LAS VEGAS -- The combined forces of Las Vegas Market and Gift+HomeSM, held Jan. 24-28 at World Market Center, exemplified optimism and delivered impactful increases in buyer attendance over a year ago. Moreover, with new products abound and robust orders writing, the first major total home furnishings market of 2011 set new company records and contributed to a renewed, positive outlook for the entire industry.

Buyer attendance was up 25 percent over last Summer Market and up 9 percent from Winter Market a year ago, with thousands of buyers attending Las Vegas Market for the first time. International buyer attendance rose 16 percent from last winter, while designer attendance increased by 33 percent. More than 80 percent of the Top 100 U.S. Retailers were in attendance.

Las Vegas Market had an increase in all geographic regions across the U.S. Most notably the West was up 14 percent and the Northeast was up 19 percent over last Winter Market. Double digit growth was also evident in key international regions, with Canadian buyers up 23 percent, Latin American buyers up 30 percent and Mexican buyers rising by 13 percent compared to a year ago.

In addition to dramatic growth across all buyer categories, Winter Las Vegas Market saw a 20 percent increase in exhibiting companies as compared to Summer Market. Joining the 1,200-plus exhibitors at Winter Las Vegas Market were 150 new-to-market exhibitors.

"Being the first total home market of the year, there was a sense of 'let's play to win.' It was probably our strongest market in Las Vegas, both in terms of attendance and sales, in three years," said Robert Maricich, president and CEO of World Market Center Las Vegas. "The energy was palpable, which I think was a reflection of what's happening at the macroeconomic level. The Consumer Confidence Index just rose to its highest level in eight months and the second highest level since 2008. There is no denying that this market plays a role in stimulating the industry and the furnishings economy. What we saw at market is an encouraging indicator of what's to come in 2011."

Maricich commented that the thousands of new buying units attending Las Vegas Market is additive to the marketplace. "It's very exciting to see new interest in our industry and evolved business models in retail. These are not your traditional dealers, and instead represent new channels of distribution and sales opportunities for our partners," he said.

During Market, the mood among buyers was marked by confidence, staying current on trends and the convenience of shopping Las Vegas. "Las Vegas is very easy to work; no driving is required and it saves time and resources," said Stephen Riley, general merchandising manager for Nebraska Furniture Mart Inc. "It's very beneficial in that you see many different styles, trends and you don't need to travel far to compare and review. We saw some strong contemporary looks and reclaimed wood still making strong statements."

For many exhibitors, it was an unprecedented Market, in both showroom traffic and order writing.

"This market was the best we've experienced in Las Vegas, with orders doubling last year's and the best attendance since Building C opened in July 2008," said Rob Sligh, chairman Sligh Furniture Co. "We offered lots of new product introductions under both the Sligh and Loft 102 brands and most of the showroom was devoted to showing new products. That made it a compelling first look opportunity for dealers and everybody benefited."

"We've done the last nine shows at Las Vegas Market and this show was by far the best for us," said Wally Stryk, owner of Asian Art Imports a temporary exhibitor at Las Vegas Market located in the juried section of Design& Living. "This show far exceeded our sales and new contacts of any previous show. It was obvious to us that customer sentiment has taken a big step in a positive direction. We introduced a dozen new pieces and they sold well across the board."

"We had had elbow to elbow traffic in our showroom for three days straight with no end in sight. We are seeing trends toward better end goods. It has been interesting to see that there has been a lot of medium to low end retailers that are starting to step up to a better end product which is a nice trend to see," said Chris Miller, national sales manager for Four Hands.

Winter Market delivered a booming bedding market as Las Vegas had a special focus on the mattress category packed with high profile exhibits, tailored events, and through-the-roof buyer traffic. During the "Consensus Bedding Forecast" seminar, Simmons President Tony Smith said that they had a record breaking opening day market, "crushing" their previous opening market numbers by 35%. During the same event, Jodi Allen, chief marketing officer of Sealy, said they too had a record breaking opening day. The Specialty Sleep Assn. reported 1,016 registered buyers from 560 retailers visited the manufacturers and suppliers in its 15,000-square-foot space at the Las Vegas Market in January, a 25% increase from previous shows.

Vegas Kids exhibitor Matt Davis, vice president of global sales at Ace Boyou Corp., said the Market has been very good. "We have been able to work with our major retailers like Target, Hayneedle, Seventh Avenue. I also feel that a lot of smaller dot.coms came by that will become new accounts. Las Vegas Market has been very productive we were able to meet with our major customers, other potential customers, and actually focus with them on developing a line, a product and a new selection for 2011."

With Vegas KidsSM and Gift+HomeSM, Las Vegas Market's diversified platforms provided retailers who are currently trending toward more product diversification an efficient, cross-shopping opportunity in decorative accessories, gift and furniture. Organizers reported a notable increase in gift buyers as a result of the Gift + Home show, plus a surge of floor coverings retailers as a result of the partnership with Surfaces Expo.

