Trade Show Executives Talk What to Expect at This Season’s Atlanta Shoe Market, Magic & More

A sense of normalcy has returned to in-person trade shows. But buying patterns are still anything but predictable.

After several quarters of record-breaking sales numbers, the post-pandemic party came to a screeching halt this past summer as inflation erased gains and altered consumer buying habits. This led to many retailers having too much inventory, resulting in deep discounts and lower margins as 2022 came to a close.

But with a new year comes new beginnings, and 2023 will offer up a fresh start for retailers and brands to course correct their businesses. As the fall ’23 buying season heats up this month, the footwear industry will have plenty of opportunities to convene and collaborate on the best methods to tackle the headwinds while also capturing the attention of consumers with must-have product.

Here, organizers of the footwear community’s largest markets discuss what’s new at their events this season, plus the brands to watch and how trade shows have evolved.

Matt Priest

President & CEO of FDRA and FFANY

Matt Priest, FFANY
Matt Priest

WHAT TO EXPECT: “The upcoming February market will seem a bit more muted on the heels of what we saw in November. This is due to the fact that June and November are our largest markets, with February and August markets traditionally having smaller footprints.”

HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF THE SHOW: “FFANY is mostly an appointment-based show. Appointments are essential. And the beauty of that is, appointments allow buyers to see the other shows that are taking place in the city at the same time and visit as many showrooms as they’d like.”

HOW THE FFANY EXPERIENCE HAS EVOLVED: “The show has gotten stronger each season, especially this past June and November markets. We’ve seen more retailers, activations and brands showing up, which has created a great energy around FFANY. We measure this by our pop-up space, done in June and November. We had a waitlist this last time around and didn’t have enough space for everyone. We’re keeping our eyes on how to expand this in future markets.”

THE ROLE OF TRADE SHOWS IN TODAY’S ENVIRONMENT: “They’re critically important. The landscape shifted a little bit since some shows have become a bit more regionalized. And to me, from a regional perspective, it allows retailers to connect more consistently, but it also fits the different kind of areas of the industry. So, for example, FFANY operates in the fashion side of footwear, as well as some of the casual market, and that’s the clientele and buyers we serve. But when you’re regionalized, you have access to these different access points. It’s more of a micro-targeted environment. That bodes well for the consumer and for the retailers, particularly on the independent side. The days of the one-size-fits-all show under one roof in Vegas or New York — at least for now — that’s not the environment we find ourselves in.”

Kelly Helfman

President, Informa Markets Fashion

Kelly Helfman, informa markets fashion, magic, project
Kelly Helfman
CREDIT: Courtesy of Informa Markets Fashion

WHAT’S NEW: “In Las Vegas, we will be re-merchandising Project to make it easier for buyers to shop certain categories and adding a men’s essential area featuring must haves for men. We’re also launching Informa Markets Fashion for Change in MAGIC for the first time, and we’re selecting five brands to participate to be part of the program. We’re also returning to Nashville in April for the second time. It will be double the size of the inaugural event and really focus on the young contemporary and trend markets.”

BRANDS TO WATCH: “At Project New York, look for Trickers, Rails, No One Clothiers, G.H. Bass & Co. and Alpha Industries. At Magic Las Vegas, check out Paris Hilton, Day + Moon, BSL, Mason Grey and Alionas London; and over at Project Las Vegas, look for Jason Wu Handbags, Karl Lagerfeld Paris, NOEND, Onia and Toboggan Canada. At Magic New York, Calla the Label, Et Clet, Apres Actif and Lovesome are new to the show; and at Coterie, check out Jakke.”

SPECIAL EVENTS: “We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip hop at Magic and Project Men’s in Las Vegas. So, we are going to honor some of these legends during the Vegas show with exclusive events and panel discussions.”

HOW RETAILERS ARE SHOPPING DIFFERENTLY: “Retailers are being more conservative in their spends, and I think that’s a good thing. They’re thinking about not being wasteful, not only because of sustainability and not wanting to have leftover inventory, but also just being smart about their business. Retailers aren’t just giving dollars out and are instead ordering a little bit closer to the season.”

Laura Conwell-O’Brien

Executive Director, The Atlanta Shoe Market

Laura Conwell-O’Brien, Atlanta Shoe Market
Laura Conwell-O’Brien
CREDIT: Robin Bish

WHAT’S NEW: “This season sees the introduction of The Fashion Village, an area located in the main hall created to accommodate 30 new international fashion brands, allowing these brands high visibility.”

NEW EXHIBITORS: “Atlanta is welcoming 76 new brands to February’s event, including ACBC, G-Star Raw, Katy Perry Footwear, No Doubt Shoes, Paul Frank and Santana Canada, among others.”

SPECIAL EVENTS: “The National Shoe Retailers Association (NSRA) and Atlanta Shoe Market will sponsor a complimentary seminar on Sunday, Feb. 19, titled ‘It’s Time to Turn Your Frustrations into Freedoms,’ which will explore how business owners can cut through the chaos of constant change. There will also be an opening night cocktail reception and casino night on Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Cobb Galleria Performing Arts, with Simply Irresistible as the featured band.”

HOW RETAILERS ARE SHOPPING DIFFERENTLY: “Retailers are being more cautious in how they spend their dollars, especially in the upcoming year with an impeding recession.”

THE ROLE OF TRADE SHOWS IN TODAY’S ENVIRONMENT: “All retailers, whether big or small, need trade shows. It is essential for retailers to attend trade shows to compare brands and shop the show to find new brands. It also gives them the opportunity to speak with the vendors one-on-one to learn more about their brand and what would be the best fit for their store, while also keeping on top of the latest trends.”

Giovanna Ceolini

President, Assocalzaturifici (organizer of MICAM Milano)

Giovanna Ceolini, Micam, footwear, trade show, milan
Giovanna Ceolini
CREDIT: Courtesy of Assocalzaturifici

WHAT’S NEW: “The biggest new development at the upcoming edition will definitely be the return to a four-day event, signaling an upturn in the footwear sector, despite the problems consequent upon the Russia-Ukraine conflict and rising raw materials and energy prices. Our exhibitors and the many dealers who came to the September edition asked us to add another day.”

SPECIAL FEATURES: “The two keys to the event are definitely Micam X — characterized by a packed program of meetings and conventions, including numerous presentations — and the sustainability area. Sustainability has become the focus of our own policies and those of all footwear companies, and therefore [it is] one of the key assets of Micam.”

HOW EXHIBITORS CAN MAKE THE MOST OF THE SHOW: “The time has come to speed up the process of digitization. Micam has, like others, experimented with the efficacy of a digital show, a platform where footwear companies and buyers can meet. Buyers have been able to explore the range of goods and connect with brands, choosing from a linesheet and proposals shown in their catalogues and customizing and finalizing their orders directly on the platform.”

THE ROLE OF TRADE SHOWS IN TODAY’S ENVIRONMENT: “The trade show has always been and still is one of the best ways to launch new products and tell people about them, find new customers, forge and strengthen relationships and improve a company’s image. People don’t go to trade shows merely to sign contracts; they go to lay the foundations for writing new ones and to consolidate relationships that are already in progress.”

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