The Shows Must Go On: Atlanta’s Cobb Galleria Hosts Three Safe and Successful Trade Shows
With myriad U.S. convention centers launching health and safety programs as COVID vaccination rollouts pick up steam across the country, venues are starting to welcome scaled-back trade shows and events. The Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta is such a host venue. Buoyed by its extensive Galleria Safety First Reopening Guidelines, it recently hosted a trio of successful in-person trade shows that enabled buyers and exhibitors to get back to business.
Atlanta Shoe Market
In “normal” times, the Atlanta Shoe Market is a biannual three-day footwear event that typically attracts 2,200 attendees and 750 exhibitors spanning approximately 170,000 square feet of exhibit space. Held Feb. 20-22, the show drew in 1,100 buyers, about 70 percent of the show’s typical attendance, and 500 exhibitors covering the same amount of expo space, according to show officials.
As the Galleria’s largest and most successful trade show to date since the venue reopened July 13, 2020, the event helped create peace of mind for participants by instituting an array of health and safety measures. These included temperature check kiosks at each show entrance, hand sanitizers throughout the space, redesigned floor plans to allow for social distancing and monitors checking for face mask compliance.
“First and foremost, the success of the show was based on safety first,” said Laura Conwell-O’Brien, executive director of the Atlanta Shoe Market. “I believe that we achieved that from the very first step in the door.”
Advertising the show’s safety features in the months leading up to the event was key in reassuring participants that the event would be carried out safely and responsibly, thus building attendee trust that helped achieve a well-populated show, she added.
While prioritizing health and safety was a huge factor in driving in-person participation, ultimately, it was industry demand that drove show organizers to move forward with a live event, Conwell-O’Brien explained.
“Everyone is Zoomed out!” Conwell-O’Brien said. “In addition, it’s very difficult for the shoe buyers not to have the capability of touching and feeling the shoes. [Virtual] may work for some industries however, it’s definitely not the ideal situation for the buyers in the shoe industry.”
She added, “Once I felt comfortable that we could safely achieve the criteria that were set forth by the state and the CDC, I felt that we could move successfully towards a safe show.”
The Atlanta Shoe Market will return to Cobb Galleria Aug. 14-16, 2021.
Atlanta Jewelry Show
Designed to be a one-stop resource for independent jewelers to learn, shop and engage with peers, the Atlanta Jewelry Show boasts a long history in Atlanta, calling the city home for more than 70 years. In addition, its official sponsor and producer, the Southern Jewelry Travelers Association, has bragging rights as the nation’s oldest association for independent jewelry representatives.
Held March 5-7, the event brought the jewelry community together while prioritizing safety and success, attracting 2,700 attendees and almost 200 exhibitors to a 108,000 sq.-ft. showfloor. In pre-COVID times, the show drew in 3,000 attendees, 325 exhibitors to the same amount of expo space.
According to Sarah Streb, CEO of the Retail Jewelers Organization, which teamed up with AJS to create a unified experience for buyers and exhibitors through collocating its retail and exhibitor members on one showfloor for the first time, industry demand pushed the event to go live this year.
“Now, more than ever, it’s important for our industry to work together to prove that we can reconnect in safe ways, and there is value in our shared commitment to events that consistently value both safety and success equally,” said Libby Brown, AJS executive director.
She continued, “The on-site vibe was upbeat, enthusiastic and hopeful, with both jewelry brands and retail buyers eager to reconnect and conduct business in a live setting. Although you couldn’t see the smiles behind the masks, you could genuinely see the happiness in everyone’s eyes.”
Complementing the Galleria’s safety protocols, AJS put its own health and safety plan, Safety Shines, into action to protect guests. Practices included pre-event communication and on-site signage; a controlled check-in process with signage and floor stickers; daily health screening and temperature scanning prior to entry; face masks required; floor plans and seating designed for physical distancing; sanitizing stations throughout the venue; protective barriers for exhibitor use and complimentary PPE kits.
Retail buyers and exhibitors alike expressed enthusiasm about returning in-person to a busier-than-expected AJS, which included several new first-time vendors and a few fun showfloor attractions including an ear-piercing party and a live DJ.
“The show itself rocked and we were busy non-stop – two days of jewelers interested in technology and bettering their business,” said Mike Abbott, director of sales for The Edge by Abbott Jewelry Systems. “All the retailers were excited to be at the show, and they all felt safe and comfortable.”
The fall edition of the Atlanta Jewelry Show will take place Oct. 23-25 at Cobb Galleria, preceded by its popular ConnectED educational conference on Oct. 22.
Southeast Flooring Market
As the U.S.’s first flooring trade show in over a year, the annual Southeast Flooring Market converged in Atlanta March 11-12. Designed to be the regional resource for product innovation, education, networking and growth opportunities for dealers and designers in the flooring industry, the event brought back important face-to-face interaction.
With safety and health as top priorities, show management reported a successful market for both buyers and sellers.
“It was critical for us to provide our exhibitors and buyers a safe, clean and physically proper market floor for commerce to take place and business relationships to flourish,” explained Barbara Stroup, managing partner of Market Maker Events, which also produces annual Flooring Markets in Biloxi, Mississippi and Dallas.
Stroup added that it was important for buyers and sellers to meet face-to-face since the flooring industry is a tactile experience.
“Nothing takes the place of seeing and feeling the product,” she said.
To keep buyers, sellers, show and venue staff safe and feeling confident about meeting in-person, the event implemented an extensive array of health and safety procedures. These included required pre-registration; staggered arrival times; pre-arrival health screenings; a mask requirement; floor decals to ensure proper safe and physical distancing with 6-foot spacing; sanitation stations; increased aisle width and space between booths, and assigned distancing traffic flow patterns for entrances and exits.
“The foundation of our success was upfront communication with our team at the Cobb Galleria Centre,” Stroup said. “We met virtually on multiple occasions to review COVID-19 practices, safety standards and employee training to ensure that our teams worked together as one unit.”
Cobb Galleria will once again host the Southeast Flooring Market Jan. 26-27, 2022.