What lessons have you learned through producing virtual trade events?

After months of developing methods to bring the industry together during the COVID-19 pandemic, many apparel-trade-show producers invested in digital-platform virtual shows, while others waited to safely produce onsite events. As the industry continues to work through challenges, we asked trade-show producers: What lessons have you learned through producing virtual trade events, and what formula do you feel would be best to combine digital and onsite shows?

Jennifer Bacon, Show Director, Fashion and Apparel

Texworld USA

Apparel Sourcing USA

During these times, utilizing digital technology ensures that industries continue to be connected to their audience. For Texworld and Apparel Sourcing New York City, our virtual platform allows our international exhibitors to remain relevant in the marketplace through significant matchmaking and product displays, while this same virtual option expands our buyer market past local borders to visitors traditionally unable to attend the three-day event. Our greatest lesson learned encompasses what we have always known—face-to-face encounters are critical to business and, even more so, in the apparel industry. These events strengthen communities and offer opportunities to network and exchange ideas. We are hopeful and excited to bring in-person trade shows back to the market. No matter the model, providing a platform encouraging meaningful interactions and engaging education remains our goal.

Tricia Barglof, Executive Director

Offprice Show

The Offprice Show has had an online marketplace called Offprice365 for the past couple of years, and we have learned a lot from that experience. We took that knowledge and added a variety of features to our new digital event this fall, Offprice Online. That included digital showrooms, AI matchmaking technology and video meetings. The apparel industry relies on the touch and feel of the merchandise they are buying, so I think it’s safe to say that in-person events won’t go away. But there are digital features that can be combined with a physical show to improve the overall retailer’s experience. By adding some components like digital showrooms or on-demand education and video sessions, you can extend the shelf life of your event beyond four days for those can’t-miss opportunities.

Kirsten Griffin, Visitor Promotions Director


The flexibility to work 24/7 on their own terms was especially important as many retailers are working with a reduced workforce and need to spend more time on the selling floor. As a result of Curve Connect, our global audience of retailers has grown. Working with our Paris office, we will connect with more European brands to widen our assortment of exhibitors at our digital show in 2021. In February, we will launch the second edition of Curve Connect with 10 days of special events, webinars and roundtable discussions on key topics. The platform will be a subscription service open all year long for making connections and setting up video meetings. We expect to be able to offer physical events in New York, Los Angeles and Montreal in 2021 with our first show occurring during L.A. Market Week in March.

Issa Jouaneh, CEO

Agenda Show (AZTQ Corporation)

Evidence to date suggests that virtual shows have not generated enough value for most exhibitors to warrant only virtual events. At AZTQ Corporation, and specifically the Agenda Show, we believe strongly that live events are here to stay. We are very much on track to have a live event in Las Vegas in February. While there is a percentage of the population that may not be ready to meet face to face, we are hearing from the majority in our community that it’s time to meet again. Over the last eight months we have provided our exhibiting brands and buyers a no-cost solution to participate in a virtual marketplace and will continue to provide access to this solution well into 2021 in parallel to our live event in Las Vegas.

Thierry Langlais, Vice President of Operations

Première Vision

Première Vision believes that the future of our industry is built around the combination of physical and digital since it is no longer a matter of complementarity between the two. We define our future strategy leveraging on both to create a unique experience for the fashion-professional community. The COVID-19 crisis is a huge opportunity to speed up the change and define a winning format in the market as we set in September with our Marketplace & Digital Show, which welcomed more than 19,000 people over two days. Once more, Première Vision was a precursor anticipating market behavior.

Ed Mandelbaum, President

Designers & Agents

Designers & Agents launched d&a digital for the Spring ’21 season in order to provide an essential point of connection between the D&A exhibitors and retail audience. D&A has partnered with Ordre, a leading, cutting-edge technology wholesale platform that encompasses the sensibility of D&A and its exhibitors and will continue to do so going forward. We view the digital platform and physical trade show as separate but complimentary entities. d&a digital is a collective of virtual showrooms and serves as an enhancement to exhibitors and offers retailers even more streamlined capabilities to merchandise and purchase collections, pre-, during and post-market. When we return to the in-person trade-show model, D&A will continue to offer the d&a digital platform to our exhibitors as a useful tool to stay connected.

