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Nov 12, 2020

Planning for a private trade show experience during COVID-19

Northstar Fashion Exhibitors is a private trade show that was established in 1937 for retail apparel buyers and manufacturer’s representatives in the Middle and Upper Midwest to assemble. The show is a one-stop shop for buyers to engage with apparel companies to help drive their retail store inventory for the upcoming season.

Making the decision to proceed can be half the battle. When the pandemic hit, this family-owned and operated business had much to consider, but ultimately was determined to host their show.

So, the work began and in the end, a successful private trade show came and went – with great success.

We interviewed show organizers Stephanie Siegel and Michelle Sung and asked them to share their experience in taking on this challenge at Saint Paul RiverCentre.

Tell us about your journey in deciding to move forward with the planning of your event during this pandemic.
Northstar has been hosting trade shows at the RiverCentre for many years. While we have always been impressed by the level of professionalism and organization of the staff, we were still nervous about resuming trade shows during the pandemic. After a lot of research, guidance from the MN Department of Health, and planning sessions with the RiverCentre team regarding some necessary changes, we felt that we could safely resume our shows.

What would you say were the key components you had in place for hosting a safe environment for your event?
The changes that needed to be implemented in order to be able to move forward with our show safely were at first a bit overwhelming: masks; social distancing; increased cleaning, sanitization, and hygiene protocols; planning for the safe consumption of food and beverages; and hall layout modifications. However, the RiverCentre had already thought everything through. Not only did the RiverCentre team offer recommendations, but they offered the resources we needed to put those recommendations into practice.

How did the team at Saint Paul RiverCentre help you prepare for your event? 
Paige, Jillian, and Gabe from the RiverCentre were tremendous assets in helping us prepare our attendees for what to expect at the show. They did a walkthrough with us prior to the event so we could see the space and ask questions. Paige helped us understand the layout and even put together a map that we were able to get out to our attendees in advance. Jillian walked us through how the same exceptional food and beverages could be offered safely. Gabe suggested we film a video for our attendees to help them know what to expect. We returned to the RiverCentre the week before the show to film our video and everything was set up the way it was going to be at showtime! Tons of people ended up watching our video and said it really helped prepare them for the changes, as well as feel confident that health and safety guidelines were being taken seriously.  We are thrilled to report that our October show was a success! Everyone on the RiverCentre team was knowledgeable, patient, supportive, creative, attentive, and incredibly hard-working.

What sort of feedback did you receive from your guests and staff about attending an event at Saint Paul RiverCentre?
We had overwhelming feedback from our attendees that the space was easy to navigate and very clean. Everyone loved the food, as usual! One exhibitor who has been attending shows around the country for many years said the food was "phenomenal—the best food you can get at ANY show." Most importantly, our attendees said that they felt safe. We are so thankful to have had this incredible team to help us navigate these unprecedented times and we look forward to continuing to partner with them.

Saint Paul RiverCentre

175 West Kellogg Boulevard | Saint Paul, MN 55102

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