One on One Archives

June 2005

New Furniture Mart Bets on Vegas

The New Las Vegas market center makes its move this summer to become the furniture industry's new mecca.

By Karen M. Koenig

Las Vegas. The name brings to mind glitz, glamour...and furniture?

When completed, the World Market Center complex will include eight buildings, located on a 57-acre campus in Las Vegas.

This summer, Las Vegas will make its formal bid to become the new center for residential and hospitality furniture with the debut of the Las Vegas Market, to be held July 25-29 at the new World Market Center. The date coincides with the AWFS Vegas woodworking fair, which is being held July 27-30 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

At two months out, the inaugural Las Vegas furniture market has two of its three venues fully leased, with temporary exhibit space at the Las Vegas Convention Center at 90 percent capacity. In all, this year's show will encompass almost 2.5 million square feet of permanent and temporary exhibits, drawing a notable list of names from the furniture, decorative accessories, lighting, bedding and related segments.

To date, approximately 1,000 companies are scheduled to participate in the event, with more than 360 contracted for permanent showrooms. Among them are: Ashley Furniture Industries, Broyhill Furniture Industries, Barcalounger Corp., Flexsteel Industries, Hammary Furniture, Hekman Furniture, Klaussner Furniture Industries, Lane Home Furnishings and Pulaski Furniture.

And this is just the start. Plans call for the World Market Center to host biannual markets starting in 2006, with the winter market scheduled for Jan. 30 - Feb. 3 and next summer's

market to be held sometime in July. Plans are also in the works for the World Market Center to expand to 12 million square feet of permanent and temporary showrooms on a 57-acre campus of eight buildings by 2015.

In comparison, the biannual High Point Market stretches 11.5 million square feet of showrooms and exhibit space across 185 buildings, located within the High Point, NC, city limits and nearby Thomasville. And although World Market Center officials claim the Las Vegas show is not meant to "compete against High Point or supplant High Point," they do expect the global appeal of Las Vegas to be a definite draw. Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has taken a stronger stance. "We are about to make our debut as the furniture capital of the world," he has been quoted as saying. "This is my expectation, and I say it with a touch of of sadness because High Point has been so pre-eminent."

The Vegas show, however, is not without its critics. Lexington Home Brands Chairman and CEO Bob Stec, for example, has said that the higher price to exhibit in Vegas, along with personnel travel expenses, is a deterrent for companies with showrooms already in High Point.

"You're going to see the same people we're seeing here [in High Point]. We don't see the need for this [Las Vegas] market. Our customer's come here," he said last month in an interview with Wood & Wood Products.

Other industry executives cited "dealing with union labor" and the city's reputation as a party-town as additional reasons for not exhibiting in Las Vegas. High Point Market Authority President Judy Mendenhall has said the chance for Las Vegas attendees to party instead of conducting business is a serious issue for many exhibitors. In addition, she told W&WP last month, "Right now, from the exhibitors they have announced, probably fewer than 6 percent of our exhibitors are scheduled to be there. Most of them do not want to go to Las Vegas. It's very costly."

A Growing Marketplace

Plans call for expansion of the World Market Center to 12 million square feet of exhibit space, making it the largest arena for permanent and temporary showrooms. The development of the project is on 57 acres near downtown Las Vegas, at the intersection of Interstate 15 and U.S. 95.

The approximate timeline for expansion is as follows:

  • Phase One (July 2005): Building A, 1.3 million square feet; World Pavilions, 350,000 square feet; World Marketplace, 900,000 square feet, including Interior Lifestyle USA
  • Phase Two (January 2007): 1.6 million square feet
  • Phase Three (January 2008): 1.5 million square feet
  • Phase Four (2009-2010): 1.6 million square feet
  • Phase Five (2009-2010): 1.6 million square feet
  • Phase Six (2011): 1.5 million square feet
  • Phase Seven (2013): 1.5 million square feet
  • Phase Eight (2015): 1.5 million square feet.

Some, however, such as Phil Haney, executive vice president for marketing and sales at Stanley Furniture Co., and Michael Franks, director of strategic planning and communication for O'Sullivan Furniture of Lamar, have said they will at least be walking the show.

Love it or hate it, the idea of a new show is, at the very least, breathing new interest into the residential and hospitality furniture markets. W&WP talked recently with Dana Pretner, director of marketing and public relations for World Market Center, about the overall impact the Las Vegas Market will have on the industry.

W&WP: Why was Las Vegas chosen as the site of the World Market Center, particularly when the residential furniture industry has traditionally been centered in the South, and the hospitality/contract furniture industry in the Midwest?

Dana Pretner: Building World Market Center with Las Vegas as the backdrop is a very powerful part of our story. The city's appeal will certainly contribute to the success of World Market Center. It's the ideal venue for a permanent trade facility.

Las Vegas is a vibrant city unlike any other destination in the world. The city ranks number one across the board, from the leading number of hotel rooms and trade shows, and world-renowned restaurants, shopping centers and entertainment, to record-setting home sales. The fastest growing metropolitan region in the country, Las Vegas offers a first class infrastructure to tourists, conventioneers and residents.

The world-famous Las Vegas Strip is home to 14 of the 15 largest hotels in the U.S. Las Vegas is among the most popular destinations in the world for foreign visitors and is routinely ranked number one for U.S. travelers. As the "convention capital of the world," Las Vegas hosts 35 of the 200 largest U.S. trade shows annually. Many of the other major trade shows would like to be in Las Vegas, but for the fact that convention facilities in Las Vegas are fully booked for years ahead of time.

By building 7.5 million square feet of trade show and exhibition space, [we are] virtually doubling the amount of trade show space available in Las Vegas. In fact, the inaugural event, at 2.5 million square feet, will be the largest trade show in the history of Las Vegas - and yet, we have just started. Our event will continue to grow in size in the future.

