The International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market / Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. (MMPI) announced key events planned for this year’s International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market, which will be held Sept. 17-20, 2013, at the Chicago Merchandise Mart. The four-day trade show will kick off with an Opening Night “Backyard BBQ” Party in a fun and lively outdoor setting. Industry education seminars and the first annual combined International Casual Furnishings Association (ICFA) Awards Gala and Apollo Awards Banquet will also take place during this year’s Casual Market.

The opening night party will feature a festive “Backyard BBQ” party hosted on the South Drive of the Merchandise Mart along the scenic Chicago River, Tuesday, Sept. 17, from 6 – 7:30 p.m. CDT. The event is being planned to create a new opportunity for networking with industry peers, buyers, customers and media representatives.

“The ‘Backyard BBQ’ party will enable manufacturers, retailers, buyers, designers, and others in attendance to network in a more relaxed setting, and will provide an additional real-life exhibit opportunity for sponsors,” says Jaclyn Kelly, senior director of marketing for the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market / MMPI. “The event will showcase sponsors’ outdoor furniture, accessories, fire pits, and grills in action. Exhibiting sponsors will burn their grills and light their fire pits, demonstrating the products in full use.”

This key networking event is hosted by MMPI and sponsored by Hearth & Home magazine. The event’s Lounge Furniture and Open Flame Product Showcase sponsors include Ebel, Inc.; Saber Grills, LLC; OW Lee; Terra Flame Home; and Urban Fire. Each participating company will display new 2014 products, and light hors d’oeuvres and cocktails will be served.

Also taking place during the 2013 Casual Market is a special presentation for dealers and retailers to learn how to increase store traffic. In panel format, “Driving Traffic to your Store,” is a seminar designed to outline strategic ways of creating in-store sales promotions and improving store images and effective methods of customer engagement, all of which can lead to increased sales.

The panelists include Jack Wills of Jack Wills Outdoor Living, Tulsa, Okla.; Keith Guidry of Percy Guidry Hearth & Patio, Metairie, La.; and Doug Sanicola of Outdoor Elegance, La Verne, Calif. The panel will be moderated by Richard Wright, editor of Hearth & Home magazine.

“Driving Traffic to your Store” will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 3 p.m. CDT in room 8A, 8th floor.

Show attendees will have the opportunity to learn the art and craft of social media from Chad Harris, founder and owner of The Garden Gates, an online home décor and garden center retail store, during his “The Art of Socialfication” presentation. This seminar will provide retailers and dealers with inspiring branding techniques to implement online social networking for their businesses.

To ensure maximum value, it is suggested to have some of the following in place: a business Facebook account, business Twitter account, business Google+ account, Instagram, or a business Pinterest account. Casual Living magazine will be hosting “The Art of Socialfication,” on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 10 a.m. CDT in room 8A, 8th floor. The seminar is sponsored by Surya Rugs.

The ICFA Awards Gala will highlight the Apollo Award winners, who are the top retailers in single- and multi-store categories, and the announcement of the Lillian B. Winchester Design Excellence “Best of Show” Award. The 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award honorees will be recognized, and the ICFA Sales Representative of the Year as well as Manufacturer of the Year will be awarded. During the ICFA Awards Gala, there will be a fabric fashion show presented by Casual Living magazine and sponsored by Sunbrella, Outdura, Tri-Vantage, Ardwyn Designs, and Sunbury.

Hosted by MMPI and the ICFA, this year’s awards reception will take place Thursday, Sept. 19, at 6:30 p.m. CDT at the Field Museum, Stanley Field Hall. Tickets are required.

The Casual Market, which is endorsed and sponsored by the ICFA, is a four-day trade show that provides retailers and designers with an outlet to find all things related to outdoor and casual living. The show is 100 percent dedicated to the outdoor furnishings industry and encompasses 350,000 square feet of new and improved exhibit space with more than 45 permanent showrooms and nearly two hundred temporary exhibitors in the Market Suites. 

For more information about Casual Market events, visit