There’s no question that the Chicago Collective menswear trade show has been through some tough times and show director Bruce Schedler is the first to admit it. “After 9-11, things were brutal: we were down to 124 exhibitors in 50,000 square-feet of space. So we decided that since we’d never be the biggest, we’d aim to be the best. And that’s what we’ve been working on.”
Indeed. With an exhibitor count of 350 for the upcoming August show (almost triple what they had) and 247,000 square-feet of show space, the Chicago show has boosted its reputation, and its returns. “We’ve elevated the show to a whole new level,” says Schedler. “We don’t fill it with junk. We sell out; we have a waiting list of exhibitors. And the secret is simple: we make sure to give our exhibitors a real return on their investment; attracting great stores is the key to this guarantee.”
Many of these great stores have been long-time Chicago fans. Says Scott Shapiro from Syd Jerome in Chicago, “The industry is shrinking and I don’t have the luxury of popping into NYC just for an appointment. I can get so much of my market work done at this appointment-driven show; they really make it easy!”
Adds Blair DeLongy from John Craig in Winter Park Florida, “The atmosphere at this show is relaxed and less hectic, which means I can spend more time with my vendors and be so much more productive.”
Other retailers speak of the Collective’s palpable sense of community, a spirit of being in it together without typical feelings of divisiveness among competitors. Says Schedler, “Considering the current state of the industry and of apparel trade shows, I’m proud that the Chicago Collective has emerged as an important show. We draw retailers from 40 states and Canada; we’re expecting a considerable number of new stores this August and in 2019. We also get vendors who don’t ordinarily do trade shows: brands like Peter Millar, David Donahue, Robert Talbott, Coppley and others. Our formula seems to work quite well for both exhibitors and buyers. But I always remind our exhibitors not to judge us by their first show, since it generally takes a bit of time to build relationships. But ultimately, these relationships prove well worth building.”
The next Chicago Collective is August 5-7. There will be an outdoor opening party sponsored by Hardwick with food and drinks overlooking the river and the Chicago skyline. For more info, email Monique Lyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.