NEW YORK — Shoppe Object’s recent summer market celebrated its biggest show yet with doubled attendance from the previous year –– and an increase of 20% over the February edition –– in a sold-out Pier 36 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. We caught up with founder Jesse James to learn more about its new owner, IMC, its growth trajectory, and the future of markets in New York.
Please briefly outline Shoppe Object’s growth since its debut.
“We launched Shoppe Object in the summer of 2018 with 100 exhibitors at the old H&H Bagel factory. We fared rather well through the pandemic due to the agility of our proprietary digital launch, Shoppe Online, and earlier this year, 3.5 years in, we were acquired by IMC. We just wrapped a sold-out hybrid show with 500 brands at Pier 36, a 20% increase on traffic from last season, and 100% growth from a year ago. Considering the roller-coaster ride we’ve all been on since the beginning of 2020, fivefold growth in four years has felt pretty tremendous.”
How does IMC’s ownership change the way you work/approach the business?
“Our show was created to celebrate and support a community of brands and merchants around thoughtfully-designed products, and IMC’s ownership allows us to do that better. They made an investment in our ethos, and their commitment from day one was to provide tools and resources – not mandates. We’re a small, creative, hard-working team that grew up in this community and love what we do. With IMC’s help, that team is growing. They provide capital and outreach, access to operational support, and a knowledge bank that we’re tapping into as we expand on and execute ideas. We’re implementing strategies to reach more buyers, to procure relationships with brands that would have been harder to reach, and to deliver a superior quality of service. Things are good, but they can always be better, and that is IMC’s intention and commitment; to help us be our best.”
What is your growth strategy? Are there any categories you are actively pursuing that you think will enhance the show? (Or conversely, categories that are shrinking or not performing as well?)
“Shoppe Object is a community built around curated home and gift that endeavors to deliver the best in all categories. We cater to top-tier national specialty accounts, design-driven independent retailers from around the country and beyond, and premier e-commerce platforms. During the pandemic, some brands took a hiatus from exhibiting, and they were largely home and lifestyle brands whose larger footprints, combined with supply chain issues, left them focused on the increases they were seeing in direct-to-consumer business. This meant more nimble brands and makers on the gift and accessories side, many with production a bit closer to home, were the first to return to markets again. Now, as things continue to open up, we’re creating room for those from our community that are ready to return to physical shows, as well as new home and lifestyle brands including many from Europe and abroad. We’ve defined a clear focus on products for gathering at home; on Living, Tabletop and Entertaining. Those brands have been doing extremely well at our show, and we’re seeing all those buyers back at market. Thankfully, we’re expanding this winter to accommodate the increases in those categories.”
You appear to be at capacity at Pier 36. What comes next? There was a lot of talk at market about the possibility of co-locating with NY Now at Javits, or possibly even a merger. Can you comment on that?
“Shoppe Object was born of a need for change. Change is never easy, but it’s evolutionary and invigorating, and part of what has made Shoppe Object so successful, so quickly, has been its experiential distinction. Since putting down roots at Pier 36 on the Lower East Side, our community has come to think of it as home – this is resoundingly clear from our post-show survey – and what we’ve created there is vibrant, thriving and sustainable. We would be remiss to risk losing that, and we believe continuity is key at this juncture in our growth.
“For 2023, we’re expanding by close to 50% at Pier 36, annexing additional space by erecting an adjacent structure. We’ve been working on this for some time now, and we’re excited for what’s in store. Meanwhile, we’ve explored every possible scenario in the city, as we have since the beginning, and when the time comes, we will carefully consider all available options, providing transparency to our customers with their needs and wishes in mind.
“There was a time, not so long ago, when the New York Market encompassed every inch of Javits, the West Side piers, Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th Street, and several permanent showroom buildings in the Flatiron District. Different venues were owned and operated by several different entities, and the buyer experience was eased and unified by open collaboration. Shoppe Object has always approached NY Now with that spirit of collaboration, and we’re committed to doing our part to make the New York Market experience as efficient and energizing as possible, while being true to our roots and the voices of our customers.”