| Oct 6, 2009 |
Signs of an economic resurgence within the home furnishings industry
Boh staff
By Staff

The recent Las Vegas Market, held September 14-17, showed signs of an economic resurgence with a significant uptick in registration among buyers and designers and solid order writing in showrooms across World Market Center.

Exhibitors reported strong results from the moment doors opened, noting the quality of buyers in attendance and brisk order writing.

Las Vegas’ inaugural September Market saw a 12 percent increase in the number of registered buying units compared to last July. Among international buyers, there was a 36 percent increase compared to July 2008, and a 15 percent increase over February 2009 Market – with notable growth among Latin American buyers.

Market officials also reported a greater diversity in the range and type of retailers, noting a 21 percent increase in home textile buyers, a four percent gain in lighting buyers and a two percent uptick in floor coverings buyers—reinforcing Las Vegas’ position as a total home marketplace.

“We are very pleased with the result of our first September Market and encouraged by the tremendous showing in this very difficult period in the economy for the home furnishings industry. It is clear that our campaign for driving optimism filled with compelling marketing and programming encouraged manufacturers to ‘play to win’ by introducing terrific new products,” said Robert Maricich, President and CEO of World Market Center Las Vegas. “This unprecedented effort led to retailers and designers buying and left everyone with a sense of fulfillment.”

Maricich added, “We clearly attracted motivated buyers from across a broad geographic area and were highly successful in getting the right people with a desire to place orders at Market. In an environment that other trade shows and markets are reporting significant double digit declines, the results from this market were truly outstanding. This is a testament not only to World Market Center’s significant investment into this state-of-the-art platform, but also to the optimism and resolve of our industry to accelerate our collective recovery.”

A stunning 94 percent of World Market Center’s 1,400 exhibiting companies and lines launched new products at the September Las Vegas Market, and most manufacturers cited the importance of new introductions as a driving factor for their success. Further, 70 percent of the products at Market will be available for immediate shipment—a near-necessity right now, with low inventories and a strong need for retailers to bolster supply caches.

Dan Bradley, president of second-time exhibitor Henredon, said he has seen that hunger firsthand. “This Market has been even better than our first one,” said Bradley. “We introduced a few new collections at Las Vegas Market and many more appointments than last market.”

“Order-writing was off the charts,” said Jeff Cook, President and CEO of Broyhill. “We made a big commitment to new product at this Market and saw a direct correlation to sales.”

Rob Sligh, chairman of Sligh / Loft 102, said he and other exhibitors are on the lookout for new beginnings. “Difficult market conditions forced dealers and all of us to develop creative ways of generating profitable sales,” Sligh said. “In many cases retail inventories are finally depleted. Dealers are buying into fresh ideas, and are ready to sail out of the doldrums and into a freshening breeze. At this September market, we saw decision makers and order writing was up as a result.”

Ron Wanek, chairman of Ashley Furniture Industries, who introduced 380 new collections at September’s Las Vegas Market, said, “Market beat our expectations. Everyone is in a good mood and buying, so we are happy. Buyer traffic in the showroom was outstanding.”

Designer traffic was also up and Las Vegas Design Center tenants had positive reviews of market week.

First time exhibitor Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and CEO of Ethan Allen, said he could feel that enthusiasm in every aspect of opening day. “There is an attitude that this market exudes. It is really very impressive. You feel it in all of the Market’s communications. It captures the world’s interest and attitude toward good design.”

“We had an exceptional first day—both in terms of traffic and quality of traffic in our showroom,” said Theresa Swett, president of Vero Beach, Fla.-based David Francis Furniture. “We are a luxury line and our customers typically are interior designers, high-end hotel specifiers and high-end retailers. That’s all we have seen—and we have seen one after another.”

The inaugural September Las Vegas Market proved to be an opportunity for every segment of the industry, which has withstood trying economic conditions for several consecutive quarters, to begin reversing course. The shift from July to September, which positions Las Vegas Market as the first of the season, was popular among buyers seeking unique product.

Patrick McCrum, a buyer from New Zealand-based Saywell Distributors Lt., said “It is a long journey from New Zealand to Las Vegas but the excellent organization including registration, accommodation and transport make the visit easy and enjoyable. The Market was very successful for me with both existing suppliers and in sourcing new options and I am really pleased with the opportunities we have identified for 2010 and beyond. I definitely look forward to attending the Las Vegas Market again next year.”

Canadian-based retailer Heidi Neumann, owner of Mattress Miracle and Soulful Circle gift store, who shopped Las Vegas Market for the first time said, “Every single retailer in Canada would benefit from being here. Las Vegas Market has a very eclectic mix of suppliers and the buildings make for a very avant-garde presentation. I love buying North American brands because it’ll give our stores an edge in our community. Many suppliers had very aggressive promotions and good shipping programs for Canadian buyers. I have died and gone to textile heaven!”

Bub Wo, President of Honolulu based retailer C.S. Wo & Sons, said “I found the Las Vegas Market to be a very productive and worthwhile buying opportunity for our company. Las Vegas has the added benefit of being easy, affordable, convenient, efficient and a very enjoyable overall experience. This Market is becoming more and more important to us because of the increased major suppliers showing in Las Vegas and the larger presentations.”

Marie Yoshidome, a buyer with Wal-mart.com said, “Market has been good for me. I do like that there is a lot more about sustainability and I liked the floor dedicated to sustainable products. I now dedicate my time to Las Vegas Market due to ease of shopping and being centrally located.”

Robert Maricich applauded industry leaders who opted to take an aggressive approach to revitalizing their businesses.

“It’s encouraging to see the home furnishings community turn out in such strong numbers to push our recovery forward,” Maricich said. “I genuinely believe we’re turning the economic corner, and our collective long-term health will benefit from the willingness business owners have shown to be proactive.”

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our newsletter, which recaps the week’s stories, and get in-depth industry news and analysis each quarter by subscribing to our print magazine. Join BOH Insider for discounts, workshops and access to special events such as the Future of Home conference.