Excitement, traffic peak early in Las Vegas
Chris Gigley -- Casual Living, September 1, 2008
The World Market Center brought in Rod Stewart to kickstart the July 2008 Las Vegas Market and the opening of its third building, the 2.1 million-sq.-ft. Building C. For a little while, his opening night concert on July 28 appeared to be the boost exhibitors wanted.
“Monday and Tuesday were incredibly strong days,” said H. Alex Boyer, vice president of sales and marketing for Two Palms. “Monday was the biggest opening day we've ever had in Vegas.”
Boyer said traffic in the company's Building B showroom declined on Wednesday and never recovered.
Brent Ford, national sales director of Casual Decor by Kaven, noticed the same traffic pattern in his temporary space in Building C. But after spending several Las Vegas Markets in a temporary booth at the Sands Convention Center, he didn't complain. He also had modest expectations coming in.
“Traffic was much better than I thought it would be,” he said. “The buyers who were there were there to buy. There weren't many casual observers.”
There were, however, a number of international buyers looking to take advantage of favorable exchange rates.
“International buyers seemed to be the ones who were most serious about buying,” said Ford, who noted a particularly strong contingent from Mexico.
“We saw quite a few Canadians,” Boyer said. “But given the exchange rate, I expected to see more international customers.”
Nevertheless, international business continued its growth pattern in Vegas, and management made an effort to foster more. It distributed a larger second edition of its International Buyers Export Guide, a listing of 280 exhibitors with international capabilities including export capabilities, minimum purchase requirements, consolidation and shipping services, and bilingual showroom staff.
On the domestic front, the Las Vegas Market did attract out-of-region buyers, but exhibitors said the turnout was still predominantly West Coast. For Chris Bruning of GroovyStuff, which has a showroom in Building A, that's not a problem.
“We're sold Vegas will open up the West Coast market for us,” Bruning said. “Business is tough right now, but these buildings aren't going anywhere and will be here when things turn around.”
In the meantime, Bruning said the company is opening new West Coast accounts and seeing old West Coast accounts that had never seen the line in person before.
Many of those and other buyers in Las Vegas showed a greater willingness to take chances on new purchases, despite the economy.
“We saw more interest in contemporary looks,” said Douglas Chan of King's Rattan, Inc. “I think buyers in general aren't looking for traditional right now because that's what everyone else has. They definitely want something different.”
Bruning said part of that had to do with being in a West Coast market.
“The West Coast buyer is more open to adopting new things than the conservative group you see at markets on the East Coast,” he said.
One of the best examples of the kinds of chances Vegas buyers took was a Two Palms line the company loosely calls Just for Fun. The teak furniture pieces are fashioned from the roots and stumps of the trees. Boyer suggested buyers liked the green aspect.
“It's environmentally conscious because we're using the byproduct of the harvest,” he said.
More likely, buyers were turned on by the naturally wild look of the sculptures, tables and chairs. The line has the kind of unusual design that creates intrigue and excitement in a store display. Hopefully, that excitement the product creates carries over a little longer for buyers than the Rod Stewart concert did at the market.
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