Ken Siemers, executive vice president with the Wayne, New Jersey-based Russ Berrie said he was impressed not only with traffic but also order writing in the gift arena. "The buyers are buying and not just here to browse," he said. "Las Vegas offers a different experience for the shopper on and off the property. World Market Center Las Vegas is a comprehensive market with gift, home, lighting, rugs and more. World Market Center was designed for this business. It is a primary stop on the gift buyer's trail."

Unparalleled Programming, Events Complement Success of Market

In addition to packed showrooms, Las Vegas Market was bursting with energizing events and activities to stimulate buyers and designers. Focused speakers, trend-setting exhibits and networking events helped educate and prepare attendees for a year of optimism and growth.

Market's opening night reception was complete with cozy surroundings, a comfort-food menu and a live performance that blended Las Vegas entertainers choreographed with mattress merriment. The performances were inspired by the Emmy-winning television show "Glee," as pajama-clad dancers jumped and danced from bed to bed to tunes like Van Halen's "Jump" among others.

As part of Las Vegas Market's highly anticipated Design Series, internationally renowned designer Christopher Guy, known for the elegance and sophistication of his work and a distinctly modernist style, received the honor of Design Icon at Winter Market. Guy joins the ranks of past recipients such as Juan Montoya, Vicente Wolf, Vladimir Kagan, Larry Laslo and Roger Thomas. The annual Design Icon award honors design legends by giving them a platform from which to share their stories and inspire and educate other designers.

First Look, a bi-annual seminar with HGTV personality Monica Pedersen and home products/trend editor Julie Smith, provided a glimpse of the latest styles and trends and must-see products for the upcoming season. They highlighted up-and-coming trends such as natural finishes, bold accents and Pantone Color Institute's color pick for 2011, honeysuckle.

Forward-thinking exhibits filled the halls of Building C's third floor. Several installations and exhibits were featured as an additional experience for Las Vegas Market attendees. Straight out of Scandinavia, the "17 Swedish Designers" exhibit featured the work of 17 Swedish women designers, representing a cross-section of design media, including industrial, graphic design, furniture, ceramics, glass, metalwork and textiles. The "Roger Thomas: Green Room at the Oscars," which was commissioned by Architectural Digest in concert with The Oscars in 2010, mapped out a visual tour of the A.D. Green Room. The exhibit included one-of-a-kind, hand painted upholstered furniture, exquisite embroideries and original art.

The third annual "One Good Chair" competition, sponsored by World Market Center Las Vegas and the Sustainable Furnishings Council, named two victors on Wednesday, Jan. 26 - Eric Tong's Zpine chair received the grand prize and Juan Mercado's RE_Flex chair won the first-ever People's Choice award. There were five finalists named out of the 360-plus participants who submitted entries in the competition, representing both professional and amateur designers. Minimum|maximim was this year's theme, which revolved around minimizing material, production, shipping and assembly while maximizing comfort, utility, durability and beauty.

An exclusive presentation of Furniture Today's "Bedding Forecast" was given by Editor Dave Perry, who revealed the Forecast's prediction of 3.2 percent growth in units and an increase of 3.7 percent in sales. Strategy and commentary on upcoming trends came from a distinguished industry panel, including Jodi Allen from Sealy, Tony Smith from Simmons, Dwayne Welch from Hickory Springs and Chuck Kill from Bedmart. When comparing market segments within the furniture industry, the panel members agreed: focus on the science of sleep, the sleep experience and the emotional attachment in marketing consumer engagement. The industry's focus should remain on improving sleep health rather than on price point.

An insightful presentation by highly influential "mommy blogger" Heather Armstrong of gave retailers and manufacturers an inside look into the minds of mothers and what they're looking for when it comes to styles and furnishings for the their homes and children's rooms. According to her online community poll, which queried millions of mothers, cartoon-themed and unifunctional pieces are out. Moms today are looking for classic styling that can be transitioned and repurposed from each life stage and also to other rooms throughout their homes, Armstrong said.

New market destinations for Garden and Gourmet located in C5's Gift+Home section fueled traffic and buzz with its dynamic temporary exhibitors as well as cooking demonstrations, wine tastings and a high tea for buyers all afternoon.

About World Market Center Las Vegas

World Market Center Las Vegas is an integrated home and hospitality contract furnishings showroom and trade complex. The campus showcases furniture, decorative accessories, gift, lighting, area rugs, home textiles and related segments, as well as the Las Vegas Design Center open daily to consumers and designers. World Market Center currently hosts the biannual Las Vegas MarketTM, the preeminent total home market along with Gift + HomeTM and Vegas KidsTM.

SOURCE: Las Vegas Market

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