When I came to Las Vegas eight years ago, I wanted to work part-time and signed on with a temp agency. One of my first assignments was the press room at WSA, the World Shoe Association trade show known as THE “shoe show” in the western U.S.
I loved working that show. My temp colleague and I met interesting people, heard some juicy gossip, and were given “leftover” tickets to an industry dinner followed by a concert featuring Stevie Wonder. (At the dinner I met a couple employees from Zappos, the online shoe retailer. I had never heard of Zappos then, but I remember that these two women were the most enthusiastic employees of any company I had ever met. I also remember that the Stevie Wonder concert was quite late in starting because so many people were networking that no one was in their seats at the concert starting time!)
Over the years, I heard about management turmoil and changes at the WSA show but I didn’t know the details. I knew, from attending the show last August, that the ENK (Elyse N. Kroll) organization had taken over the show. ENK is an organization that holds a number of fashion-related tradeshows throughout the country.
In February 2011, ENK announced “new leadership for WSA” and introduced David Kahan as the President of the ENK Footwear Group, He announced that “galvanizing the WSA Show in Las Vegas is my top priority”.
I met Kahan last week in the VIB (Very Important Buyers) room at WSA. (The press room no longer exists at this show.) The VIB room at the time I visited was virtually empty.
Kahan wouldn’t tell me the expected number of attendees at the February show and said he wondered where the Review-Journal had gotten the number it used, 17,000.
He said the WSA show now is focused on an “under-served portion of the shoe market”, the manufacturers who actually make the shoes that we buy in the US. Companies based in China and other shoe-manufacturing countries would be showcasing their shoes, a “united nations of footwear” Kahan said.
When I asked about the lack of big names at the show – the major footwear brands I had seen in the past — he said that WSA “didn’t want” those exhibitors at this show; they could participate in ENK’s New York show. He also mentioned that a number of lower priced shoe brands did, however, have booths at the Las Vegas show.
Armed with this information, I went on the show floor. Yes, China and other Asian countries were everywhere. They had lots of shoes on display. I understood that at this show, buyers typically would select designs they liked and add their own brand names to the shoes. In addition, a number of shoes already with brand names were on display for buyers as well.
As the attached video reports, not everyone was happy with the new focus of the show. Shoe companies that have developed and marketed their brands, while having purchased shoes designed and made in China, now compete with their own manufacturers for business.
We also heard from one of the more well-known branded shoe companies that they were not told that the show’s focus had changed until many of the big-name brands and big-name retailers had pulled out of this show. Those bigger names were said to have given up the WSA show and were now attending “FFANY”( the Fashion Footwear Association of New York) show and the upcoming Las Vegas MAGIC (Men’s Apparel Guild in California) apparel marketplace to be held next week and which now also has a shoe segment called “Platform”.
So the soap opera continues. ENK has shows that compete with both the New York and MAGIC shows, but it appears MAGIC has all but stolen WSA’s thunder in Las Vegas.
So we’ll see the WSA story continuing in August Yes, my video is wrong in saying we must wait until next year to see what happens to WSA. ENK WSA is a twice-a-year-show, so we’ll see what kind of show is forthcoming in August … if there is such a show.