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

As event professionals and destinations adjust, adapt and evolve in these uncharted waters, it is imperative that substantial resources be put in place for all of the people responsible for planning and executing trade shows, expositions and conventions. An example is Mohegan Sun, which built an industry-leading, COVID-19 Resource Center with a combination of pictures from recently held successful events (the property reopened on May 1, 2020) along with several widely available and informative documents, such as an evolving operational framework: