The three-day Christmas In Atlanta shopping bazaar at the Georgia World Congress Center earlier this month was touted to potential vendors as a "must see" affair. It turned out to be a flop, according to vendors and craftspeople.
"It was a ghost town," said Vinis Walker of BeUStyle, which sells women's accessories.
Walker was one of 80 to 100 vendors who paid varying amounts of money to sell their wares at the bazaar from Dec. 6-8. Walker estimated about 500 people walked past her booth over the three days, far fewer than the 75,000 she expected.
A nonprofit group, Entrepreneurs Helping Entrepreneurs, organized the event which promised in its vendor kit, major advertising and foot traffic of over 75,000 potential customers who were expected to attend other events at the GWCC at the same time.
"We were expecting ridiculous turnout. This is one of my sole ways of getting my product out locally," said Laura Moore who sold only one handbag over the three-day affair.
Moore, owner of Jersey Peach Designs, said she is left with piles of products she expected to sell.
Robert Wei, of ReelBoom, said he didn't sell a single mp3 player and speaker device.
Walter Parker of SUNDAY BUM, a men's loungewear designer, said the promises made in the vendor package lured him and many others to register for booth space at the event.
Mark Zimmerman, general manager of the GWCC, acknowledged the poor turnout but said advertising is the event promoter's responsibility - not the venue's.
The center was simultaneously hosting two other major events which brought more than 100,000 attendees. Zimmerman speculated that poor signage may have contributed to few of those attendees noticing the bazaar.
When vendors complained, center management created additional signs to direct passersby into the marketplace even though it wasn't their responsibility Zimmerman pointed out.
Koren Conrad, executive director of Entrepreneurs Helping Entrepreneurs, pointed the finger at the GWCC. She said in a statement that the World Congress Center did not fulfill some promises made by an former GWCC employee, including community outreach, marketing and a partnership with a well-known charity. Conrad acknowledged those items were not listed in the venue contract.
"She probably bit off more than she could chew," said Moore about Conrad.
Moore said Conrad has not returned calls made by furious vendors who want all or some of their money back.
Conrad told CBS Atlanta reporter Jeff Chirico that she will contact the vendors personally within the next couple days to help address their concerns. Conrad said she also lost money as a result of the poor attendance.
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