Ah, the pursuit of the perfect souvenir.
Perhaps Wild Pearle’s jade and amethyst jewelry sold at a national park gets you going. Or maybe it’s a Buck Knife that says “Gatlinburg, Tennessee” on the handle. Could it be a neon T-shirt from Miami Beach?
Exhibitors at the Las Vegas Souvenir &Resort Gift Show probably hope it’s a combination of all of the above.
Through Friday, the show has taken over 125,000 net square feet of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s North Hall. Attendance has grown 15 percent since 2012, although show partner Tim von Gal wouldn’t release specific numbers for competitive reasons.
“We are always very sensitive to making sure we have the proper buyer-to-vendor ratio that makes sense,” said von Gal, a partner in Urban Expositions and the 8-year-old show.
Von Gal attributes the attendance growth to a solid critical mass of products on the floor, strong buyers and alignments with retail industry associations. Everyone from hotel-casinos, zoos and aquariums to museums and theme parks attend.
“Las Vegas is such a universally identified gathering place for tourism but also business,” von Gal said. “It’s a tremendous attraction.”
On the floor, a collection of coffee mugs bearing the names of destinations across the United States covered the space, interspersed with neon-colored sweats, stickers, plush toys, keychains and most anything you’d see in a tourist souvenir shop throughout the country.
First-time exhibitor Impact Accessories’ booth of themed crystal jewelry ruled the day. It displayed zoo and marine life pieces including starfish pendants and earrings, peacock pins and owl necklaces, and red crab earrings.
“Traffic is not as good as we expected,” sales representative Stacy Mim said, although the booth did have a few customers at mid-morning Thursday.
Las Vegas-based exhibitor Reno Tahoe Specialty Inc. was having a different show experience. Sales executive Patty Gremm said buyers have shown a lot of interest in the company’s branded items, which include a 64-ounce flask, rhinestone-studded lanyards and the ever-popular coffee mugs.
“A mug is a mug. The only thing that differentiates it from another company is the graphic and the price point. We’re always trying to come up with something different,” Gremm said. “It’s a really tight balance.”
To that end, the 47-year-old company recently released Vegas mugs wrapped in a photo of the city, topped off with a hint of sparkle. For their lanyards, they add a charm at the bottom that says, “I love Vegas.”
Sometimes one different detail is all you need to make a sale, Gremm said.
Staying on top of trends is key for any souvenir manufacturer, company president and owner Jerry Gates said. To stay current, he travels to China twice a year. Right now neon is huge, he said, and those visors with the clear plastic bills are back.
“Everything has its ebb and flow,” Gates said.
Other industry trends, according to von Gal, are Made in America and eco-friendly products.
“Pink has always been in. Anything that has a glittery effect seems to do really well right now,” Gates said.
His products can be found all over the country, but Las Vegas and other Nevada destinations are Reno Tahoe Specialty’s bread and butter. Their gift items are sold at McCarran International Airport, area Walgreens, hotel gift shops, ABC Stores, CVS and Wal-Mart.
Gates said his company has seen sales increases over the last four or five years.
Another 47-year-old manufacturer, Eagle Products Inc., is based in Kansas City, Mo. Owned by Duffy Carduff and his wife, Marie, and a slew of others in the Carduff clan, the company sells colorful T-shirts to stores, resorts and national parks in almost every destination in the country. They employ five full-time artists and print their shirts in Kansas City.
“We have learned to change with the times,” Carduff said. “Back in the ’60s, we did peace signs, flowers and anti-war. Now we’re doing peace signs, flowers and anti-war.”
And neon, which he said is back for the fourth time.
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.