Chicago’s Merchandise Mart will continue to be home for Casual Show
Susan Andrews -- Casual Living, August 21, 2006
Chicago’s Merchandise Mart will continue to be home for the International Casual Furniture and Accessories Market, the only show in the United States dedicated to the indoor and outdoor casual furniture industry that’s exclusively endorsed by the Summer and Casual Furniture Manufacturers Association.
Despite attractive offers from Atlanta and Las Vegas, SCFMA recently signed a new 10-year agreement with Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc., a leading trade show and property management firm, to continue to produce and host the Casual Market at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart through the year 2017.
“I think it was very important for the Merchandise Mart to keep the Casual Market in Chicago, a city for which this show has become synonymous,” said John H. Brennen III, executive vice president, MMPI. “It’s important because that industry has been here over 25 years and it’s also a part of the home furnishings industry so it rounds out that category, which is a big one for us.”
Brennen stressed the Mart’s commitment to the industry and the value of Chicago’s central location. “It’s easy for buyers from the West Coast and the East Coast to get here,” he said. “The buyers like coming here. They say they’re comfortable with the market, the city and with us. It’s a first-class operation.”
The 2006 Casual Market, scheduled for Sept. 13-16, marks the 25th show held at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. This year’s Market and the 2007 Casual Market are the last under the current six-year agreement. Both AmericasMart in Atlanta and the World Market Center in Las Vegas attempted to make a switch attractive for SCFMA.
“The SCFMA and casual furnishings industry have developed a very strong partnership with the Merchandise Mart over the years in building the International Casual Furniture and Accessories Market,” SCFMA Executive Director Joseph P. Logan said. “Nevertheless, there are other viable and attractive venues, and the SCFMA Board could not ignore the very appealing offers placed on the table, especially by Atlanta. In the end, Merchandise Mart Properties made an extremely attractive offer to the SCFMA Board, which made it clear to our leadership that it was in the industry’s best interest to remain in Chicago.”
Since its move to the Merchandise Mart in 1981, the Casual Market has experienced dramatic increases in temporary and permanent exhibit space, as well as attendee and exhibitor satisfaction. In 2005, more than 96% of show attendees and 87% of exhibitors gave the Market its highest overall satisfaction rating.
“The SCFMA just made its longest commitment to The Merchandise Mart, for a 10-year contract,” said Bill Markowitz, president, The Veneman Group and a SCFMA board member. “It shows we are happy in Chicago. We love coming to Chicago each September. We know we can count on a professional show and we have a great relationship with the show’s management.”
“We are extremely pleased with our continued partnership with MMPI in producing and hosting the International Casual Furniture Market,” said Dudley Flanders, president of Lloyd/Flanders and chairman of the SCFMA board.
Brennen stressed the value of personal relationships built through the years with people in the industry. He noted the industry’s growth — more than doubling its original size of only one permanent floor to two with close to 185,000 square feet of space while temporary space also more than doubled its original size of less than 60,000 square feet to more than 125,000 square feet on the renovated 7th and 8th floors.
“The industry has really grown dramatically,” Brennen said. “It’s become more sophisticated and more fashionable. Consumer interest is growing, too, if you’ll look at shelter magazines with all the interest in landscaping and all the components to go in Outdoor Rooms.”
Drawing on his experience in the indoor furniture industry, Brennen views the casual industry as unique because while its players compete they also share a common goal of industry growth.
“We have a very strong, decades-long relationship with The Merchandise Mart and are pleased to continue working together to grow the casual industry,” said Bill Brown, president, retail and outdoor contract, Brown Jordan.
“This is a working market,” said Elizabeth Cooley, MMPI, director of marketing for the casual furniture industry. “Our retailers are coming because they know this is where they can find what they need to buy. We give them plenty of time to network, but the goal is to get everybody in so they can do their business.”
Dino Luckino, president of Georgia Backyard, American Backyard and past president of the Casual Furniture Retailers Association, said retailers were “thrilled to learn the show was remaining in Chicago. The Merchandise Mart has consistently put on a great show, and all of the top manufacturers are here each year. This is where we conduct the majority of our business for the following year, and we are pleased we can remain in Chicago to do so.”
Among provisions in the new agreement are additional savings and incentives for both temporary and permanent showroom exhibitors who are members of SCFMA.
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