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Convention Center Nears 1M Attendees in ’23

The Anaheim Convention Center hosted over 100 meetings and conventions in 2023, including recent mega-shows such as Blizzard Entertainment’s BlizzCon, which returned for the first time in person since the pandemic.

The 1.8 million-square-foot center expects to end this year with 1 million attendees in total, marking its return to pre-pandemic levels.

Anaheim’s last convention of the year, DesignerCon, added around 40,000 people to the final headcount during last weekend’s three-day event.

DesignerCon, an art, design and collectible showcase founded by Ben Goretsky in 2005, moved to Anaheim in 2018 when its former venue in Pasadena could no longer fit the size of the event. The show originally started with only 10 vendors and under 200 people in attendance.

“We started off mostly online, but I wanted to start an event that would get the community together” in one place, Goretsky told the Business Journal.

Along with attracting 40,000 participants, DesignerCon hosted over 700 vendors in around 300,000 square feet of space at the convention center.

The event’s most notable vendors are international toy manufacturers who don’t attend any other collectible show in the

U.S. The companies, hailing from Japan, Singapore, Italy, Spain, Mexico and others, in turn bring exclusive products to sell at the show which directly contribute to attendance growth every year, according to Goretsky.

“We curate the show based on what our attendees want and for our vendors to succeed,” Goretsky said of the annual lineup.

International Following

MediCom Toy, based in Japan, had the largest booth at DesignerCon and brought along a large collector base, Goretsky noted. The company, in business for 20 years, only exhibits at the Anaheim event.

China-based PopMart, which opened its first U.S. store at South Coast Plaza in 2022, sold its designer blind boxes as well.

Other styles of design and art outside of vinyl toys have become a large part of the show, involving streetwear enthusiasts, vinyl collectors, special edition book hunters and more.

Irvine-based apparel company Obey Clothing, known for its collaborations with international artists, set up shop this year.

Digital collectibles are slowly growing in presence as well.

Various street artists and local designers were also in attendance signing exclusive prints,
and many of them have the opportunity to network with the larger manufacturers and toy companies at DesignerCon, Goretsky said.

He said that both the vendors and artists have helped the show’s notability because of each one’s following that visit the show. International attendees make up a large part of the crowds as well.

Goretsky noted that the limited amount of the show’s collectible items also drives the increase of attendees each year.

An annual theme allows participating companies to create additional limited-edition items for sale; this year, 100 artists created custom figurines of the Hollywood sign as part of 2023’s theme highlighting its 100-year anniversary.

“Collectors are more careful and selective now,” he said. “Companies have to try a little harder to get their attention. It’s part of the game.”

Home Base

The Anaheim Convention Center allows scalability for the show, which Goretsky aims to grow eventually to 600,000 square feet and possibly 1 million square feet in the future. He plans on extending the duration to four or five days as well.

Goretsky said that Anaheim will be home to the flagship show as he takes DesignerCon internationally. The event has taken place in London for the past two years and the team is in talks to host the convention in China and Japan as well.

“We’re looking at areas in the world that make sense for our audience while keeping in touch with our American side,” Goretsky said.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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