Waxing Upbeat on Las Vegas Market

Exhibitors Expect National Buyers, Walk-ins

Carole Sloan, July 31, 2007

Home textiles suppliers are still pondering the impact of the market organized by the World Market Center here this week, in terms of value to their business vis a vis the other markets across the country.

Some noted a drop in attendance at the Atlanta market earlier this month as an indication of this event's potential impact, but others point to the back-to-back markets in New York beginning Aug. 6 for the New York Home Fashions Market, and on Aug. 9 for the New York Home Textiles Market held in conjunction with the New York International Gift Show.

To both retailers and suppliers, the proliferation of shows and the running together of these events — as the show here and the two in New York illustrate — create an almost untenable ability to effectively cover each, several exhibitors noted.

For many of the exhibitors here, the exhibition halls are transitory — moving from temporary pavilion facilities adjacent to the now two main show buildings; other times at sites well away from the main event, as seen this time at the Sands Hotel.

"I have always had issues about the quality of buyers in Las Vegas vs. High Point," where Hallmart Collectibles has been a long-time exhibitor, said Jesse Galili, vp sales.

Hallmart, which has a design alliance with Shaw Rugs for its Kathy Ireland Home Collection, also is concerned that Shaw pulled out of Las Vegas, Galili said. "This is a very expensive show." Questioning as to how it will "shake out," he said, "It's an O.K. market. We get buyers who used to go to San Francisco."

"We're testing the waters in Vegas," said Cathy Stemmler, national sales manager for luxury bedding, bath and table linens supplier SDH Enterprises. The company is showing in the Messe Frankfurt-organized Interior Lifestyles segment of the temporary exhibit at the Sands Hotel.

Noting the impact of competing markets within a short time frame, Stemmler said, "Atlanta was really off in traffic, but business was up about 8% to10%. We sold different product to existing customers and wrote more business with existing smaller customers."

As for what Vegas will bring, she said "Since Atlanta didn't run true to form, we're testing the waters." But the test will have a formal conclusion in 2008 when the company moves into its permanent 2,200 square foot space in Building 3.

For Scott Sorgeloos, vp sales for Home Source International, "Since Atlanta traffic was slow, I think Vegas will be a fast-paced show; I think more people will be here — and they're mostly walk-ins."

Home Source, set up in its rep's showroom, is featuring its new micro-cotton 500 count bed.

"We're going because we had a nice reaction last time," said Jason Carr, president of Softline Home Fashions. But he added, "I'm not pleased with the Sands as a venue. Home textiles are mixed in with a hodge-podge of other products. Because of that, I don't expect much. All the textiles should be under one roof. But the whole thing is about choosing the right show at the right time."

"I think it will be good," is the way Ridvan Tatargil, president of Eastern Accents, is viewing this week's market. Noting that Atlanta was "good, not great," he feels that the walk-in traffic that is generated here will be good, especially from the West Coast. In the company's new showroom in Building 2 that debuted in January, "we were pleased with the penetration of West Coast potential customers."

"We, like everyone, have to work hard to make things happen," is the way Richard Downing, president of Southern Textiles, the top of the bed division of Leggett & Platt, sees the current marketplace.

"I'm optimistic about Vegas. We have exciting new product, and we expect a lot of folks — primarily from the West Coast, but also from the Southwest and Midwest and even the Northeast," he noted.

"We're replacing Atlanta with Las Vegas," remarked Jodi Sandman, vp at luxury bedding at pillow producer Ankasa. Participating in the January show here in the temporary pavilion, "We saw a whole new host of customers — 98% of our orders here were from new customers. Our product has a very West Coast look."

For Lonnie Scheps, vp, Hudson Inds., "Although the summer show is notoriously slower, we sent lots of emails and we sense a lot of new people coming. I'm optimistic — but maybe because we haven't set the bar too high."

Holding the event at the Sands is another concern for Scheps. "It's the distance between the two venues. But the Sands is much closer to the hotels on the Strip. And the World Market Center really publicizes both events and I like the Messe Frankfurt Interior Lifestyles umbrella."

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