Many of the southeastern retailers who skipped OR Winter Market headed to Greenville, SC for the EORA/SWRA trade show this week. While most of these regional shows lack the big party atmosphere present in Salt Lake City, many vendors reported that more business is done in the booths and in the aisles at the regional shows.


The retailers walking the floors were not only there to firm up orders with their local sales reps, but also shopping the show with some open-to-buy available for new brands. 

The effects of the downturn in the economy were noticeable – walking from booth to booth, you could overhear talk of recent layoffs and brands dropping their reps with little warning. But overall, morale was high, according to EORA Executive Director Debbie Motz.

While some retailers were looking for new brands others were looking to re-open accounts with big established brands. One retailer in attendance told The B.O.S.S. Report that he was looking for brands with name recognition, margins and price points. Apparently, he was not the only one.

Brands like White Sierra and Columbia are seeing orders from dealers who wouldn’t give them the time of day in previous years, because they lacked “snob appeal.”  In today’s economy, where “bling” may be frowned upon and flaunting your wealth is a serious faux pas, the sensible, performance-oriented, price-point brands could grab some market share from their higher-priced brethren.

Even though retailers were shopping the floor with some open-to-buy for new business, it was apparent that the focus this year is on inventory management, turns and profitability. Many retailers are buying less merchandise during the pre-season and planning on increasing their ASAP orders later in the year. However, if the economy picks up faster than expected, this could leave many shelves empty in the fourth quarter.

The significantly easier and less expensive option of having a presence at EORA is obvious, thus store count attendance was up this year.  EORA said 292 stores appeared at the EORA show last week, an improvement over past years’ count of 285 stores.  But while the store count was up, the buyer count was down, which Motz said shows that local companies are sending fewer buyers to their shows. Whether this is to save money or because companies have reduced their staff is hard to say for certain, but Motz remarked that she sees more companies consolidating their buying habits. 

“I think some of the folks that have come also in the past, instead of having four buyers come, they have three buyers come,” Motz said. “They’ve consolidated because that fourth buyer has either been to OR or other shows and they’re trying to consolidate their buying as well.”
Next year’s EORA show will be a three-day show, held February 7-9. Dropping the fourth day is an option the members chose last year and have voted to try again next year, because attendance is typically slow on the fourth day.