The Shows Must Go On: JIS Miami, Dallas March Market Show Big Attendance Gains
Two shows in major metropolises surpassed expectations, demonstrating that the need to reconnect is a powerful propeller for an industry looking to rebound. It is striking that both JIS Miami and the Dallas March Market welcomed participation that exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Here, we look at how the marketing, planning and execution of safe events proved persuasive to large crowds.
Calling it a “liberating experience,” exhibitors and attendees welcomed the March 2021 Jewelers International Showcase at Miami Beach Convention Center. One of the first in-person trade shows of the year, it was also Reed Exhibitions’ initial foray back into the United States since the pandemic changed the events industry’s entire landscape.
“It has been a very hard year for all our customers, visitors and our teams, but I’m delighted to say that physical events are back,” said Hugh Jones, global CEO of Reed Exhibitions, in attendance at his first face-to-face event since he joined the company in February 2020.
Attendance suggests his feelings were hardly unique. Nearly 3,000 buyers filled a showfloor featuring 170 exhibitors, including BA Gold, Kendra Scott and Meira T Jewelry. Day one of the show had a 38% increase in attendance over the opening day of JIS January 2019 and overall attendance was up 10% from the February 2020 event, one of the last to be held before the pandemic’s effects were fully felt.
After a year’s worth of webinars and digital experiences to keep its audience connected, JIS listened to direct customer feedback to move ahead with a return to face-to-face. In order to do so, it prioritized health and safety precautions, including enhanced deep cleaning and air filtration, as well as transparent barriers to ensure social distancing. Standards such as daily temperature checks, proper facial coverings and hand sanitizing stations were also utilized.
Konduko, an award-winning wireless technology, renewed its partnership with JIS to provide its “Kontactless” Hybrid Solution, which includes smart badges that attendees received upon registration. By scanning the badge at booths, attendees could receive all of an exhibitor’s information electronically, cutting down on common touchpoints at trade shows. A daily digest of stops was also provided at the end of each day.
“It was a great added benefit since the smart features assisted in physical distancing when possible, while still connecting retailers and exhibitors,” said Jordan Tuchband, industry vice president at JIS Events. “Attendees can expect to be able to utilize it again at our future events.”
Compounding safety concerns was the Spring break scene at Miami Beach, which made national headlines as local government officials shut down several streets and imposed a curfew to limit the spread of COVID-19. Organizers stayed in contact with local officials and emailed communication detailing the surrounding closures and curfew and an FAQ was posted.
“The curfew for Miami Beach was definitely a hurdle that we didn’t expect to run into,” Tuchband noted. “However, we were very lucky that it had little to no effect on the show itself.”
Ultimately, the efforts to maintain health and safety measures paid off. Sarin Bachmann, group vice president at Reed Jewelry Group credits a holistic approach beginning with forging an ongoing partnership with Columbia University’s Earth Institute nine months ago. Marketing efforts aimed to pre-emptively address attendees’ concerns.
“What was most effective in getting people to register and attend was likely having the right timing of our event to meet pent-up demand, coupled with our extensive communications of all the comprehensive policies and practices we put in place,” Bachmann said.
Initial survey results are encouraging:
- 96% of attendees and exhibitors said they felt safe at the show.
- 90% of survey respondents reported that the show’s health and safety pre-show communications were helpful in preparing for the event.
- 70% have indicated that health and safety marketing communications helped make them feel comfortable enough to register and attend.
Launched in 1979, JIS has evolved into a multiple-program offering that produces jewelry trade events three times a year — two in South Florida, and JIS Delivery — San Diego. Reed produces all of the JIS events.
Exhibitors expressed overwhelming support for the in-person show, saying it is vital to conducting business.
“This is such a liberating experience as an independent business owner to be able to get back with those who I consider our teammates, to get reacquainted with our vendors and other business owners that we’ve met at previous shows, and catch up on how they’re doing and what’s trending where they are,” said a representative from Avalon Park Jewelers. “This is what we need as independent jewelers to re-energize."
Added an exhibitor from AV Diamonds: “There’s a pent-up demand that people want to restore, and it’s all positive. For the jewelry industry, trade shows are vital.”
For Reed, the show was a good first test to establish what measures will require to operate during the pandemic and beyond. It is already planning for its fall Miami show, scheduled for Oct. 8-11, 2021 at the MBCC.
“Nothing beats in-person and the feeling of arriving on-site for your live event after working so hard on it all year,” Bachmann said. “It has been way too long for everyone since they had that feeling and I am excited for the entire industry to feel that again – it feels amazing!”
Dallas March Market
March Market in Dallas, featuring Apparel & Accessories Market, Total Home & Gift Market, and KidsWorld, had its highest attendance in more than a decade, according to a slew of impressive stats provided by Dallas Market Center.
- There was a 23% increase in buyer attendance compared to March 2019
- Buyers from all 50 states attended
- Attendance improved 70% from the Midwest, 97% from the Southeast and 126% from the West
- 27% of buyers attended the show for the first time, a new record.
“Dallas is the center of the wholesale universe right now,” said Kande Hall, founder of Los Angeles-based fashion accessories company French Kande, following the grand opening of their new, expanded showroom. “We’ve never seen so many people…ready to buy.”
The action was described as “nonstop” as retailers of all types filled more than 1 million square feet of styles and trends at all price points at the Apparel & Accessories Market.
Cindy Morris, president and CEO of Dallas Market Center, pointed to pent-up demand and buyer confidence for the record numbers. Buyers and exhibitors alike saw huge value in attending in person.
Said first-time buyer Hailey Wood from Southern Swank Boutique in Princeton, North Carolina, “Seeing in person is a lot different than online. It allows me to meet new vendors that I have not met before. I will be back to shop for every season.”
New exhibitor Shayna Regenhardt, who cut the ribbon on The Landa Agency, her showroom of contemporary womenswear, was also duly impressed. “Just the sheer amount of buyers that come into this building…we knew we needed to be here.”
To protect participants, the venue enforced mandatory mask coverings, held daily temperature screenings, limited food service and cleaned with hospital-grade products. The design of the event also took health measures into account, relying on open parking, large entryways, quick registration in multiple areas, wide hallways, multiple escalators to each floor and showrooms with controlled access to allow for the appropriate distance between customers.
“This will end up being the best March market in the history of our six-decade-old company,” said Jill Kimbrough, director of sales at gift and toy showroom Diverse Marketing. “Retailers are excited to be open for business and have a positive outlook on 2021!”
The marketplace will welcome buyers in the coming weeks for Dallas Design Week (April 5-8); May First Monday & Tuesday (May 3-4); Apparel & Accessories Market (June 15-18); Total Home & Gift Market (June 23-29); KidsWorld (June 23-29); Lightovation (June 23-26), and the Dallas Men’s Show (July 31-August 2).