Surf Expo Moves to Virtual Show for September
Surf Expo is cancelling the upcoming September trade show in Orlando due to the spike in cases in Florida.
Instead, Surf Expo will host a new virtual event to connect buyers and brands.
Roy Turner, SVP of Emerald and Surf Expo Show Director, answered some questions for us about the changes.
Why did you finally make the call to cancel?
Roy Turner: Our decision to cancel our September show was based on the current state of COVID-19 cases in Florida, which continue to be some of the highest in the country at this time.
Our timing comes in advance of several key deadlines for our exhibiting companies and before travel arrangement need to be made. The safety of our customers, attendees, staff and teams that put our event together were front of mind in our decision. While we feel we can host shows in a controlled environment, concerns over the recent upsurge in Florida cases helped us come to our decision to transition our event from face-to-face to virtual.
What kind of feedback were you hearing from brands and retailers?
Roy Turner: Obviously there has been a concern for months coming from both attendees and our brands, with many limiting business travel during the pandemic. That said, many key brands and retailers had committed to attending our September event.
However, many Surf Expo supporters have been placed under quarantine restrictions if they travel from the state of Florida or in the case of our international attendees, have been banned from travelling to the U.S. altogether. Even still, we found support from many retailers who wanted to attend in spite of restrictions and possible quarantine.
Retailers are looking for merchandise and many retailers as well as brands were hoping that we could hold our event in Orlando. But we’re also cautious with recent rises in COVID cases across the country.
Surveys and conversations showed that retailers would support a virtual platform should the face-to-face event be cancelled.
At the end of the day, we all want business to return to normal.
Will Surf Expo launch a virtual show? If so, what are the opportunities with virtual that aren’t available with live events? What are the challenges?
Roy Turner: Surf Expo Connect, our virtual show, will launch this week. Our parent company, Emerald, has invested heavily in virtual show technology. Our first virtual event, Outdoor Retailer Online, staged successfully last week. We look forward to being able to provide a virtual connection for brands and buyers in September.
Our virtual event will allow brands to tell their brand stories through images and videos, post catalogs, highlight new products, feature show specials, schedule meetings, chat in real time and offer video meetings or sessions. Additionally we will provide online education sessions, awards ceremonies and support our non-profit partners.
The biggest challenge in rolling out a new virtual marketplace is educating both brands and attendees about the functionality of the system. In an effort to make sure everyone can harness all that the event will offer, we will host virtual training sessions as well as provide video support on how best to utilize our new platform.
Are you hopeful Surf Expo can be held in-person in January?
Roy Turner: Most definitely. If we all follow CDC guidelines and flatten the curve of new cases again, we should be in good shape. Recent news of possible vaccinations coming earlier than expected are a definite plus. Remember to wear your mask!
Any words of encouragement to the industry about the current climate?
Roy Turner: Our community has proven once again that we are a resilient bunch and able to adapt. From hurricanes to COVID, our core group of retailers and manufacturers continue to find ways to bounce back.
I think the biggest positive take over the last few months is that people want to be outdoors! People want to go to the coast and get in the water.
With sales of hardgoods soaring and beach-related apparel and accessories having great summer sell throughs, things look bright on the other side of the pandemic as we look forward to 2021.
Editor’s note: Emerald, the parent company of Surf Expo, also owns Shop Eat Surf.