The smiles said it all.
That’s what Whitney Atkins, VP of marketing for IDDBA, said about the IDDBA 2022 expo on its closing day, June 7, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
“I think that’s where I would start – the smiles, people just happy to come back together after a hard two years for everybody in different ways,” she said.
As far as show numbers, Atkins said they are still being compiled, but as of early Tuesday it looked as if attendance was about 79 percent of the 2019 expo, adding that 2019 was a “record-setting show for attendance.”
“So while we don’t have exact numbers, we’re very proud of that. We understand the industry average, right now, has been somewhere between 60, maybe 70 percent. So we’re extremely pleased with how we were able to bring our community back together. And the smiles say it all,” Atkins said.
She said there were about 1,600 exhibitors on the show floor along with about 1,200 retailers and thousands of attendees. And with all those people coming together after two years dealing with the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic, Atkins said she believed “there is even greater respect for the person standing next to you than ever before.”
Despite ongoing challenges such as labor shortages and supply chain issues and new ones such as inflation, people are ready to move forward. Atkins said IDDBA is working to help its members navigate those challenges.
Several educational sessions – based on IDDBA’s annual “What’s in Store” trends publication, which now is being published quarterly – were held during the three-day expo. They were put together by a group of volunteers, led by Heather Prach, IDDBA education director.
“They did a fabulous job,” said Atkins, adding that the sessions were well attended.
The Natural, Organic and Plant-Based section at the expo is an example of IDDBA looking at trends and consumer demand. Packaging is another example, with several manufacturers in attendance as companies are looking for more sustainable solutions.
The Visionary Platform was new this year. According to Atkins, it was basically smaller booths for smaller companies, “maybe a startup or somebody who has an innovative idea but they can’t just knock on somebody’s big retail door and get in…that’s been huge. And we look forward to continuing to grow that,” she said.
The General Sessions were impactful, coming together to look at some of the challenges businesses are facing today, Atkins said. The speakers talked about the challenges they faced in their lives and how they overcame them to become successful.
Country music singer Tim McGraw performed Monday night and he, too, shared his story, Atkins said.
“He was fabulous. He told his story of the challenges he faced, being a child of a single mother and the struggles of that and how you overcome those,” she said.
Atkins added that what this year’s expo revealed was that “it is very important for people to come together.”
“I think events like this are going to be even more popular,” she said. “I think it’s going to continue to grow and we’ll continue to grow our specialty areas as we do. I mentioned natural, plant-based and organic. And between now and 2023 in Anaheim, if there’s a huge trend that the consumers are demanding, and wholesalers and exhibitors and manufacturers and retailers are trying to answer, we’ll have that added to the show floor. We are constantly looking for what is going to be on the market this year, the next year and beyond, that we can introduce everybody to.”
She also noted it was special to be able to recognize past leaders who have built the foundation of IDDBA.
“We’ll continue to do things like that – recognize people in the industry and find new ways to do that. Because if we’ve all learned one thing or a couple of things over the last couple of years, and if you set in on any of those sessions, it’s about individuals and people. I think we’ll continue to find ways to highlight those,” Atkins said.
She said IDDBA’s board of directors and staff offered thanks to everybody for every contribution they made. That included exhibitors, attendees and the many partners who helped put show operations together, as well as to the facility and housekeeping and food and beverage staffs.
“We know it takes every one of those individuals’ energy to give you those numbers I just gave today,” Atkins said.
The association also is grateful for the support it received from the city of Atlanta, the Atlanta Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the Georgia World Congress Center.
“Every IDDBA has held special moments. IDDBA 2022 will forever be one of if not the most memorable,” Atkins said. “Our community came together after two of the hardest years many of us have faced. We all face challenges every day, but we will all leave IDDBA 2022 with a greater sense of overcoming them together.”