By Jennifer Alexis
The Las Vegas Market is fairly new, but vendors have nonetheless deemed it a prime opportunity to nab that all-important face-to-face time with customers—particularly new ones.
“This market is extremely important to us,” said Kim Barta, brand manager for Shaw Living. The company has been setting up shop at the market for the past couple of years, and finds good reason to add it to the roster of annual events it participates in.
“We have been surprised by the number of new accounts and the number of people we see who don’t make it High Point or Atlanta,” she said. “We get a lot of regional customers.”
For many companies this will be the second opportunity to show their winter introductions, but Amir Loloi, president of Loloi, said he did hold back new product specifically for the Las Vegas Market. Still, he, too, stressed that the strength of the market lies largely in its ability to attract key accounts and clients for whom the Vegas market is their first or only opportunity to visit these rug showrooms.
Jaipur Chief Executive Officer Asha Chaudhary agreed that the market offers a chance to reach a different clientele, but added that is a customer base with unique and specific priorities and needs. “They are more price-conscious and lean toward better-priced goods,” she said. “And their design taste is generally more contemporary,”
Las Vegas Market is meant to reach far beyond the West Coast region in which it’s based, and according to its organizers it has been growing steadily and consistently attracting key buyers. It even bucked downward trends in trade show purchases last summer, according to Phillip McKay, Las Vegas Market senior vice president. Late last year, McKay reported that the 46 percent of attendees at the summer 2008 market purchased floor coverings. “That’s a 3 percent increase from the previous winter 2008 Las Vegas Market,” he said.
Among the market’s goals, he said, is to ensure that marketing efforts reach and effectively draw in key buyers that make the vendors’ investment worthwhile.
He added that the multicategory format of the market is a strength that all attendees can benefit from, as buyers from various segments of the home-furnishings arena converge for the event.
“We really do want to be everything to everyone,” McKay said. “In this day and age, with travel budgets limited and so many markets fragmented, we want to make sure the buyers’ experience is easier for them, especially for those cross-over buyers who are buying over several markets.”
Surya is one company that appreciates the effort. Seth King, vice president of business development for the company, said the diversity of customers at the market is its biggest strength.
“We see all types of retailers, from furniture stores to large-box stores to designers,” he said. “We also see the largest amount of international buyers.
McKay expects the February market to be a strong one, and many vendors are heading to Vegas with positive, albeit tempered, expectations.
“We are expecting no miracles,” said Alex Peykar, president of Nourison, who quickly added, “We expect to see serious customers who do not sit back in difficult times and worry, but who get out and see what they can do to help themselves.”
Companies count on reaching customers who chose to attend Las Vegas Market over others during the year, but perhaps more importantly they bank on drawing customers who are ready to buy and stock their stores with new product.
Joe Barkley, senior vice president of Kaleen, said his team will focus on connecting with its West Coast customers, but sees the market as a broad one during which the company needs to be prepared to meet various demands.
“We see Las Vegas as being an across-the-board general product market,” he said. “Retailers are still merchants, so they are looking for product that fill voids on the retail floor; they are not specifically looking for a certain price. They are looking for good products at good value that fit the needs of their store.”
But as with other markets, rug companies are not leaving business up to chance. Most companies don’t consider waiting for walk-ins, particularly during this down economy, as a viable—or profitable—option.
“Las Vegas is an appointment-driven market, so we have been trying to seal those last-minute appointments,” Barkley said.
Peykar agreed, adding that hallway traffic is not the best way to predict success at a market.
“The company has always thrived and been driven by all the appointments that people make,” he explained. “At market, we sometimes hear grumbles from vendors about light traffic, but we really don’t’ need a crowd to make a market a success. We need serious players and they are serious players out there.”
Companies such as Surya plan to woe those serious players with new and salable product, as well as by demonstrating to them the level of support they can offer to retailers who are struggling to thrive and survive.
King said Surya has been focusing on keeping customers apprised of the solutions it has developed in recent months to help retailers sell more of its product at a time when they have less money to invest in inventory.
“We think customers are looking for new ways to sustain their revenue,” King said. “They may not be buying heavy inventory, but they are looking to establish new vendor relationships. We think at the next several shows we will gain new customers because we are offering innovative new ways to do business.”
Nourison is also focusing on demonstrating the ways in which it will help retailers move more product in less space without having to make burdensome financial investment in inventory.
The company will be promoting its self-service shopping display with even greater confidence at the Las Vegas Market now that it has a more proven track record and many positive testimonies to support its value since its debut late last year, Peykar said. He also expressed confidence that the Vegas attendees will be equally impressed with the company’s new product offerings.
“We have come up with new looks that are so unique that never existed before,” he said. “We will leave [Las Vegas] quite pleased with the people who are coming to see us at market.”