Another interesting dynamic about Las Vegas is that tenants have the ability to take advantage of the city's appeal on a year-round basis. Because their showrooms at World Market Center are permanent, exhibitors can invite buyers anytime to visit their showroom, making their return on investment much higher at World Market Center.

Furthermore, Las Vegas is by far the best place for the hospitality contract industry, a key focus of World Market Center, due to the fact that Las Vegas boasts 130,000 hotel rooms and growing. Specifiers and buyers of contract furnishings are already doing business in Las Vegas - yet they do not have adequate resources, and therefore must travel elsewhere. With the introduction of World Market Center, we are providing a much needed hub for hospitality contract suppliers and buyers.

W&WP: Typical attendance at the biannual High Point Market is about 70,000. What attendance figures are you projecting for the July 25-29 debut showing?

Pretner: Our projection for attendance at Las Vegas Market ranges from 30,000 to 60,000. When you add the Interior Lifestyle USA and AWFS Fair to the mix, we project 70,000 attendees between all events.

W&WP: One of the goals mentioned by Co-Managing Partner Shawn Samson is for the World Market Center "to be the most diversified and most internationally-oriented market in the U.S." How do you plan to accomplish this?

Pretner: Cooperative agreements and co-location strategies with other leading trade shows is a major component of World Market Center. In fact, World Market Center and Messe Frankfurt recently announced that we have formed a strategic alliance to produce Interior Lifestyle USA, a new trade event that will present some of the best features and exhibitors of the acclaimed Heimtextil and Ambiente shows. The new event will be hosted in conjunction with the inaugural Las Vegas Market and will take place at the Las Vegas Convention Center, concurrent with the World Market Center temporary exhibits and the AWFS Fair. Combined, these prominent events are expected to draw in excess of 70,000 buyers from the USA and around the world.

World Market Center also is aiming to have a much broader cross-section of categories on one campus than any other market in the U.S. The strategy is focused on expanding and growing existing sectors that are already committed to Phase One, as well as adding new segments not currently in Phase One. We continue to see considerable opportunities with furniture, home accessories, lighting, rugs and bedding categories. In addition, the inclusion of Interior Lifestyle USA show as part of the July Las Vegas Market will give rise to interest by new segments, such as the textile and tabletop sectors.

In adding this new show, and others in the future, World Market Center expands its base as an integrated market for international home and hospitality contract furnishings. The new Interior Lifestyle USA, debuting with the July 2005 Las Vegas Furniture Market, is expected to host leading global manufacturers of the home textiles and furnishings industries - brought together for the first time in the USA - and draw global attendance.

We also have established an international division to our company, with bases in Las Vegas and UK, dedicated to building relationships with buyers, exhibitors, trade fairs and associations around the globe.

W&WP: How many of the current showrooms sold are for importers vs. domestic manufacturers? What will be the capacity when all phases are completed?

Pretner: Las Vegas Market is a platform for domestic manufacturers and those companies that have a legitimate customer base and operation in the United States. We do not have a projected total number of exhibitors upon completion, but at 12 million square feet, suffice to say we will have several thousand companies represented on our campus.

W&WP: According to reports, plans are to host biannual shows in January and July in Las Vegas, beginning in 2006. The High Point Markets are held biannually in April and October, while NeoCon is held annually in June. Is the market big enough to sustain multiple shows? Which shows do you see losing out and why?

Exhibit Breakdown

The following shows how the inaugural Las Vegas Market breaks down with regards to exhibit and showroom space and locations. As of June 3, more than 1,000 permanent tenants and temporary exhibitors were scheduled to display their wares.

  • Building A: Permanent exhibitors at World Market Center - 372 companies, with showrooms on 10 floors, encompassing 1.3 million square feet.
  • World Pavilions: Temporary exhibits, in three large convention-style tents, located adjacent to World Market Center - 172 exhibitors utilizing 350,000 square feet of space.
  • World MarketPlace at Las Vegas Convention Center: Temporary exhibits at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Central Halls - 576 exhibitors, on 630,000 square feet of space.
  • Interior Lifestyle USA: Hosted in conjunction with the Las Vegas Market, this venue will have temporary exhibits located in 200,000 square feet of space at the Las Vegas Convention Center, North Halls. This international "show within a show" is produced by Messe Frankfurt Inc.

Pretner: All of the national and regional markets have their unique characteristics and features. World Market Center is creating a brand new approach that differs from the focus and strategy of other markets in the U.S. World Market Center is poised to evolve into the predominant international hub for home furnishings buyers and sellers in the U.S., with an eye toward catering to the hospitality market as our campus develops and new resources are added. The combination of the infrastructure available in Las Vegas, and the 21st century approach toward development by World Market Center, creates the opportunity for the first time in the U.S. to produce shows and events with great appeal for international buyers and exhibitors.

W&WP: How will co-locating the Las Vegas Market with the biennial AWFS Fair help attract woodworkers to the event?

Pretner: The two events will bring distinct, yet complementary, elements of the furniture industry together, from equipment and supplies to the manufactured end-product available for retail distribution. Happening concurrently, the AWFS Fair and the World Market Center's inaugural Las Vegas Market will attract close to 70,000 professionals in the furniture industry from the U.S. and abroad. This is the first time both the supplier/manufacturing and the finished-product professionals in the furniture industry will meet concurrently and adjacently in co-located international events.

Many are enthusiastic about the synergy that will come from this connection. The 2005 AWFS Fair will be the largest show in its 48-year history, in its new location, the Las Vegas Convention Center. International attendees are particularly excited at the opportunities presented by both shows in the same city and time.


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