Emerald, owner of the International Gift Expo of the Smokies (IGES), and sister event to ASD Market Week celebrated a key milestone for the organization and the expositions industry as a whole. IGES, the most comprehensive souvenir, resort, and specialty gift trade show in the U.S., successfully and safely reunited brands, wholesalers, and buyers on November 4-7, 2020, at the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, TN.
Given current market conditions, and in line with pre-market predictions, the number of exhibiting companies declined 60%, though buyer attendance was down only 30%, creating a 75% boost year-over-year in the overall attendee-to-exhibitor ratio, from 7 attendees per exhibitor to 12 attendees per exhibitor. As a result, sentiment scores from exhibiting customers improved across all measures, and confirmed the demand from the gift and souvenir community to connect face-to-face to source new products, replenish inventories, and prepare for the important upcoming holiday season.
“Successfully trading IGES this year is proof that the IGES & ASD Market week team can produce live events in a controlled, safe environment, especially in a smaller, regional format given the current situation to help our customers get back to business.,” said Karalynn Sprouse, EVP of Emerald’s merchandise group which includes the IGES and ASD Market Week brands.
Customers at the show echoed that sentiment, “Given the uncertainty we have all been facing much of this year, attending the IGES show in November was critical to the future success of our business,” said Don Henk, Retail Operations Manager, Massanutten Resort. “IGES helped us maximize the sales and profitability of all our shops by allowing us to connect with our key vendors. There is nothing like seeing the new items, designs, and colors in person. Not to mention talking with new vendors to see what they have to offer, which goes well beyond just products in a catalog.”
“We deliberated whether we should exhibit this year at IGES because of the fear of COVID. Would buyers come? Would we be safe? The good people at Emerald assured me they had worked hard to convince buyers to come and that they would be safe. They said buyers coming needed to buy and they were right!” said Rick Conway, Founder and President, Squire Boone Village. “Show management made everyone feel safe. COVID safety protocols were all in place and in such a friendly and organized way. Buyers came from as far away as Connecticut, Mississippi, Texas, Florida and South Dakota and they all reported great news…they had a great summer season and were all very low on merchandise! We wrote more and larger orders than I would have ever imagined. I couldn’t be more happy and grateful to Emerald for opening the IGES show and making it possible for us to start recovering from the devastating effects of the pandemic. “
Creating a safe and secure environment was a top priority for IGES show management and partners. Prior to the event, Emerald’s Preparedness, Prevention & Response Plan and IGES’s health and safety protocols were communicated to attendees and exhibitors via a Welcome Packet where they acknowledged and accepted IGES’s Terms and Conditions.
Onsite, the team worked closely with the City of Pigeon Forge as well as the event’s hotel partners and the LeConte Center to assure strict adherence to every health and safety standard. Examples of the safety measures implemented at IGES included temperature screening, the required use of face masks at all times, registration queue lines to ensure 6-foot social distancing, one-way entrances/exits, transparent shields at all concession stands, and daily disinfection of all seating, restrooms, and frequently touched public areas.
These pre-and onsite measures will again be implemented at another of our sister events the January 2021 edition of Surf Expo as well as upcoming ASD Market Week events with the goal of providing assurance and confidence around the safe reopening of all Emerald produced events, while placing the highest priority on the well-being of Emerald’s customers, staff and communities.