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  • Larry Thomas

Best Vegas show in years

Showroom traffic heavy, order-writing brisk

LAS VEGAS - Complaints about lackluster attendance and reticent buyers were all but absent from the recent Las Vegas Market as most exhibitors enjoyed their best show in several years.
     Exhibitors said showroom traffic was heavy, order-writing was brisk and buyers' attitudes were decidedly upbeat - trends that mirrored aspects of the Toronto and Atlanta markets in January.
     "Times are still tough, but we kept hearing more positive things from our retailers," said Len Burke, vice president of marketing for case goods and upholstery major Klaussner. "The market had a lot of energy."
     Burke and other executives weren't ready to declare victory over the industry's long-running sales slump, but they were encouraged by buyers' willingness to embrace new products and put them on their sales floors.
     "I could not be more pleased with our momentum coming out of Las Vegas," said Gary Fazio, CEO of bedding major Simmons Co. "Traffic in our showroom was up by 30%, but what was most exciting was seeing our customers ‘wowed' with the new brand positioning and product lineup."
     Exhibitors said traffic was heaviest the first two days of the show - Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 30-31 - but in many cases, the brisk business extended into Wednesday and Thursday.
     And for possibly the first time, a number of buyers copied their High Point shopping patterns and visited several showrooms the weekend before the official opening.
     "We had about 25 customers on Saturday, and even more on Sunday," said Dean Crue, vice president of national accounts at Home Meridian, the parent company of Pulaski, Samuel Lawrence and Prime Resources International. "And we were even busier once the market actually opened."
     Like many exhibitors, Home Meridian reported that the heaviest concentration of buyers came from the western U.S., including many who do not typically go to High Point, but several showrooms also reported large contingents of buyers from the Midwest and South.
     "Excluding the very first Las Vegas Market (in July 2005), it was our best opening day," said Ron Ainsworth, senior vice president of Leggett & Platt's Consumer Products Group. "We wrote major orders, and some of our product introductions took off like crazy."
     Jim Ziozis, president of Linon Home Furnishings, said he was very pleased with his company's move from World Market Center Building C to a larger showroom in Building A.
     "We had one of the best Las Vegas Markets ever and believe that our success was a combination of improving business conditions and strong acceptance of the new and updated product introductions we launched," said Ziozis. "(Our larger showroom) created an environment that resulted in our retail partners spending more time in our showroom reviewing our products and new trends."
     "Showroom traffic was up, order writing was up and our overall sales were up in both our direct import and warehouse businesses," added Dave Gingrich, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Powell, which also has a Building A showroom.
     However, Building C exhibitor Classic Home also reported strong traffic, which the case goods resource attributed to the 100 new pieces the company unveiled at market.
     The company also drew traffic to a second showroom across the hall that featured one-of-a-kind pieces produced mostly in its Indian factories. This market, it brought about 500 of these pieces, twice the number it typically shows.
     "They don't have to worry that someone else is putting this in their store, so they don't have to worry about what someone else is selling it for," said Thomas Andonian, general manager.
     Many buyers, though, weren't simply looking for items. They were also interested in gallery-like programs that could boost sales per square foot for a particular product or category.
     "It's impressive that retailers are already starting to sell this," said Andrew Corkill, marketing director for massage chair resource Human Touch, which introduced its third "studio" program for its massage chairs.
     The newest studio is suitable for a four-chair display and comes with wood flooring, signage and video programs.
     "The traffic Monday was incredible ... and it was still good on Tuesday and throughout the week," Corkill said.
     Editor-in-chief Ray Allegrezza, Senior Retail Editor Clint Engel, Associate Editor Thomas Russell and Executive Editor David Perry contributed to this story.


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