COVID Testing Part of the Fabric of an In-Person Fashion Industry Show

The Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) and UFI, the global association of the exhibition industry, produced a case study detailing how three independent show organizers joined forces to bring a safe in-person marketplace to the fashion industry in Orlando in early February. Here are highlights.

Author: Michelle Russell       

covid testing

Three independent show organizers collaborated for the first time — Informa Markets’ MAGIC Pop Up Orlando, Clarion Events’ WWIN, and Tarsus Group’s OFFPRICE — on an in-person trade show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

MAGIC, WWIN, and OFFPRICE Co-Located Trade Show

Location: Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center

Date: Feb. 9-11, 2021

Background: Three independent show organizers collaborated for the first time — Informa Markets’ MAGIC Pop Up Orlando, Clarion Events’ WWIN, and Tarsus Group’s OFFPRICE — on an in-person trade show to provide a solution to the fashion industry’s “call for a much-needed comprehensive physical buying event in the first half of 2021,” according to a SISO and UFI Deeper Dive Case Study report. “By putting all of our shows together and having more product available and accessible to a retailer,” said OFFPRICE Executive Director Tricia Barglof, “it seemed to make sense for us to work together and create that type of environment for our attendees.”

Kelly Helfman, commercial president for Informa Markets Fashion, said they narrowed down the states that “were open for large-scale events” to three — Texas, Georgia, and Florida. Orlando was chosen as the show location for its attendance base within a 700-mile radius, and Orlando’s “outdoor campus,” with everything right on property, Helfman said, or nearby.

An ambassador at Tarsus Group’s OFFPRICE section of the event shares a safety message about mask requirements.

Economic Impact: The event was the largest scale trade show in the U.S. since the pandemic, providing an estimated $15.35 million in economic value to Orlando over three days. More than 400 exhibitors in total participated in the three shows; the case study did not cite the total number of attendees.

Safety First: All three shows followed safety guidelines that met CDC requirements and required participants to take COVID tests, and wear face masks and wristbands.

Working with Freeman, Informa was approved to receive an adequate supply of rapid COVID-19 tests from Abbott Labs in December. Informa hosted a live webinar about a week before the event to explain the testing procedures and to answer questions from registrants. The session was recorded and accessible on the MAGIC website.

Participants could choose to get a pre-test on their own — they were provided with a list of retailers they could go to, as well as resources for the state test facilities. They could do a PCR or antigen test as long as the test was administered on Feb. 5 or later. They could bring the negative test result to the event, verified with a photo ID. They would then be given a wristband indicating their negative test result and would have access to the show floor.

The other option was to take the free COVID rapid test, which would take 30 minutes from entry into the convention center to results delivered.

Costs: Informa Markets’ vice president of operations, Kevin Thornton, declined to comment on the cost for the tests, but noted that the expenses were shared by Informa, Clarion, and Tarsus. The tests, he said, are “expensive, as you can probably imagine. Because it’s not just the test, there are a lot of other costs associated with it. The testing administrator being a big one.”

Thornton provided this advice for organizers who might be considering testing for their events: Make a decision as early as possible, educate your community as early as possible, and “think of it through the point of view of a customer.”

Thornton said that he believes “it’s important for our industry to work together, to prove that we can return to the show floor and that our communities can reconnect in safe ways. Testing is an important piece of that, but long-term, I think the real value is in our shared commitment to events that consistently prioritize the health and safety of everybody who attends.”

COVID testing

“It’s important for our industry to work together, to prove that we can return to the show floor and that our communities can reconnect in safe ways,” said Kevin Thornton, Informa Markets’ vice president of operations.

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.

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