CLEVELAND, Ohio – August 17, 2020: Marketplace Events (MPE) announced on Friday, August 15 the cancellation of the 2020 Southern Christmas Show, scheduled to take place November 12-22 at the Park Expo and Conference Center in Charlotte. This is the first cancelation in the event’s 53-year history. “The extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19 makes producing 2020 Southern Christmas Show in a safe and commercially viable manner beyond the control of Marketplace Events, Park Expo, or any other parties who care so much about this important tradition,” said Show Manager Jennifer Smetana. “Simply, no reasonable option exists for MPE to produce the show this November to the expectations of any stakeholders. The logistics are massive and complicated. For the show to happen there are details that must be locked down now, but are impossible to lock down in a pandemic environment.”
Marketplace Events, the largest producer of consumer shows in North America, operates 75 annual events. Due to COVID-19, the company has had to cancel 37 shows this year. In the height of the panic last March, some were forced to shut after the doors were open and the aisles full. “The situation is unprecedented and very challenging to our company, our staff and our customers,” said Tom Baugh, CEO of Marketplace Events. “Emotions run high, especially when those who love and depend on our shows have them taken away. But the response to the cancellation of the Southern Christmas Show goes beyond anything we’ve experienced—it is truly beloved in North Carolina,” said Baugh. Within a few hours, the social post announcing the cancellation generated 1,725 reactions and 1,100 comments—most expressing sadness for the loss of what has become a holiday tradition for many. “Our team is sad as well. They work extremely hard all year long to put on a one-of-a-kind event that is unmatched anywhere in North America,” he explained. “But in the end, the decision was beyond our ability to control.”
Historically, it is exceedingly rare for Marketplace Events to cancel shows. Only the most extreme weather events—hurricanes and “snowmaggedon” winter storms—trigger such actions. The company’s oldest show (Indianapolis) celebrates its 100 anniversary in 2022. In that century the show was canceled for three years from 1942-1945 because of WWI. “Our shows have survived world wars and we are confident we will survive this,” said Baugh. “We know from our surveys that people are anxious for the time when they can once gather face-to-face at these shows,” Baugh explained.
In a survey conducted by Marketplace Events in July, 66% of past attendees of the Southern Christmas Show said they would attend the holiday show if it were held today—46% with a mask and 20% even without a mask requirement. Similarly 63% of the company’s US exhibitors said they would participate in a show again. Another 15% said they would only participate after months of no cases and only 6% said they would not participate again until a vaccine is available. Marketplace Events is working diligently on a virtual show option where attendees will be able to shop online from many of the vendors at the live event. Click here to sign up to receive updates about an online shopping experience and the Southern Christmas Show, or visit https://southernchristmasshow.com/information/subscribe-now to sign up.
The same survey showed that COVID has had a significant impact on the company’s exhibitors—primarily small, locally owned businesses. Of exhibitors, 26% said COVID has slightly impacted their business and 39% said their business has been severely impacted. “Our focus now is on 2021,” said Baugh. “Our responsibility now is to do what is necessary to ensure our events continue well into the future for the benefit of our exhibitors, consumers and staff.”
Shelly Gepfert, VP Marketing | 512-551-3435 | firstname.lastname@example.org