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Second Las Vegas Market Gets Thumbs Up

By Home Furnishings Business in on February 2006 Anyone thinking last summer's order-writing bonanza and heavy traffic at the Las Vegas market was a one shot deal had best think again.

With higher hotel rates on the Strip and a little novelty worn off, some in the industry had thought this week's show couldn't match July's blockbuster event. Indeed, some exhibitors reported slight declines in traffic, but even those said they were writing more business, and all reported no let-up at the new-account activity that was a hallmark of Las Vegas' furniture debut last year.

Most of the credit goes to the growing number of introductions brought out specifically for the Las Vegas market.

Standard Furniture, for example, showed April 2005 High Point introductions at the summer show, but came to town this week with plenty of new product, including four collections of bedroom, dining and occasional, and four new leather groups.

"The first day our traffic was even to last summer, Tuesday was off about 20 percent, and today (Wednesday) is about even to last market," said Todd Evans, vice president of sales and marketing. "As far as written and incremental business, this will be a better market. ... We've seen more new accounts than we've seen at a show in 10 years. Out of 400 accounts Monday, 130 to 140 were new customers. We've gone an entire year without seeing that many new customers."

Broyhill came to town loaded for bear, with a westernized version of Attic Heirlooms , the Mission-inspired Artisan collection, new frames and leathers for its leather container program, new textured microfibers on casual two-over-two sofas, as well as home entertainment and accent additions.

Of 42 upholstery settings on display, 12 were new frame styles, and 40 featured new fabrics. The other two settings were October introductions.

"Everybody got the message in July that this wasn't the San Francisco market where people generally just showed in-line product – there is a lot of new product here and a lot of order-writing," said Broyhill Chief Executive Officer Harvey Dondero. "We had 475 visits through Tuesday, and we had 600 total in July. Our traffic is tracking about the same, but we're doing more business on it."

Pulaski reported a dip in traffic, but as with Standard, new product resulted in better business than July.

"Our traffic is down slightly compared to July, maybe 10 percent, but the written business is up at least 50 percent," said Bill Sibbick, senior vice president. "When people came here this time, they planned more for it because they knew what to expect. They saw last summer that they'll see introductions here."

Sibbick also believes buyers are settling into a routine here, and are happy to stay at off-Strip hotels, where pricing is more moderate, making this show a real working trip.

"A lot of people seem to be thinking they didn't need to come out and spend a lot of money on the hotel room this time," he said. "For the most part, hotels are pretty good, and they don't have to stay at the big-name places."

Traffic at the Michels & Co. showroom was as strong as in July, said President Irwin Allen. A member of the market's advisory board of exhibitors, he said others on the board reported more orders as well.

"I don't see a fall-off," he said. "I think we're attracting new people who didn't come in July because it's hot, and we're still building the dealer base here."

Klaussner loaded up the showroom with more sales representatives and inside account managers to handle the anticipated crowds, and that paid off, said Darren York, vice president of merchandising.

"Our first day was up from July, and the second day was as busy as last time," he said.

"I think we have more written business this time than last summer."

Over in the Pavilions temporary spaces next to World Market Center, Universal President Randy Chrisley reported an "absolute zoo" in terms of traffic the first two days.

"Wednesday has been steady – we've had 10 percent more visits so far than in July," he said. "We had more order-writing this market than last market. It seems like a lot of last summer's window shoppers are actually writing business this time."

Universal introduced one new collection and some occasional, but plans to ramp up introductions when it moves into a 30,000-square-foot permanent space in Building 2 for next January's show. In addition, if it gets a critical mass of key buyers coming to Vegas, it will use the show as a premarket for the subsequent High Point show in addition to introducing new groups specifically for Las Vegas.

"You'd actually have time to make changes to that April product if you show it in January," Chrisley said.

Somerton, which also showed in the Pavilions, had been at the Las Vegas Furniture Show at the Sands last summer. This time it occupied a row space that took up almost half of one side wall of Pavilion 2.

"We're pleased with the traffic because we catch everyone who comes in the door," said Ed Roth, executive vice president. "We've seen more than 200 dealers the first two days, and we had 160 the whole week at the old space. The most important thing is we're seeing people who actually purchase furniture at the market."

Exhibitors also praised the market's organizers for strong action to correct problems from the first show in Las Vegas.

"Everyone's telling me the logistics are better this time, the shuttles, getting around the market," noted Klaussner's York.

Chrisley at Universal said the food service, while needing more seating, is greatly improved, as well as shuttle service.

"They've tried to address everything that was an issue last market," he said. "They still need to work on registration, and that will be a major focus I believe they'll have worked out by next market. Some kind of express registration would be the biggest single thing they could do to improve that."

Michels' Allen credited market management with paying attention to suggestions from the exhibitor advisory board.

"The staff is responsive to the information and feedback we give them," he said. "They're doing the right things, and they're responding to the needs of both the retailers and the manufacturers."

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