group, Wolverine, BBC, HH Brown and Deer Stags.

John Heron, a strategic adviser to FFANY parent Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America, said each of the showrooms has developed their own COVID-19 protocols in adherence to guidelines from local officials, the CDC and property owners. Retailers are advised to connect with brands in advance about the processes put in place for building entry.

Unlike previous years, no brands will be exhibiting at the Warwick Hotel; however, FFANY is planning to host an industry cocktail party on Tuesday, Aug. 3, at the Bryant Park Grill Rooftop, in partnership with the Two Ten Footwear Foundation, Soles4Souls and the Fashion Footwear Charitable Foundation. Capacity is limited for the event, so admission is by invitation only.

As virus case numbers have risen in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been focused on increasing vaccination rates, most recently by requiring city workers to get a shot. However, he told reporters this week that updated mask guidance could come as early as Monday.

As of July 29, New York had a seven-day average of 1,049 cases, a 131% increase over the past two weeks.

Atlanta Shoe Market

The Atlanta Shoe Market is set to kick off Aug. 14 at the Cobb Galleria Centre, located in Cobb County on the north side of Atlanta. COVID numbers in Cobb Country have spiked 203% in the past two weeks, averaging 175 cases as of July 29.

Laura Conwell O’Brien, executive director of The Atlanta Shoe Market, told FN her team is closely monitoring the local health information and has put in place safety measures that meet the guidance from the World Health Organization and the CDC.

All entrances to the trade show will be equipped with kiosks to check temperatures, and visitors will received a colored wristband each day indicating they have been cleared. While masks will not be required indoors, they are strongly recommended for guests who have not been vaccinated against the virus. Additionally, hand sanitizer stations will be placed throughout the venue, and social distancing measures will be implement as needed.

Outdoor Retailer

The Outdoor Retailer show is set to be held Aug. 10-12 at the Denver Convention Center. Though virus numbers are considered high in Denver County, its totals are comparatively lower than other show locales. COVID cases have risen 49% there over the past two weeks, for a seven-day average of 81.

Marisa Nicholson, SVP and show director of OR, told FN, “We are working diligently with show partners to ensure the health and safety of all attendees, exhibitors, workforce and staff at the show.”

Its current safety plan complies with the latest Colorado and Denver health policies and CDC guidelines, and includes enhanced cleaning and disinfecting services for exhibitors, as well as social distancing measures. As for masks: Attendees who are not vaccinated must wear a face covering at all times. Those who are fully vaccinated are encouraged — but not required — to wear a mask.

Experts say the vast majority of hospitalizations for the coronavirus in the U.S. right now are among patients who have not received one of the three major vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. As of July 29, COVID cases in the U.S. had risen 151% over a two-week period, and hospitalizations were up 76%, according to the CDC.

The vaccination process in the U.S., meanwhile, has stalled: Only 57.2% of Americans had received at least one dose as of July 29.

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