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Christmas Comes Early Courtesy of the Winter 2017 Las Vegas Market

One of the world's largest gift and home furnishings events, the recent Winter Las Vegas Market show saw buyers keen to secure on-trend items for the 2017 festive period, while handmade ornaments and retro items also proved popular.

Photo: Stocking fillers: The surprisingly capacious Girly Girl Garter from Andy Paige Style.
Stocking fillers: The surprisingly capacious Girly Girl Garter from Andy Paige Style.
Photo: Stocking fillers: The surprisingly capacious Girly Girl Garter from Andy Paige Style.
Stocking fillers: The surprisingly capacious Girly Girl Garter from Andy Paige Style.

The recent Winter 2017 Las Vegas Market, one of the world's largest gift and home furnishings events, boasted a record-breaking 4,003 exhibitors, requiring some 170,000-square-feet of expanded showroom space. Overall attendance was also up, beating last winter's all-time high by 13% in terms of gift buyer attendance and by 3% with regard to the additional number of interior designers vesting in the show.

Clearly delighted with the figures, Robert Maricich, Chief Executive of International Market Centers, the company behind the event, said: "Across the board, this was the busiest Las Vegas Market since we launched 10 years ago. The event certainly reflected the overall health of the industry, with heightened business activity reported across the majority of our showrooms, especially with regard to the furniture, home décor and gift categories."

Overall, gifts was one of the fastest growing categories, with 37 new or expanded showrooms. There was also a notable jump in the number of temporary exhibits, with more than 180 companies taking space in The Pavilions, an area of the show dedicated to gift, home, handmade and antique lines.

For a number of buyers in attendance, the overall sentiment reflected a new political reality, with the event taking place in the immediate aftermath of the inauguration of Donald Trump as the new US President. Highlighting this knock-on effect, Peter Friendmann, Product and Marketing Vice-president of Demdaco, a Kansas-based specialist in handmade gifts, said: "Consumers have political exhaustion. We are anticipating people circling the wagons a bit and focusing more on family time.

"This could lead to an increase in demand for board games and cooking-together products as people look to get away from social media for a while. It's a trend that tends to circle back around every five years or so, with the more positively minded companies set to be well positioned to take advantage of this."

Safe and Sound

With consumers increasingly looking at their homes as safe havens, many buyers were keen to stock up on home-décor products and any gift items that promoted a sense of calm and stability. Acknowledging this particular trend, Anne Secoy, Head of Research and Development at Wholesale Décor, an Ohio-based home-furnishings specialist, said: "Our vintage line is proving hugely popular at the moment. This year, we've introduced a range of vintage items in a variety of soft colours, including sage, powder blue, white and light grey, all accented with brightly coloured highlights. Birds, butterflies and flowers remain in demand by many of our customers and we have utilised these motifs across a number of our new products.

"While consumers still want unique items at competitive prices, they also want to be sure that their money has been spent wisely. In particular, they want to know that their purchase is going to last."

Taking this a stage further was the growing interest in investing in future family heirlooms, a trend that Kiss That Frog, a California-based wholesaler, was particularly keen to capitalise on. In line with this, the company reported particular interest in its range of Andrée Jardin home and body brushes, as well as its selection of classically styled ostrich-feather dusters.

Commenting on recent changes to the business, Sales Manager Kayleigh Taylor said: "A new generation of the family that founded the company has now taken over and they're keen to add a modern aesthetic twist to a number of traditional, well-built items. In particular, they love to produce brushes that really last, believing there's always the right tool for any given task."

Photo: Vineralla’s bottled umbrellas.
Vineralla's bottled umbrellas.
Photo: Vineralla’s bottled umbrellas.
Vineralla's bottled umbrellas.
Photo: Designer dusters from Kiss That Frog.
Designer dusters from Kiss That Frog.
Photo: Designer dusters from Kiss That Frog.
Designer dusters from Kiss That Frog.

Such tailoring was evident in both the company's vase brush, which comes complete with a cotton tip for cleaning expensive china, as well as its bespoke radiator brush. While neither is actually a necessity for most US dwellings, they are both very much at home in an upscale New York brownstone, while also fitting in with the company's avowed philosophy – "Keep it, display it beautifully, be proud to have it."