Bob Maricich, CEO

International Market Centers

Atlanta Apparel

Successfully presenting five Atlanta Apparel markets during this pandemic has provided us firsthand experience in best practices for concurrent, robust in-person and virtual events. A major component of an omni-channel market is a comprehensive discovery and sourcing tool, which International Market Centers plans to launch in the first quarter of 2021. JuniperMarket is a new multi-line B2B e-commerce platform that will optimize the Atlanta Apparel Market experience by allowing buyers to easily reorder bestsellers, discover new products and transact with fashion vendors as a complement to in-person, on-the-road, and at-market sourcing and shopping. With Juniper and its eight apparel markets, IMC will become the premier omni-channel product-sourcing resource for the industry.


Cindy Morris

Cindy Morris, President and CEO

Dallas Market Center

We’ve not only held successful in-person events but also quickly become the national marketplace showcasing brands to more buyers from across the country. Beginning in June, we welcomed back our loyal buyers as well as an increasing number of new buyers from 47 states. Business is good in this part of the country, and our momentum has continued to such a degree that we are expanding our temps marketplace for January and have reallocated personnel to handle the new buyer applications, travel arrangements and tours for 2021. On the digital front, we announced a partnership with a respected, experienced software company, MarketTime, to extend its business-management and e-commerce solutions to more brands and buyers.

Marisa Nicholson, Senior Vice President and Show Director

Outdoor Retailer

We’re currently in the process of shifting a second Outdoor Retailer show to digital. This past summer we launched our very first all-virtual marketplace at a time when so much was rapidly changing. In going online, a show is no longer compressed into three days; appointments, product discovery and education can span months. Additionally, it opened the opportunity for more people to attend who may not be able to in-person. As we prepare to open Winter Online in January, we have the advantage of having gone through this process once before. While our goals remain the same—we want to give the outdoor industry a place to connect, learn, discover and do business during these times—the circumstances have evolved. When we can meet in-person again, what we’re learning and developing now will be integrated into future shows to enhance the overall experience.

Lucía Palacios, Executive Director

Apparel Sourcing Show

Guatemala Apparel & Textile Association

Because of the pandemic beginning in March, our event, APSS2020, had to be canceled, and we did not engage in a virtual show. In our industry, networking, visualization, being able to handle the material, feel the fabric, watch machinery up and running, and all the benefits that you get when having a physical show are gone in a virtual event. I think virtual and digital have come to change us, but it will not replace physical events. So, for our event, I think the combination of virtual and physical is a must. With virtual, you can have a broader audience and help the ones that cannot travel to the event have business meetings, but it does not replace the sensation of being in a factory, for example.

Jason Prescott, CEO

Apparel Textile Sourcing Trade Shows

JP Communications LLC

The Apparel Textile Sourcing Trade Shows were among the first producers to go virtual, beginning with our first virtual fair in May. We held our second fair, ATSV Phase 1, in October tailored to the Canadian market and will host Phase 2 next week tailored to the U.S.A. market. Supplementing physical is hard enough, but overcoming the digital challenges internationally to produce global sourcing fairs is no small feat. Recently, we integrated live matchmaking, live meeting rooms and live streaming. The bright spot for virtual will remain seminars and conferences—but physical is needed when it comes to international sourcing of textiles and apparel.

Moriah Robinson, Event Director

California Market Center

The California Market Center launched our own virtual event series, CMC Uploaded. On CMC Uploaded, our showrooms and exhibitors share their latest product lines, chat about current trends and respond to viewer questions as they engage in a relaxed interview with our Buyer Relations Manager, Matthew Mathiasen. Matthew is well known around the California Market Center by both showrooms and buyers, so having him host our series is an organic and natural way to connect and create familiarity and comfort during a time of uncertainty. Starting in January 2021, we will produce CMC Uploaded prior to L.A. Fashion Market instead of during. We believe this simple shift will be the first step of many toward creating a new 360-degree approach to the events and trade-show industry.

