The Las Vegas Market trade show kicked off Sunday, one of the first events to return to the city since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than a year ago.
Vendors and buyers at the downtown Las Vegas event welcomed the five-day home furnishings and decor show, put on by International Market Centers, as a sign of recovery and a step toward normalcy. The event is expected to draw upward of 10,000 visitors.
Coco Hall, a local buyer from Las Vegas, said Sunday’s kickoff for the Las Vegas Market signals that recovery is underway.
“I am really excited because, for the last year and a half, there hasn’t been any place for us to buy,” said Hall. “Having them back again, it’s really good. It’s good for the city, the county. … There were a lot of people that were out of here in Las Vegas. So, it’s really exciting because now people are starting to go back to work. A lot of us have been vaccinated, so I am really happy for our city.”
Hall added that the registration experience was seamless. In past years, Hall said she would wait in long lines to get into the market.
“What they did now where the registration came on your Wallet (app) on iPhone – it was easy. I just show it to them and they let you through,” said Hall. “I mean, I think this is the way it should be from now on, instead of having these long lines.”
In addition to a simplified registration process with mobile passes, International Market Centers said it increased its COVID-19 safety protocols and signages — from stickers in elevators to capacity signs at the showroom — placed throughout the facilities. Intercom announcements at the Expo routinely remind visitors to socially distance themselves and wear masks.
Maria Sine, a buyer from Brentwood, California, said she’s glad that people are adhering to safety guidelines.
“I think it’s very simple the way they’ve set it up. I think the directions on the floor are helpful,” said Sine. “There’s a lot of spacing, which is good so you’re not on top of one another. The elevators are done that way so there’s only five people in the elevator, which is nice.”
Twice a year, thousands of home and gift industry professionals have come to the show at the World Market Center to source gifts, furniture, bedding, lighting, flooring and home decor from thousands of brands.
For many companies, large and small, the Las Vegas Market is an opportunity to reach new clients and build relationships with distributors and suppliers.
Solido Furniture – a Mexico-based company that specializes in bespoke furniture, wood and steel crafts, and decorations – said the Las Vegas Market comes at a crucial time when the company is expanding its footprint in the U.S. Last year, it opened a warehouse in San Diego.
Daniel Morales Salin, a sales manager for Solido Furniture, said it’s the first trade show for the company since the pandemic. Last year, the company had to cancel three shows. It’s also the first time Solido has ventured into the Las Vegas Market.
“Obviously it hurts our store because showcases are our best opportunities to get new clients and your distributors,” he said, adding that the Las Vegas Market once again allows them to present their products to new customers. “We’re pretty excited and looking forward to our future here.”
Other companies such as New Hampshire-based Continental Home, which offers lighting, ceramics, and natural wood products, have been at the Las Vegas Market for the last seven years.
Ashley Jensen, a sales representative, said the large numbers of people showing up at Sunday’s opening is a “good sign for recovery.”
“I think that people are excited to be out – I’m so happy that there’s a flow of traffic. It’s full,” added Jensen. “That’s a big deal for all these businesses trying to stay afloat … The economy needs to keep going and people want to spend money on their homes.”
Bob Maricich, CEO of the International Market Centers, agrees. This year, there are many newcomers too – approximately 20 percent of the pre-registration are people who have never been to the market.
Exhibitors and conventiongoers want in-person events again, Maricich said in an interview with the Review-Journal. With COVID safety protocols in place, of course.
“People are anxious to get back face-to-face,” Maricich said. “There’s no question about it. In many ways, they’re Zoom-fatigued and they can hardly wait. And the economy is just really robust for furniture, gift, home decor, and fashion. There’s a real economic need to get back at a market like this.”
Pent-up demand for home furnishings
Nourison, a New Jersey company that specializes in rugs, carpets, and home decor, saw sales increase last year.
Gerard O’Keefe, vice president of sales at Nourison, said that the industry quickly figured out a way to continue business without personal meetings at the onset of the pandemic. The company is seeing people come to its showroom at the World Market Center.
“People use Zoom, they use all the different technologies, but there’s only so much you can do. We’ve done virtual markets, we’ve done Instagram things and (using) social media,” said O’Keefe. “But our business – it’s about aesthetics and it’s about a tactile business.
“People want to touch and feel, and they want to see true colors,” he said. “And at some point, they want to get back to seeing the product in person.”
Many home furnishing companies had a banner year in sales in 2020 as Americans quarantined and worked from home.
“People had so much disposable income – they’re not using it to travel, they’re not using it to go on cruises, not using it to do much of anything like that,” added O’Keefe. “So fortunately for us, in the home furnishings industry, they’ve been sitting at home and figuring, ‘Let me do some stuff around the house and fix it up.’”
Consumers’ appetites for home decor, furniture, and outdoor living space products are likely to continue.
“I believe that not only will it be this year. I think it could be a fundamental secular change that people are investing more in their homes,” said Maricich. “And, especially if there’s a redefinition of work, and some of that has some element of home and not commuting, it’s bound to benefit the homeowners and apartment dwellers.”