Staying with the overall theme of tranquility and sustainability, a range of nature-inspired ceramic pieces from Thailand's Floral Import clearly struck a chord with many buyers. Taking an overview of current consumer preferences, Marketing Manager Pearl Tiyapanjanit said: "Our delicate sea urchin-shaped vases are proving particularly popular, as are our contemporary ceramics with an ocean motif. Customers tend to love our hand-painted designs, with brown shells currently our top-selling items, although any pieces with tree and moss textures are also doing well."

Fun and Practical

Quite a different take on the art of design was evident on the stand of Ohio-based Modgy, a home-goods company with an emphasis on the more edgy and modern items, as exemplified by its ink-swirled expandable vase. Explaining the appeal of this particular item, David Stang, the company's Sales Director, said: "Basically, an artist injected ink into water and then we transposed it onto the vase. While we used to sell mostly primary colours and pastel, now we're switching gears."

Overall, the concept of an expandable vase is said to be catching on, with a number of museum stores and gift shops warming to the idea. In essence, the product is made of a light, thin plastic than can be folded completely flat, but which takes the shape of a vase when filled with liquid. The same concept is also now being applied to collapsible dog bowls.

Water was also the key element of another popular product debuting at the show – umbrellas in wine bottles. Explaining the thinking behind this unlikely sounding item, Sheri Hammond, the Proprietor of Vineralla, a Texas-based supplier of contemporary rainwear, said: "The idea is that you're putting a damp item in the bottle, that way you don't have to carry around a wet umbrella."

The design on the bottle matches the design on the umbrella, with those with geometric shapes and colourful patterns only second in popularity to those featuring actual wine labels. The company is now looking to expand the concept into water bottle umbrellas, complete with a thick carabiner, in line with the current interest in personal hydration items.

Latching on to quite a different trend was New York-based Andy Paige Style, which was in Las Vegas to promote its Girly Girl Garter, a lacy garter with flexible grippers that can hold items weighing up to three pounds, making it ideal for any woman who wants a secure stash for her smartphone or purse. Explaining its particular appeal, Amy Green, the company's Sales Manager, said: "Women can use it to carry important items, such as passports or credit cards, when they're travelling or in a night club and don't have a purse.

"Our bridal collection is also huge, with nude and red items selling well. Similarly in demand are coco and ivory for darker-coloured skin, as well as colours that match college sports teams."

Christmas Coming Early

Traditionally, the Winter Market has served as a showcase for Christmas trends, allowing companies to place their orders for the holiday season well in advance, with this year proving no exception. One buyer keen to be well ahead of the game was Brianne Skien, Marketing Manager for Melrose International, an Illinois-based giftware wholesaler.

Addressing the likely trends for Christmas 2017, she said: "Given our high level of pre-orders, we are very confident as to our likely holiday sales this year. There is a clear trend for decorating using everyday items and we want to be sure that our range will allow our customers and end consumers to do just that. To that end, we are selling a line of frosted bottles with jute wrap and dangling snowflakes, something we believe will prove an inspiration for those keen on DIY decorating."

While Santas remain popular, camper trailers, mermaids and feathery angels are also set to adorn this year's Christmas trees, at least according to Nicholas Lemus, the National Sales Manager for Pilgrim Imports, a Milwaukee-based supplier of ornamental gifts. Looking to the likely trends for the 2017 festive period, he said: "Ornaments with appropriate messages, such as 'wish' and 'inspired', are set to do well. Overall, simple designs will do better on the West Coast, while the more frilly and dangly items will fare better on the East Coast."

Photo: The Winter 2017 Las Vegas Market: Record floor space, exhibitor numbers and more buyers than ever before.
The Winter 2017 Las Vegas Market: Record floor space, exhibitor numbers and more buyers than ever before.
Photo: The Winter 2017 Las Vegas Market: Record floor space, exhibitor numbers and more buyers than ever before.
The Winter 2017 Las Vegas Market: Record floor space, exhibitor numbers and more buyers than ever before.

The Las Vegas Winter Market 2017 took place at the World Market Center Campus from 22 to 26 January.

Anna Huddleston, Special Correspondent, Las Vegas

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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