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Compass Show Gets High Marks

The boutique show lauded for edgy exhibitor mix.

Despite mixed traffic reports, most footwear players attending the recent Compass Show here lauded the edgy brand offering.

The boutique show, held July 31-Aug. 1, drew 65 exhibitors, a 20 percent increase over last season’s edition. Newcomers

included Camper, G-Star, Seychelles, Matiko, 80%20, Toms Shoes and the New Balance Legacy Collection.

“The collection of brands we pulled together was super strong, and I think the market really took notice,” said Minya Quirk, a partner at BPMW, which operates the show. “Our accounts said they wrote the business they needed to write.”

Quirk added that a diverse mix of major retailers were at the show, from department store Saks Fifth Avenue to e-tailer Zappos.com and other top accounts.

This show marked the first time Compass has made a dedicated push into the women’s market, and organizers confirmed it would continue to be a focus. “It’s a huge part of the market,” Quirk said. “We don’t want to relegate ourselves to being a men’s-only show.”

For their part, exhibitors said the boutique environment allowed them to connect with new accounts.

“Certain channels don’t know who we are,” said Billy Lovell, who heads product development at Chippewa, a division of Justin Brands Inc. “We saw this as a way for us to target more of the boutique shops.”

Chippewa was part of a strong “American heritage” story at the show, which also drew brands including Red Wing; Sperry Top-Sider; Cole, Rood & Haan Co.; and Keds, among others.

Cole Haan showed two subbrands at the show: Cole, Rood & Haan and Circa 1985, which both draw from the history of the brand. “We’re seeing a resurgence of American brands and products,” said Cory Haberman, who oversees design and merchandising for the lines.

Benjamin Vergnion, partner and chief creative officer at House of Brands USA, which distributes several fashion-athletic labels, said that Compass helped introduce his brands to more retailers, but he believes the event needs some changes to be more effective.

"Overall, the show was quite successful for us as we introduced Alife and Happy Socks for the first time,” Vergnion said. “It’s the trade show model itself that is at the core of the issue. Exhibiting one brand after another, all lined up, outside of any brand context ... I don’t consider that innovative or motivating in attracting either buyers or exhibitors.

"Very much like the retail environment, the future will be reserved for those who can provide brands with the ability to demonstrate their core value, and make the consumer or buyer understand the very essence behind their existence," he continued. "The trade-show models will have to follow that example as well."

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