The first major market of the COVID-19 crisis – Summer 2020 Atlanta Market – saw serious buying, a safe shopping environment, and a collective goal of working towards recovery reports International Markets Centers (IMC). The August 13-18, 2020 market took place in some 950 AmericasMart® Atlanta showrooms with manufacturers, importers, and representative groups showcasing 4,000+ lines to retailers and designers preparing for a business-making holiday season.
Despite major changes to its format due to the crisis, Atlanta Market marked milestones in IMC’s Atlanta NEXT transformation of the AmericasMart campus including the opening of new product destinations and relocated showrooms plus the completion of the first phase of the update of the Building 1 lobby.
“To say that the Summer 2020 Atlanta Market was a market like none other is an understatement,” notes Bob Maricich, IMC’s 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. Atlanta Market brought buyers and sellers together to make connections and do business – which are key elements in their success as they recover from the COVID-19 crisis.”
Regional Buyers Ready to Do Business
As predicted, the COVID-19 crisis impacted buyer traffic throughout the market week. IMC is reporting 20 percent of the usual buyer traffic and 23 percent of the number of businesses (stores and designers) represented. The market drew a largely regional crowd with 90 percent of the traffic hailing from the Southeast with 82 percent coming from Georgia and its five surrounding states. In total, all U.S. regions were represented at market with attendees from 44 states.
Buyers reported feeling safe while at market and on campus. Says designer Sandee Jones, “[It was] a WHOLE new experience from past markets…IMC and AmericasMart have gone the extra mile to make sure everyone here is safe as possible.”
Retailer Andy Kelton of Winding Stair Farm & Nursery adds, “I am especially grateful for the measures taken to keep everyone as safe as possible… I am already planning my return in January.”
Sourcing for much-needed new product was also top of mind for retailers. “It was a great show, our group found tremendous product for Spring. [I’m] so glad I came,” says Karnelle Nye of Real Deals on Home Décor.
Designer Priscilla Berry of Your Vision Interiors adds, “I loved being able to come back to market! It was so great seeing all my go-to vendors in person. I was very thankful that so many safety measures were put in place. This was definitely worth the trip.”
Exhibitor Expectations Exceeded
Across the home décor and gift categories, exhibitors reported steady sales and larger average orders, despite lighter than usual market traffic.
“Everything was staged very well and has gone very smoothly. We are glad we are here and excited to be here! Our average orders sales were up 2.5 percent and we [extended] our stay,” states Ed Voelker, President of home décor brand Abigails.
By and large, exhibitors embraced IMC’s safety protocols in their spaces. Showrooms hung signage to remind buyers to wear masks and set appointments to limit traffic plus hosted virtual appointments to accommodate buyers unable to attend the market.
Vicky Muetterties, principal of Tango Reps, explains, “There has been a steady flow of buyers: some appointments and many walk-ins… All are wearing masks and following the safety precautions set forth by IMC. We are so glad we were open and here for the stores that did decide to make the trip!”
“We partnered with IMC and followed their lead on the safety and operational landscape. The result was a successful, relaxed atmosphere … Overall, we are considering this a great ‘dress rehearsal’ for a successful 2021,” adds Cynde Stewart, President of RAZ Imports.
Atlanta NEXT Progresses
The Summer 2020 Atlanta Market saw updates to the AmericasMart campus in physical spaces and product collections. Phase 1 of the new Building 1 lobby greeted buyers with enhancements including a new arrival experience and contiguous floorplan in a modern style. Work will continue on the lobby renovations with completion planned for Summer 2021. The lifestyle collection in Building 2, Floor 11 debuted with a soft opening of the new Appelman Shauben and Ivystone showrooms, which now feature windowless storefronts and wide and open shopping areas to encourage product discovery.
Strategic relocations throughout the home décor and gift categories continue to improve the buying experience and remerchandise the product offerings.
The relocations of Transpac and Giftcraft and the renovation of Darrah & Company in Building 2, Floor 18 modernized the space and established it as a foundational gift, garden, seasonal, and accessory resources. “Our move to Building 2 has all been positive,” says Sheila McClellan of Transpac. “We have a lot more open space and a better overall set-up. We opened a lot of new accounts in our new location.”
In Building 1, the relocations from Building 2 of four major home décor brands – Diamond Star, Four Hands, IMAX, and Sagebrook Home – helped to refine the collection and ensure that these brands are connecting with the right buyers. “We are very excited in our new forever home. The new space has more of a gallery feel… which now enables [buyers] to better see everything,” comments Serena Martin, Sagebrook Home’s Marketing Director. “We have met a lot of new customers being in a new location which has been a huge positive.”
The Atlanta NEXT relocations are augmented by showroom moves throughout the campus. In total, some 30+ new and expanded showrooms were open for the market.
Tools for Safety and Discovery Find Success at Market
Safety was a major focus at every point of the Atlanta Market experience. Pre-registration was required and generated digital badges that buyers used to enter the marketplace after daily temperature checks. While on campus, masks were required, and buyers were expected to social distance guided by occupancy limits on showrooms and elevators. Some 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. The result was high levels of cooperation and limited incidents reports IMC.
As part of the safety measures, IMC suspended all on-campus events. Instead, in the lead up to and during market, Atlanta Market hosted 37 webinars on a range of topics from readiness for market to trends, business education, and diversity issues. The webinars were part of Atlanta Market’s expanded digital toolbox, which featured digital versions of the Atlanta Market Magazine and Buyer’s Guide; a new Catalog ConneXion with hundreds of searchable catalogs that are linkable to IMC’s B2B eCommerce platform ShopZio; and an enhanced exhibitor search on AmericasMart.com. Additionally, the Market Snapshot product discovery program showcased 50 new products and best sellers from across the home décor and gift collections.
“I am continually impressed by the ability of our customers to embrace change during this time,” Maricich remarks. “They joined us for events online instead of in person, explored new ways of discovering new products and supported our safety measures. For that cooperation, we cannot thank them enough!”
IMC plans to return to the market schedule as previously announced for Winter 2021. Showrooms will be open Tuesday, January 12 – Tuesday, January 19, 2021 with temporaries Wednesday, January 13 – Sunday, January 17, 2021. More information will be available at AtlantaMarket.com.