When we decided last August to hold our first Internet Retailer 2005 Conference & Exhibition in Chicago on June 7 & 8 (see the 16-page official conference program in this issue), we had a clear vision of what we wanted to accomplish. We wanted a conference agenda that featured the most qualified speakers we could find--e-retailers who we know from covering this industry are pioneering best practices in online retailing. No one would get to the podium by sponsoring the show or advertising in these pages.
We wanted an event that appealed to all sectors of the online retailing market--retail chains, catalogers, web-only merchants and manufacturers who use the web to sell their products directly to consumers. We also wanted a business-oriented conference from which attendees would return home with useful tips on how to improve their own web-based retailing operations. Finally, we wanted a show that was priced well below other conferences and open to anyone willing to pay a reasonable registration fee.
We thought that formula would produce a successful first-year event, a base from which we could build the premier event in the e-retailing business. We frankly did not expect the response we got. At this writing, we are confident that total attendance at IR2005 will hit the 1,000 mark, including more than 800 paid attendees--about double what we expected for our first show. At our former publishing company, my management team developed and operated many industry conferences in financial services, including some market leading shows. But we never produced a first conference in a market that experienced the demand IR2005 has enjoyed. What`s more important to me than the mere numbers is the make-up of the attendee list. Registrants come from every corner of this business, an extremely diverse mix of online merchants who will gather under one roof and by their presence will give testimony about just how vital the Internet retailing industry is.
We are both gratified and humbled by this outpouring of support for our new conference. We are grateful that Internet Retailer is a brand known by its readers--who are also the attendees at this show--for the objective, detailed and comprehensive editorial coverage of online retailing that we provide. That goes a long way to explain the acceptance of a first-year conference with the Internet Retailer name on it. We are also grateful that so many of our best sources agreed to speak at the conference, taking time from their busy schedules to share their experiences with others in the industry and thereby helping advance the overall performance of e-retailing. Finally, we are grateful for the support that our advertisers have shown by becoming exhibitors and sponsors of this event. We only wish we had an exhibit hall large enough to provide booths for the 150 vendors who wanted to exhibit at the show but had to be turned away. Next year, the Exhibit Hall at Internet Retailer 2006, which will also be held in Chicago in the first week of June, will be large enough to house 260 booths, more than five times this year`s number.
And it is thinking about next year that humbles us about this year`s turnout. We want those coming to Internet Retailer 2005 to come back in 2006, and we know that will only happen if we do everything to make this year`s conference work for everyone attending and exhibiting. We are committed to doing our best. If you haven`t registered yet, there`s still time. Visit internetretailer.com and click on the ad for the conference. We hope to see you in Chicago.