In case you haven't heard, the next big wave that is heading ashore in the furniture industry is the new Las Vegas World Market Center. The first of several furniture exhibition buildings will open in July. Extensive pre-market publicity and promotion is sure to draw exhibitors and visitors away from some existing market centers. San Francisco has already felt the pinch and High Point is in a fret.
I heard a rumor that the new Las Vegas center may be dominated by Chinese property investors and Chinese exhibitors. There also seems to be a prevailing assumption that the quality of design and craftsmanship shown in Las Vegas will be lower than the prevailing quality in High Point exhibition buildings.
This all sounds very familiar. I recall the same type of reactions to the changes that were happening in the furniture industry while I was still a young boy growing up in Grand Rapids, Mich. My parents tried to "reposition" Grand Rapids as the center for "fine furniture," as markets moved to Chicago and to High Point.
I don't know if my perceived contrast between quality standards in High Point and Las Vegas is wishful thinking, a patriotic knee-jerk reaction or the truth. No doubt most of the very top-quality manufacturers like Henredon, Marge Carson, Hekman and Sligh will be among the last to move to Las Vegas. As far as I am concerned, I believe that the glitzy atmosphere in Las Vegas will be a contrast to the aura of gentility that many fine furniture and accessory companies are trying to present to their buyers and the ultimate consumer. Unfortunately, I can already see that the Las Vegas promoters will outgun the High Point organization in their promotion and marketing.
The romantic view
I am still a little romantic about the skilled hands of the great craftsmen who help shape our products. I like to think there is something special about the design process that borrows from history and from contemporary ideals. There is something civilizing about a piece of furniture or a bookcase or a kitchen cabinet that was shaped by the hands of someone passionately involved with their work product.
I'm also a businessman and a realist. If we want to keep any part of the furniture and cabinetmaking business in America, we must deliver a product that is thrilling in design, rare in material and flawless in craftsmanship. The final product must also be a good value, but that doesn't mean it must be cheaper. The design, material and craftsmanship must be better. Marketing must also be much better.
Perhaps the creative inspiration of a fabulous Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil performance and the elegance of the Bellagio Hotel will be an inspiration to our designers and marketers. If you are attracted by these changes, make your reservations early. The good stuff is always harder to find.
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.