Q&A: The Atlanta Shoe Market


The Atlanta Shoe Market, scheduled to take place Feb. 20-22 at Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, GA, is on track to be the first in-person industry trade show of 2021 for many in the U.S. footwear market. While the COVID pandemic and its impacts have led many trade shows to continue with virtual events into the first half of 2021, the Atlanta show, run by the Southeastern Shoe Travelers Association, has worked to put a plan in place for a physical event.

We spoke with Laura Conwell-O’Brien (photo above), executive director of The Atlanta Shoe Market, to see how the show is coming together and what potential attendees can expect.

Footwear Insight Extra: How many brands/retailers are you expecting at the show this February? How does that compare with your 2019 shows?

Laura Conwell-O’Brien: There are over 700 brands registered for the show. Currently we have over 500 retailers registered for the show, however they have until the end of January to pre-register. We are encouraging everyone to pre-register so that we can create a touchless environment. We are at about 65-70% at this time compared to February 2020.

What types of precautions/safety details should attendees expect to see?

  • We have redesigned the floor plans to allow for social distancing.
  • Masks are mandatory and this will be monitored. Masks will be available for those that do not have one.
  • Temperature Kiosks will be located at each entrance and a different colored wristband will be given each day. This will be monitored. There will be specific entrances and exits.    
  • We have arranged to have rapid COVID-19 tests available on show site. However, this must be preordered.
  • Registration counters will be enclosed with plexiglass shields.
  • Hand sanitizer will be available throughout all convention areas and common areas.
  • All Food & Beverage Stations will be monitored and food will be pre-packaged.

What kind of feedback are you getting from your attendees about the importance of an in-person show for the buying cycle?

The shoe industry is very anxious to get back to an in person show. I am hearing the same thing from both exhibiting companies and retailers.

What are you hearing from attendees when it comes to how they are deciding whether or not to attend?

Obviously attending the Atlanta Shoe Market in February is an individual’s decision and I respect that. There is no doubt that everyone wants to attend, however everyone has their own personal circumstances and they have to make the right decision for themselves.

How do you think 2020 has impacted the future of trade shows?

I can only speak for the shoe industry and from what I am hearing, everyone wants to get back to in person shows, whether that’s in 2021 or 2022. I believe we will get back to normal certainly by 2022.

What kind of shifts or changes are you seeing in the industry currently when it comes to the way stores are buying and the way brands are asking retailers to structure orders?

Retailers are buying closer to the season however that can have an impact on deliveries so I believe this is yet to be seen for the future.

Anything else you want to add about the upcoming Atlanta Shoe Market?

The Atlanta Shoe Market has taken every precaution that the CDC and the state has mandated. I do believe we are ready to produce a trade show with all safety precautions in order. I believe that I personally am more educated on how to move forward to create a safe environment for an in person show. I also believe the public is more educated on how to proceed forward safely during a pandemic. We do however, need the cooperation of every attendee to make this happen.