Wicker-framed chairs with muted-colored seats, sectionals, photos and mirrors framed in gold-plated metal, velvet-and-metal bar stools and all things earth toned took over the World Market Center this week as interior design specialists returned to Las Vegas for the second time in less than six months.
And with the Las Vegas Market, a twice-annual furnishings trade show for designers to meet vendors and see new merchandise, came debate on whether the return of trade shows was imminent or if online wholesaling was poised to take over the future.
Scott Maddock, president of Sonoma Lavender, said it’s unclear if his lavender gift products will sell better from wholesale online shops that took off during the pandemic. It depends on where the most customers are, he said.
“Are people going to return to trade shows, or have they gotten accustomed to wholesale online?” Maddock said.
In April, World Market Center hosted its first event of 2021, delaying the winter market usually held in late January. CEO of International Market Centers Bob Maricich said the show “exceeded all expectations” in an interview with the Review-Journal at the time.
This season’s convention comes as new coronavirus infections rise dramatically across the country, opposite of the optimism resulting from the strong start of the vaccination campaign earlier this year.
Despite the lack of future clarity, exhibitors and conventioneers said they preferred the in-person experience.
Meg Donovan, the senior director of product development and merchandising for online interior design service Modsy, said she and her team have been to the Las Vegas Market “more times than you can count” and appreciated the ability to be in person once again. Furniture and design are best understood in their elements, she said.
“There’s nothing that beats doing market in person,” she said. “Seeing the collective trends together shows what you can adjust, what you can do better, what works together.”
Dean Robertson, who makes jewelry using reclaimed wood and other repurposed materials for his company Forest Life Creations, said he cared less about attendance and more about continuing to make himself a fixture at the market. Wholesale accounts for three-quarters of his business and he wanted to establish seniority to make sure he gets good booths in the future compared to previous years when tents were used for the gift and temporaries exhibit.
On the expo floor Tuesday, where merchandise for gift shops, museums and boutiques lined up, exhibitors said most people welcomed the chance to touch, feel and test out merchandise more than anything.
Val Wright, a sales representative for Toronto-based vegan handbag retailer Pixie Mood, said she’s attended more than a dozen trade shows since fall 2020. She’s noticed that most buyers are ones that have come to trade shows for years.
“The same people that like to touch and feel things came despite COVID,” Wright said. “They don’t know any other way to buy.”
Attendance can vary depending on the show, but what one may lack in attendance, one can make up in buyers’ larger orders, she said.
“The thought process seems to be to squirrel away products,” Wright said.
That could be to address the supply chain lags seen across industries. Elvis Mendoza, the showroom manager for furniture retailer Zuo, said demand for the company’s outdoor furniture, decorative mirrors and barstools has stayed hot all year. But he’s unable to answer a top question from buyers: when will this ship?
“I tell people it’s first come, first serve,” Mendoza said. “I don’t have a crystal ball to know when it’ll come to shore.”
The Las Vegas Market will return to the World Market Center on Jan. 23-27, 2022.