New Womens Trade Show: "Women Are Not Small, Pink Men"

CHICAGO (July 10, 2014) – How can retailers best cater to the fast-growing women’s activewear and accessory market – by some estimates the source of 85 percent of sporting goods purchase decisions? That question drove hundreds of buyers and sales associates to Formula 4 Media’s inaugural The Running & Fitness Event for Women, at Chicago’s historic Navy Pier in early July. 
The two-and-a-half-day conference and exposition attracted a broad range of retail outlets, about 50 percent from run specialty, and 50 percent from a broad mix of yoga and fitness clubs, on-line sellers, department stores, discount, and general sporting goods retailers, according to show director Beth Gordon.
Retailers attending included representatives from East Bank Club, Finish Line, Foot Locker, Modell’s, Outdoor Divas, REI, SIX:02, Sports Authority, Team Estrogen, and T.J. Maxx.
An informal survey among the 115 exhibitors at the expo reveal all were enthusiastic about this first-ever trade show to focus solely on the woman buyer.
PrAna led yoga classes; Life Fitness demonstrated its T5 treadmill using smart phones and tablets to allow runners to race against each other anywhere in the world; and Japanese chiropractor Dr. Kenzo Kase, inventor of the Kinesio Taping Method in 1979, applied Kinesio Taping muscle support and joint tape.
New products included Stunt Puppy’s reflective hands free running leashes; Thule’s Chariot CX, a multifunctional dual stroll/jog/bike/hike stroller for $1,149 sug. ret.; and On’s less than seven ounce Cloud with zero-gravity foam.
Said Jennifer Ferguson, of Handful, a seven-year-old bra manufacturer based in Tigard, Ore., “This show is a dream come true for us. Other trade shows are usually specific to a given sport. We’d have to attend several ‘handfuls’ to reach the segment this show introduces to us in one-and-a-half days.”
Adds Julienne Ruckman, key apparel sales manager of Brooks Running in Seattle, “We’re seeing more than just buyers. We’re able to get to the hearts and minds of the female consumer because we’re meeting key influential women sales associates who are on the floor every day and know what the woman buyer needs.
“No other trade show dives into this buying power in such depth,” Ruckman said.
The expo was preceded by a full day of guest speaker presentations attended by 400 to 500 people per session, many furiously writing down a cascade of advice for serving the women consumer.
When one guest speaker suggested using a hook and loop to secure the opening of a dressing room curtain, Betsy Hughes, co-owner of the Track Shack in Orlando, called her handyman from the conference floor and instructed him to add the closure. “It was a simple solution to help make women feel more secure when trying on clothes,” she said.
Similar comments were received from a sampling of the 300 other buyers who attended.
John Clark of Skinny Raven Sports in Anchorage, said, “We all found the event to be very helpful on many different levels. It inspired a lot of ideas and conversation amongst my ladies and with others.”
Said Sharon Lucas, of Luke’s Locker headquartered in Dallas, “I commend Formula 4 Media for providing a venue for women where they can interact with one another, gather pertinent information, and find valuable resources. I personally am delighted to see this focus on a women’s event. Hopefully, this community of women coming together will develop more leadership opportunities in the industry.”           
Speaker Dr. Jackie Frieberg suggested hiring sales associates who want to engage with the customer, who understand that a woman is not a small, pink version of a man.          
“Say no to brands that are objectifying and sexualizing women.”
Lois Sakany of TheSnobette.com identified #streetsport as a new look in fashion that takes influence from active, streetwear and the runway. She advised, “Create a female-friendly selling environment. Don’t make her ask herself, ‘Am I cool enough to buy sneakers here?’”
Kelly McDonald of McDonald Marketing, said moms are the new “It” girls who want to raise happy and healthy families. “They find most appealing those products that make life better or simpler for them … women don’t respond well to pressure … focus on features, attributes, and benefits when marketing to moms.”
McDonald reported 92 percent of millennial women (ages 18 to 35) want to buy a product from a company that supports causes.
Jill Nickels, Gensler Global Design, remarked on the habit of “Webrooming” – “People who go online to study their product options, then purchase from stores that are making an emotional connection with them.”
Show director Beth Gordon adds, “TRFEW was a concerted effort on our part to create a conference and expo featuring a comprehensive mix of educational seminars and women-specific products that reflect how today’s woman shops for her running and fitness needs.”
The second annual The Running & Fitness Event for Women will be held again on Navy Pier on June 29 to July 1, 2015. Formula 4 Media’s running specialty conference and expo, The Running Event, returns to Austin on Dec. 2-5, 2014.          
Formula 4 Media, based in Great Neck, N.Y., was established in 2005 and  produces one other trade show, The Running Event, named one of Expo Magazine’s 25 fastest-growing shows of 2013, and Trade Show Executive’s Fastest 50 for the third consecutive year (2011, 2012, 2013). The company also produces seven publications: Footwear Insight, Outdoor Insight, Running Insight, Sports Insight, Team Insight, Textile Insight, and Trend Insight.  
For more information, log onto: www.therunningandfitnesseventforwomen.com
Manufacturers interested in learning how to participate in the 2015 Chicago show should contact Beth Gordon, bgordon@formula4media.com, 949 293 1378; retailers interested in attending can contact Mark Sullivan, msullivan@formula4media.com, 646 319 7878, www.formula4media.com.     

By press release

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