Summer Atlanta Gift and Home Market Meets Expectations, Sets Stage for Fall Markets

August 28, 2020

Despite a modified format, smaller footprint and lighter traffic than usual, the Summer 2020 Atlanta Market experienced a better-than-expected outcome. Held Aug. 13-18 at AmericasMart in downtown Atlanta, the biannual gift, home décor and lifestyle event experienced positive buying activity buoyed by extensive health and safety measures.

According to officials from International Market Centers, the world’s largest operator of premier showroom space for furniture, gift, home décor, rug and apparel industries, the event’s showroom-only appointment format took place in 74 percent (950) of its permanent showrooms, with manufacturers, importers and representative groups showcasing more than 4,000 product lines. 

As IMC predicted, the COVID-19 crisis impacted market attendance, with 20 percent of the usual buyer traffic and 23 percent of stores and designers in attendance, compared with the 2019 summer market. 

“To say that the Summer 2020 Atlanta Market was a market like none other is an understatement,” said Bob Maricich, IMC CEO. “While the format was changed, the footprint was smaller and safety measures were in place, the impact on the retail and design community was the same.” 

While all U.S. regions were represented, the event attracted a primarily regional crowd, with 90 percent hailing from the Southeast — including 82 percent from Georgia and five surrounding states, he added.

Missing from the event this year were its trade show and on-campus special events, an adaptive measure designed to foster a safe, secure and comfortable market environment, Maricich said. The same held true for the two additional summer markets held at AmericasMart earlier in the month: the World of Prom & Social Occasion, held Aug. 3-7; and August Atlanta Apparel, which took place Aug. 4-8.

Safety As a Major Focal Point

To facilitate a safer environment and to manage traffic flow and social distancing, pre-registration for the summer markets was required, with IMC enforcing thorough cross-department protocols for buyer and tenant arrival, registration and departure. Temperature screening, educational signage, contactless registration, showroom and elevator occupancy limits and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) – all part of IMC’s Together Safely daily and market operation protocols – were also required.

Participating showroom tenants and buyers were encouraged to set appointments to allow for social distancing and traffic density and flow management, and IMC shared pre-registered buyer lists with tenants to help facilitate scheduling. The majority of tenants embraced IMC’s safety protocols in their spaces while also hosting virtual appointments with buyers unable to attend in-person. According to IMC officials, many tenants reported steady sales and larger average orders, despite the lighter-than-usual market traffic.

Throughout the event, 65 IMC full-time staff members, including executive and senior-level leadership, took on new market roles as ingress/egress managers and “mask compliance ambassadors” tasked with gently encouraging market participants to don their face coverings. These efforts resulted in high levels of cooperation and limited incident reports, Maricich said. 

“The only way that we can bring buyers and sellers together is if we have the most state-of-the-art and stringent guidelines and protocols,” Maricich explained. “IMC will support all of our showroom tenants and buyers who elect to conduct business on our campuses productively and responsibly. Our physical markets and our current and developing digital platforms and software together will be essential elements of recovery for our industry.”

A Tested Strategy

Despite the current circumstances that kept many buyers at home, the August markets were a successful demonstration that IMC can effectively set the stage for commerce to take place at all of its market centers – AmericasMart, World Market Center in Las Vegas and High Point Market in High Point, N.C. – while doing it safely and responsibly, according to Dorothy Belshaw, president of Gift at IMC.

“We feel really good coming out of this market – we never had a moment where we didn’t feel in control of the traffic and those that were there were responsive and responsible,” Belshaw said. “Hopefully this will give others in the industry the opportunity to reimagine how they might begin to put on trade shows again, even though [our events] don’t really mirror them exactly.”

She added, “It takes a ton of work and forethought and planning, and you have to reframe your thinking. Instead of trying to create density and noise and excitement, it needs to be about business and commerce and doing that productively and safely.”

IMC will move forward with its fall Atlanta markets at AmericasMart: VOW | New World of Bridal, Sept. 15-17; Fall Design Week, Sept. 21-23; October Atlanta Apparel, Oct. 13-17; and Fall Cash & Carry, Oct. 27-29. High Point Market will also take place as planned Oct. 13-21. All trade show components will remain suspended until the Winter 2021 Atlanta Market, set for Jan. 12-19, 2021.


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.