Flavia Santoro, President


Our business Matchmaking Forum of the Americas, which combines an onsite inauguration day with online business meetings, is of enormous significance for Colombia and the region. We are convinced that this semi-virtual summit, held Nov. 3–13, will spearhead the recovery of the dynamic of our non-mining exports. We have the participation of about 1,200 Colombian exporting companies and around 500 buyers from the 35 countries of the continent, among which the United States stands out in the fashion-and-apparel industry with Walmart, Nordstrom, Outerstuff, Goldmedal International and 25 other companies. E-commerce is no longer a luxury, as it has become an essential factor for the success of businesses, which has led to strengthening our Colombia One Click Away service line. Since its inception, more than 2,000 Colombian businesspeople and entrepreneurs have received training in virtual commerce.

Judy Stein, Executive Director

Swimwear Association of Florida

Our SwimShow platform has been very successful and will continue along that path as our virtual marketplace will be active through the end of the year. We continuously update our vendors’ profiles as they send us new collateral and we announce that to the retail community via outreaches. Our industry is resourceful, and we all shifted as needed in order to do what we do best—provide a forum for retailers and manufacturers to connect and conduct business. Nothing will ever take the place of a live, in-person trade show where retailers can see the new collections up close and personal, touch the garments, feel the fabrics, see the construction and details and most importantly view it on the body, but there is great value to a virtual marketplace to enhance the buying experience though never to replace it.

Mary Taft, Executive Director

Fashion Market Northern California

FMNC canceled three of the five shows scheduled this year, bypassing digital during April, June and August. We did step out of the box in October and hosted an open-air market on the San Mateo County Event Center property. Buyers and exhibitors were incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with their customers face to face and to have the products available to see and touch. FMNC’s marketing and social-media committee reached out consistently to reps and buyers throughout the past seven months, with our Tipsy Tuesday campaign giving helpful tips on how to use social media to keep in touch with customers. We will continue a positive path to 2021 with our first show of the year in January at the Embassy Suites in South San Francisco. Our hope is to be back inside the event center for our April show.

Bryanna Timney, Event Director

WomensWear in Nevada

When we launched WomensWear in Nevada’s virtual platform, WWINdow Shopping, in July, our intent was to provide a one-stop shop where the community could come together to showcase, explore and discover; connect and meet face to face; and learn through our digital-education series. While the platform has been successful, we’ve learned a few things. Time is a challenge—it is a powerful benefit to be able to access virtual platforms 24/7; however, not everyone is running on the same schedule and people are (thankfully!) busy. We’ve seen higher engagement on our on-demand and more-time-flexible features. Virtual will continue to be a core part of our business moving forward, providing a complement and adding value to our in-person offerings. As we prepare to launch our second season of WWINdow Shopping in December, we see this fitting perfectly alongside our live events.

Nancy Walsh, President–North America

Informa Markets

Since we had been working on introducing a digital-event offering to our portfolio since the beginning of 2020, we were able to pivot toward a quicker execution. Our initial data show an eagerness to connect and willingness for our community to expand into this newer way of conducting business. While the fashion industry has been focused on digitization in many areas, wholesale has lagged, so there’s an expectation of a ramp-up period as widespread adoption happens over time. Dovetailing off of this, we will be continuing forward with our digital offering in 2021. We are also exploring smaller micro-events in select cities within the U.S. in order to bring our ultimate goal, a hybrid model of live and digital platforms that encourage connections and align with our customers’ needs, while actively exploring how and when to bring large-scale events back safely in 2021.

Marco Weichert, Founder and General Manager

Performance Days

Over the past eight months, countless virtual trade events have been created. From web​inars to websites that resemble video games, many solutions were offered. The lesson we learned is that each event, no matter if onsite or digital, needs time to be prepared. Luckily, Performance Days had already invested early enough in a digital database of exhibitors, visitors and products. Nonetheless, the team needed to develop concepts, layouts and IT solutions together with specialized service providers. Once the world returns to face-to-face on-site meetings for apparel-industry expositions, the digital infrastructure of today will still be in place. Therefore, all onsite trade fairs of the future will probably be hybrid thanks to the technical solutions. Onsite apparel-industry expositions are even more difficult to replace as textiles require being experienced with all senses.