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Are You Going To Premarket?

April 28, 2009

Well, to my surprise, the dates for pre-market and regular market in Chicago have been announced through 2014. The last I had heard, the ICFA was discussing a single market probably to be held in late July or early August. Some manufacturers, Brown Jordan comes to mind, even announced at the 2008 pre-market that they were not going to participate in premarket after 2009. As they say, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

After putting all of these dates on my calendar for the next six years, I got a call from my daughter who lives permanently in Australia. She was excited to tell me that she, her husband, and my three grandchildren are coming to the States for a three-week visit at the end of June. Her visit would coincide with pre-market in Chicago and gift market in Atlanta. By attending both of those markets, I would miss four or five days of my only chance to see my grandchildren for the next year. It seems to be quite a dilemma.

Then, I started questioning why I was going to pre-market this year. First, I tried to figure out why I go to this market. I came up with these four points: to see new product, to see new colors, to take advantage of early early buys, and to exchange information with fellow storeowners. For me to go this year, I would have to be able to do most, if not all, of these things. Let’s take them point-by-point.

The premarket is supposed to be where manufacturers show prototypes and production examples of new introductions. With the industry in the state it is in right now, I am hearing through the grape vine that there won’t be a lot of new introductions for 2010. I am sure some vendors will surprise me with a lot of introductions; it’s just that it takes a lot to surprise me at my age.

With regard to new colors, several reps have already told me that their manufacturers are going to try to save costs by not creating a new 2010 swatch book. They are going to continue using their 2009 book with some minor modifications. But, I am expecting colors for 2010 to be very similar to this year.

I don’t know about you, but 2009 isn’t going to be a very good year because of the economy. The first quarter was the pits. It looks like April is going to hold up. But, I am not expecting much from May and June.  Even if they do better than I expect, I don’t think I am going to be in a buying mood as early as July. Before I make big commitments for 2010, I need to see if the economy shows signs of continued improvement. I will have a better sense of this by September. So, I am not ready to take advantage of early early buys in July.

Another reason why I am hesitant to place early early buys in July is that I got stung pretty badly taking advantage of these buys at pre-market in 2008. Towards the end of the year, as the economy tanked, vendors aggressively lowered prices. All of the sudden my early early buys ended up being pretty bad deals for me. Now, I know vendors will say that isn’t going to happen again this year. However, if the economy continues to slide, they may have no choice. Come 2010, I don’t want to be caught with merchandise in my warehouse that I could have paid less for if I had only waited a couple of months.

Finally, in a normal business year, spending the money to go to two markets in two months would not put a strain on my business. This year it will. I’ll bet many of you who are reading this blog are in the same boat and are still undecided about whether you will go to pre-market are not. If market is not well attended, there goes “exchanging ideas with my fellow retailers.”

Of course, I have to consider I could lose street cred in the eyes of my reps and vendors if I don’t attend this important market. Many of them think (perhaps rightly so) that to be a player in this business you have to go to every market. Saving face in this tough economy may not be as important as saving money.

I still have some time before I make my final decision. It’s going to be hard. As soon as I do, I will let you know. The good news, though, if I miss this year’s premarket at least I know there are five more already scheduled.

Yours and confused retailing, Bruce