HFN Staff Report
The home furnishings industry is getting ready to spin the business wheel again in Las Vegas this month and while no one is expecting to hit the jackpot, most suppliers are hoping for at least a modest payoff.
The Las Vegas Market at the World Market Center convenes for its tenth time amidst some encouraging, if not overwhelmingly positive, signs that the worst may be over and the recovery is in its slow but steady climb out.
Attendees are hoping that positive shows so far this year in Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles will serve as omens for prospects in Las Vegas. At each of those shows, many exhibitors told HFN that business was good and if not quite approaching the record levels of two or three years ago, was certainly better than last year.
Against that backdrop, the show kicks off on Monday, Feb. 1, in the three buildings on the World Market Center campus. This is the first show since show organizers announced in December that they were returning the summer show dates to the July-August period from September when it was held in 2009. The winter show has remained in the last week or January or the first week of February.
Even though there is more optimism than a year ago, industry executives know that things are different. “Today it is not business as usual or business as we knew it,” said Robert Maricich, president and chief executive officer of World Market Center Las Vegas. He said that the market center’s combination of new products and programs for retailers was a good match for business conditions today. “The content will be highly relevant to those who are ‘playing to win’ and looking for new competitive advantages in today’s marketplace.”
Jerry Epperson, the industry analyst who follows the home industry for Mann, Armistead and Epperson, pointed to a number of positive signs for the business in a recent report. He cited: lower losses and a modest return to profitability for some furniture suppliers; improving order rates in the past month or two; increasing gross margins; and reduced inventory levels. “Our industry should be extremely profitable with any incremental volume.”
Vendors agree. “We’re seeing positive shifts in the marketplace and are optimistic about the Las Vegas furniture market,” said Tim Oakhill, executive vice president of marketing for Simmons. “We’re particularly excited about the debut of our new Beautyrest line which features consumer-driven aesthetic designs and offers the broadest product platform in the industry.”
“We are expecting the Las Vegas show to be a good, strong show,” agreed David Gebhart, chief executive officer for Global Views. “In September, we saw signs of an uptick and having just gone through a strong Atlanta and an even stronger Dallas, we feel really good about our sales opportunities in Las Vegas.”
Gebhart said his customers are coming into market with a changed mindset. “The mood of the retailers is night and day different from last year at the same time. Everyone is upbeat and ready for a strong year.”
In the lighting category, there’s a similar sense. “Based on Dallas, we are anticipating similar results at Las Vegas,” said Ken Kallett, executive vice president for Dale Tiffany. “There’s a sense of restrained optimism resulting in a moderate increase in attendance andwritten business.” Kallett said his company believes business has “bottomed out.”
Promotions and market specials will continue to be a key component in Las Vegas, vendors said, reflecting what stores are looking for. “Many manufacturers have sharpened their pencils and fine-tuned their offers,” said Gerry Borreggine, president of Therapedic, “making it easy for dealers to embrace new products or a new program.
“I feel this will be a good market. Retailers are frustrated with the status quo and are looking for a way to break out of the doldrums.”
Aspenhome is another exhibitor that is making sure it has promotional vehicles, adding to its Sweet Spot program from last year. “We will have the Sweet Spot pricing that our retailers are looking for to increase their sales in 2010,” said Dave Heard, executive vice president of sales for the company.
Larry Rogers, president of Sealy, was also optimistic. “Sealy anticipates the 2010 winter market will be a strong and successful market.” The company is introducing a number of new products to drive business.
What it comes down to, said Gebhart, is that retailers have very lean inventories and have to buy. “Retailers need inventory. Let’s hope what they are buying from all of us sells through quickly which will signal the end of this downturn.”