29 Aug 2016
Expanded Remit Pays Dividends for Las Vegas Summer Market
Moving on from its original role as a regional showcase for the furniture sector, the Las Vegas Summer Market is now a truly national event, with growing sections now dedicated to food, houseware, bedding, antiques, gifts and premiums.
With high temperatures breaking records outside the walls of the World Market Center Campus, nestled within, the Las Vegas Summer Market also set a new record, with the event extending across 118,500 square feet of showroom space and taking in excess of five million total square foot of product space for the first time.
A series of staged displays by leading brands welcomed attendees in the plaza that connected the main market buildings. Here they could enjoy a cold bottle of water or something a little more lively from the bar, bracing themselves to scour the floor-after-floor that housed this year's offerings. By mid-afternoon, happy hours were in full swing on elevator landings and in showrooms, creating something of a festive – yet elegant – atmosphere amid this distinctly design-minded crowd.
Along with overall growth, this year the Market saw a strong showing in areas that hadn't been part of its original remit. What started as a regional event, mainly focussing on furniture, has rapidly gained ground in the gift and home décor space, while also now extending to the edibles sector.
In total, gifts added more than 27,000 square feet of showroom space, while home décor extended across a further 21,000 square feet. Over on Floor 11 of Building C, gourmet houseware and foodstuffs merited 12 new showrooms, with more than 25 new lines of food, tabletop, gourmet and houseware items on show. Perhaps in recognition of this extended remit, gift buyer attendance was also said to be up, showing a fairly hefty 28% rise over last year.
Commenting on the ever-evolving nature of the event, Bob Maricich, Chief Executive of the International Market Centers, said: "Our focussed, strategic growth plan for the Las Vegas Market has succeeded, with product resources and retailer registrations hitting an all-time high this year.
"Overall, the Las Vegas Market is continuing its extraordinary transformation from an exclusive furniture event into the fastest-growing furniture, home décor and gift destination in the western US, while also becoming a significant showcase in the bedding sector."
A testament to the success of this new policy came courtesy of Los Angeles-based Fine Lines. A distributor of gift, fashion and home décor brands, its stand was packed with visitors throughout the event. When asked as to what was exciting particular interest, Matthew Katzenson, the company's Chief Executive, identified bullet journalling, urban gardening and products with stories as the items that were proving most popular.
Bullet journalling – or BuJo – is freeform planning in a whimsical paper journal. Tasks are marked with dots – or bullet points – and thoughts are marked with a dash. According to Katzenson, it's essentially long-form journalling in the age of 140-character tweets. He said: "It's amazing how, in the world of digital devices, actual journalling by hand is still doing quite so well."
With regard to the upcoming holiday period, Katzenson also noted a strong interest in the organic grow kits he distributes on behalf of Los Angeles-based Urban Agriculture. These allow city dwellers to grow vegetables and herbs in hip-looking containers made from recycled tea bags, with the most popular being the cocktail-making kits – grow your own herb and turn it into a cocktail with the included mixer – and small trees. He said: "People like the idea of growing a tree and planting it in their yard to celebrate the birth of a child or their arrival in a new home. People are, understandably, quite sentimental about such things."
His assertion that products with stories attached continue to do well was proved throughout the event. Laura Reid, the founder of the California-based Ethics Supply Company, took the inspiration for her product range from her visits to many of the US national parks. This led her to launch a line of candles and personal care products that capture the sense of adventure and unique beauty of each park.
Describing the sentiments excited by Angel's Landing in Utah, she once wrote: "Retreat is no longer an option, perseverance has won, glory has triumphed over the mundane." This feeling clearly resonated with gift shop owners across the US, with many of them more than happy to stock up on her range of hand-poured indulgent candles, all named after natural wonder landmarks.
Perhaps a less laudable sentiment may have been excited by Freaker, a sock said to fit any beverage bottle. Crowd-funding by the North Carolina-based Freaker USA raised more than US$60,000 and breathed new life into a local textile factory. Four years later, the brand went back online and raised a further $255,000 for a line of socks designed for humans. Now it tours the country with a neon-party house, promoting its range of top selling designs, including Lance Tiny-Arms Strong and Atlas Chugged.
While socks may be doing well with adults, it's clocks that seem to be appealing to kids. Commenting on their ability to draw new customers, Kathleen Milne, the Founder of California's Kathleen Milne Company, said: "They really bring people in."
Aside from timepieces, over on her children's novelties stand, retailers couldn't keep their hands (and the spray bottle) off Holly & Beau rain-macs and umbrellas that change colour when wet. Another popular choice was a range of rubber toys produced by India's Rubbabu, with their simple designs, bright colours and velvety finish playing well with buyers.
Perhaps a more surprising hit was Milnes' range of colouring supplies for both kids and adults. Nonplussed at their success, she said: "Art supplies are very popular right now. Some designs are very sophisticated and everyone is colouring."
Across the aisle at the Diverse Marketing stand, the big surprise was actually out of the bag a month earlier with the launch of Pokémon Go. Thanks to holding the licensing rights to the Pokémon character, the Dallas-based specialist gift and toy sales agency had taken more than $40 million at the earlier AmericasMarket in Atlanta in just two days.
Acknowledging his surprise windfall, Wes Hardin, the company's President, said: "No one saw it coming. I didn't know about it until I started reading about it on Instagram. A week before the Atlanta show, I said to my wife that we needed to move our Pokémon products up front because they may sell. And then it proved to be the best-selling thing in the history of our company."
Over at the temporary Pavilions, it was something of a refuge from the mass market mania with the focus more on hidden gems and the quirky designs to be found in the relatively trendy segments of repurposed and recycled home décor, jewellery and antiques. For the first time, the market also played host to a seminar on antiquing and otherwise making money from vintage or vintage-inspired products.
As well as yardwork made of painted shovels, you could also find delicate blown glass, tin-clad steamboat trunks, porcelain figurines and rustic furniture. The unique nature of each piece – and its potential to have a useful second life – made for an exciting treasure hunt for many buyers.
For Toma Clark Haines, owner of The Antiques Diva & Co, a sourcing and antiques touring company, exploring this new space was a must. She said: "For the interior design community, this is an incredible resource when it comes to finding vintage, repurposed and one-of-a-kind finds.
"The wholesale pricing is amazing and everything is available for immediate delivery. They have a respected shipper right here on-site and that makes the entire process easy. They have thought of everything."
The Las Vegas Summer Market 2016 took place at the World Market Center Campus and ran from 31 July-4 August.
Anna Huddleston, Special Correspondent, Las Vegas