Informa Markets jumpstarted the return of in-person trade events with a successful fashion event last month at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Safety, business and fashion were front and center at the organizer’s first Magic Pop-Up event, a smaller-scale regional version of its keystone fashion event which typically takes place twice yearly in Las Vegas.
With exhibitors like Hidden Jeans, fashion footwear mainstay Chinese Laundry and loungewear label Vintage Havana on the show floor, buyers shopped from an array of immediate and seasonal women’s fashion, footwear and accessories.
Informa reported that retail buyer attendance—a mix of boutique, specialty, big-box and online—was 16 percent higher than originally anticipated. In fact, about 25 percent of retailers in attendance were online retailers, which is an upward trend from previous keystone events in Las Vegas. The show presented opportunities for exhibitors to open new accounts and grow their footprint in the region. New buyers accounted for 45 percent of the show’s attendance, and 35 percent of total attendee audience camea from Florida.
“We love Magic and are so happy to be back here,” said Hanna Jung from By Together, a fashion wholesaler. “We have met so many new, diverse customers here in Orlando.”
Though Informa has adapted its in-person events to digital through a partnership with B2B e-commerce platform NuOrder, the decision to move forward with the Orlando popup was based on feedback from the highly tactile fashion community. Informa surveyed customers in late 2020 to identify how best to fulfill the needs of the fashion community. The answer, the company said, was a resounding desire from both brands and retailers alike to return to the show floor in the first quarter of 2021, a critical buying time for the fashion industry.
“Buyers need to see and feel fabrics,” said Kelly Helfman, Informa Markets Fashion commercial president. “While digital is an incredible tool to maintain connectivity, and help qualify buying trends, the power of face-to-face will always be important—in-person interactions are really not replicable in a digital format.”
Data, she added, stops short of facilitating the relationships between buyers and sellers.
The show was anchored by Informa’s All Secure standards, a set of safety guidelines developed in tandem with trade show association partners including UFI, the Association of Event Organisers (AEO) and the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO), as well as event management peers Reed Exhibitions and Clarion, venues, suppliers, contractors and health, government and local authorities.
The All Secure standards include a commitment to 10 key health and safety priorities across all Informa’s events, spanning enhanced cleaning before, during and after the event to contacting event participants if necessary. At Magic Pop-Up Orlando, those guidelines came to life through open-concept booths, widened aisles, more than 100 hand sanitizing units and safety ambassadors, as well as mandatory mask-wearing and temperature screenings.
In the weeks after Informa announced enhanced safety measures, including requiring all guests and staff to produce a negative Covid-19 test in order to enter the show, the company said registrations “soared” and was the first show of its kind to employ onsite testing in support of visitor safety. Visitors had the option to take a free test at the show venue, or present a negative test taken within four days of the start of the show.
While a testing requirement may not be necessary moving forward, Informa Markets said it sees a continued effort toward “targeting qualified audiences and rigorous safety measures as a dual engine in driving economic recovery, not just for the trade show industry, but for the industries and communities they serve and the cities that host their events.”
Each in-person event is a lesson in success and safety, however, the value is a shared commitment to events that consistently value safety, according to Kevin Thornton, Informa Markets VP, operations.
“Now, more than ever, it’s important for our industry to work together to prove that we can return to the show floor and that our communities can re-connect in secure ways,” he said. “Through our collective efforts, we have proven that live events are able to run with visitor health prioritized, signaling a real economic restart for the fashion community, the many other trade industries we serve, as well as the cities that host our events.”
Since the start of the pandemic, multiple industries such as hospitality and tourisim have been devastated by the financial fallout of canceled in-person events. Informa stated that tradeshows globally bring an average of 303 million visitors to host cities each year, supporting 1.3 million jobs and generating $136.9 billion in business sales.
By hosting localized events, Informa hopes to facilitate regional economic opportunity. In Orlando, the co-located event provided an estimated $15.35 million in economic value to the city over the course of just three days. In addition to returning to their larger keystone events this year, including Magic Las Vegas Aug. 9-11, Informa Markets plans to host similar, smaller-scale regional popups in cities across the globe.
The organizer also plans to continue a hybrid approach to events to enable broader opportunities for customers to engage and communities to rebuild, both online and on the show floor.
“Our events are platforms to re-build and re-invigorate industries. They serve a really important role in relationship building, in discovering innovation, and in revenue-driving for the communities they serve, especially when done in a safe and controlled way,” said Nancy Walsh, Informa Markets president, North America. “Almost every industry has been impacted by the pandemic, and our customers, many of whom are small business owners, truly believe these platforms are more critical than ever before.”