The Shows Must Go On: Denver January Market and Surf Expo Carry On Safely

January 29, 2021
The Shows Must Go On: Denver January Market and Surf Expo Carry On Safely

While many trade shows in early 2021 have either been cancelled, gone virtual or been postponed until later in the year, two recent B2B events in Orlando and Denver managed to go live successfully. A common theme: regional attendance and extensive health and safety measures that kept participants feeling more confident and comfortable.

Denver January Market

Held Jan. 19-22, the Denver January Market lured buyers from surrounding states, as well as 66 exhibitors spanning 13,800 square feet of showroom space. 

Temporary and permanent showrooms showcased outdoor, apparel, western lifestyle, gift and souvenir merchandise, with the Casual Apparel, Cash & Carry and Outdoor Lifestyle categories leading the way in strong order writing, according to show officials.

“I am thrilled with my results from this market and feel blessed that my buyers felt comfortable to attend,” said exhibitor Laura Elledge, of Elledge & Associates Apparel. 

The event went the extra mile to entertain buyers. Highlights included champagne toasts, give-a-ways, free lunches and a fashion show with live music and swing dancing that showcased an array of cowboy boots, hats and leather jackets. 

Also on display were the show’s comprehensive health safety measures, which included temperature checks, mask-wearing, social distancing and hand sanitizer stations at all show entrances. 

According to Denver Mart Trade Shows General Manager Misty Flachman, the venue not only worked closely with local health officials to follow CDC mandates for its everyday business model, but also placed temporary exhibitors in open showrooms rather than traditional expo booths to maintain a controlled environment that kept everyone socially distanced. 

“Occupancy rates were held at 50%, masks were mandatory and everyone had their temps check at all entrances of the Mart,” Flachman said. “Along with heightened cleaning schedules and hand sanitizing stations, we presented a safe place to conduct business and host in-person meetings.”

Until the traditional trade show model of using exhibition halls is allowable, the Denver Mart will continue to provide showroom space as an option for temporary show exhibitors, she added. 

Not only was the January Market the first in-person trade event to be held at Denver Mart in 2021, it also marked the first January Market to be held since 2014.

“The idea of bringing back the apparel market became the focus in 2019 [and while] COVID-19 definitely put a wrench in our plans, but we decided to forge ahead and see what we could create,” she explained. “Everyone needed something to look forward to, given the 2020 we all had.”  

Surf Expo

Riding the waves of strong exhibitor and retailer demand for an in-person experience, Surf Expo kicked off the new year with a live trade show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando Jan. 6-8.

According to Lori Silva, executive vice president of Emerald’s Retail Group, the event served the needs of its audience by providing a secure, safety-first platform that allowed in-person business to be successfully conducted. 

“Our top priority was ensuring the health and safety of everyone while onsite,” Silva said. “Therefore, [we didn’t] produce the usual social gatherings, educational sessions, fashion shows and award programs that typically occur at the event due to social distancing and health and safety measures.”

She added, “In spite of many challenges, we feel that this goal was achieved, and based on feedback from both retailers and brands, we feel that the show was a success.”

While the show’s overall size was smaller and less than half the size of the 2020 edition due to the impact of COVID-19 and national and international travel restrictions, buyer to exhibitor ratios increased by 23%. This helped drive significant improvements in overall exhibitor satisfaction, with exhibitor net promoter scores increasing by 63% compared to the 2020 event, Silva said.

“The Surf Expo January show was amazing – we wrote a ton of business and worked more accounts than ever before,” said exhibitor Patricia Thornton, vice president of PSYCHO TUNA. “The show did a great job at keeping us all safe [and] we all felt very comfortable.”

Building off the momentum of health and safety protocols and guidelines that it had strictly implemented at IGES in November, Emerald was able to develop a Surf Expo-specific health and safety plan was that included the journeys of exhibitors, attendees and staff, according to Roy Turner, Surf Expo senior vice president and show director.

“The plan aligned with our Emerald Preparedness, Prevention and Response Plan, which was built upon the All Secure Guidelines developed by SISO, and was further tailored to adhere to Florida’s, Orange County’s and the Orange County Convention Center’s health and safety requirements.”

Besides measures like daily temperature checks, face masks, social distancing, wider aisles with directional signage, floor stickers, hand sanitizing stations, enhanced cleaning measures, staggered attendance and a larger registration area footprint, the show’s team worked with Visit Orlando to create a health and safety video for the show’s website to inform, remind and ensure that all exhibitors and attendees complied with health and safety protocols.

“Surf was different, but good – [the show team] did everything in [their] power to make it awesome,” said Retailer Ryan Hewson, owner of Cape Cod-based MOCEAN. “We’ll get it back to bigger and more normal again, but for such a time as this, it was a fantastic (and safe) show. ” 


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