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Retailer attendance up at recent Las Vegas Market, show organizers say

LAS VEGAS — U.S. retail attendance was up 6% from a year ago and international buyer attendance rose 5% at this winter's Las Vegas Market, according to organizers.

Officials with International Market Centers said the Jan. 28-Feb. 1 show exceeded expectations and was the best attended market in four years.

IMC, which owns the World Market Center here and also most of the large showroom venues at the High Point Market, did not release raw attendance numbers, only percentage changes. Its breakdown showed several areas of strength for the Vegas event.

"This past winter market set new company records for an overwhelming number of manufacturers and contributed to a renewed, positive outlook for the entire industry. I can truly say it was the best Las Vegas Market in my tenure of five years," said Robert Maricich, CEO of International Market Centers.

He said the market generated order writing and optimism, which he attributed to the improving economy.

"We're getting a multiplication of better business, people playing to win and better buyer attendance," Maricich said. "With the strength of this Las Vegas Market, recently released positive national housing reports, and clear industry momentum, we feel this bodes very well for a strong spring (High Point) market. What we saw at market is an encouraging indicator of what's to come in 2013."

Market officials said notable gains in the international segment included a 15% jump in buyers from Latin America and the Pacific Rim and an 8% increase in Canadian buyers over a year ago.

Categories that attracted more buyers included home décor, up 39%; home textiles, up 26%; mattress retailers and contract hospitality buyers, each up 11%. The number of floor covering retailers at market doubled because of a strategic partnership with Surfaces Expo.

Maricich said one in 10 buyers seeking gift and home décor merchandise classified their business type as a furniture or mattress store, demonstrating the crossover appeal of the market.

"This supports the notion that retailers have evolved their merchandising approach and are using Las Vegas Market as a means to accomplish a more diversified sales strategy. It's not product dimensional, but rather, very lifestyle, consumer-centric. It's exciting to see new interest in our industry and evolved business models in retail," he said.

Officials said the market drew more than 1,800 exhibiting companies in 5 million square feet of space. There were 200 new brands, among them 27 permanent furniture tenants, five designer brands in the Las Vegas Design Center, 38 permanent Gift+Home tenants, 30 furniture temporaries on the sold-out B2 floor, and 107 Gift+Home temporaries on C4 and C5.

"This market was reminiscent of a building opening in terms of traffic, new tenancy, investment and overall energy," said Tom Mitchell, IMC's president of home furnishings, referring to 190 building permits to construct or improve showrooms in the past few months.

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