This year, nearly 900 people have preregistered for the March 1 keynote luncheon that precedes the expo’s opening.
That’s considerably higher than the 780 that attended last year, Vorhees said.
For the Feb. 28 circus-themed gala opening party, more than 1,000 have signed-up for the event, which drew 1,285 participants last year.
Large participation is also expected for Feb. 28 educational sessions.
This year’s workshops are scheduled to address improving customer connections and how social media is affecting consumer shopping trends.
A new show activity is the council’s retail and foodservice appreciation lunch.
Scheduled for Feb. 28, the invitation-only luncheon is to help the council’s directors become better acquainted with the many buyers that participate in the show, Vorhees said.
“The luncheon will be very informal and will be a way we can express our appreciation for their support of the show,” he said.
“This show usually attracts 250-300 buyers. Out of those that come to the show, unless they’re based in the Southeast, most of our directors wouldn’t know them if they walked into the room.”
Vorhees said the council plans to host the luncheon during future Southern Exposures.
Additionally, the council this year plans to kick off its first Tom Page Golf Classic.
Scheduled for Feb. 27, the annual opening day golf tournament is now named for past council president and founding member Tom Page, the East Coast procurement manager for the Lakeland, Fla., office of Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Supervalu Inc., who retired last year.
“This organization would not be what it is today without Tom’s help and guidance over the years,” Vorhees said.
“We’ve named the tournament for him for all the things he’s done for the council.”
At the council’s first Southern Exposure in 2004 in Lakeland, Page was the one who came up with the idea of a contest among the council’s leaders to see how many booth spaces the group could sell, Vorhees said.