11 April 2019
Domestic and Overseas Exhibitors Revel in Upbeat Las Vegas Market
With all talk of tariffs seemingly shunted to the sidelines, the sentiment at the Winter 2019 Las Vegas Market was notably on the positive side, with the 50,000 gathered furniture, home decor and gift buyers only too keen to open their wallets.
With its entrance wrapped in a giant portrait of the Scott Brothers – the Canadian-born real-estate reality TV stars – the Winter 2019 Las Vegas Market welcomed more than 50,000 furniture, home-decor and gift professionals. Typically, they were all looking to stock up after a busy holiday season and particularly bullish with regard to the prospects of the coming summer.
Tellingly, this upbeat sentiment seemed to characterise both domestic and international exhibitors. Typical of the latter was Kevin Castellani, Director of Communications for Man Wah, a Hong Kong-based furniture manufacturer. Clearly pleased with the reception his company had received at the event, he said: "We're definitely up in attendance. We registered 10.4% more companies on Saturday and 19% more on Sunday.
"We're ascribing this to both 2018's strong fourth-quarter trading and to the buoyancy of the first few weeks of 2019. As a result, there's a need out there for inventory. At the same time, I'm hearing a lot less concern about tariffs, while there appears to be a bit more certainty as to what the options might be going forward. Thankfully, there seems to be pent-up demand. On top of that, we came to market with a lot of introductions and we are now doing more goods and better-quality goods."
Apart from its ample and ever-expanding exhibition space, of course, the event once again played host to a series of industry seminars and workshops. One of the most-well attended of these came courtesy of Tom Mirabile, Consumer Trend Forecaster for the International Housewares Association and one of the Pantone Color Institute's Contributing Editors. Charged with introducing the Institute's Colour of the Year, he said: "For 2019, it's Living Coral – an animated, life-affirming shade of orange with golden undertones.
"While it's an evocative colour – and great for bringing out emotions – it's also important not to lose track of the more general trends, such as the move towards softness and comfort, hence the return of rounded corners, shag rugs and overstuffed cushions, as well as the departure from the more sharp and the explicitly modern. As a result, mineral colours, which give the feel of items dug up from clay, while exhibiting sandy and flesh tones, as well as softer textures, are going to be popular. At the same time, pink and pumpkin shades are also going to be very much on trend."
Turning more to the apparel and gift sectors, Mirabile signalled a likely departure from earthy tones to more in favour of a space-travel theme, saying: "This will translate into iridescent and metallic colours, as well as high-tech materials, while also manifesting in oxidised finishes in metallics, fumed finishes and metallicised black, particularly in the case of kitchen appliances and products specifically designed with men in mind.
"In terms of trending combinations, it's going to be teal and wine as well as deep jewel – a palette that includes inky burgundies and purple-infused blues. In terms of furniture, it's going to be tonal reds – as in more than one red – while the classic black-and-white combo is moving more towards white and grey."
Gifts and Home
One of the fastest-growing segments at the Market continues to be Gifts and Home, which, this year, extended across 450,000 square feet of showrooms and temporary exhibits. This saw buyers able to shop for a beguilingly wide selection of products, ranging from high-concept designer items to more beach store-friendly material.
In this particular sector, one of the clear stand-out spaces belonged to Ameico, a Connecticut-based distributor specialising in global contemporary design. According to the staff on its stand, buyers were particularly intrigued by a number of somewhat quirky and relatively novel Japanese concepts, most notably house slippers.
While far from being a staple of most American homes, they certainly seemed to pique the interest of the 30-and-above demographic, with General Manager Jeannette Purdy saying: "This product did very well throughout the holiday season. We find that this particular generation appreciates deliberation in design and in their own lives."
It was the concept of adult play, however, that was helping to shift units for Areaware, a New York-based distributor. Intriguingly, it was another Japanese product – Cubebots – that was proving to be most in demand.
Apparently of particular appeal to nerdy 30-40-year-olds, these wooden toy robots can apparently lead users into segueing into Blockitecture, a more grown-up take on wooden construction toys that allow you to build whole table-top cities in a variety of architectural styles. Assessing the appeal of such diversions, Domestic Brand Manager Elisabeth Roeleveld said: "We're seeing a real trend towards sustainable toys that are thoughtfully designed and well made. We're also noticing larger orders for fidget toys and desk objects from quite an eclectic group of buyers."
The epithets "sustainable" and "well-made" could be equally applied to the felt toys and ornaments on offer from Silk Road Bazaar, a Los Angeles-based distributor of ethically sourced Eastern European products. Despite the Christmas holidays being some 10 months distant, buyers still flocked to pick up iconic images of Shakespeare, Einstein and Frida Kahlo (a famous 20th century Mexican portrait painter), all hand-crafted in colourful felt by Kyrgyzstan craftswomen.
Perhaps surprisingly, the most popular be-felted famous person was Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the 86-year-old Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, complete with her iconic wire glasses and a black robe. Explaining why the venerable lady judge was quite so much in demand, Andrew Kuschner, the Bazaar's Director General, said: "She's such an inspiration – we sold thousands of her last year."
Craftsmanship was also the key selling point over on the stand of the Minnesota-based Gather Table Company, where keen interior designers could be seen eyeing custom-made hardwood tables crafted to be passed down through the generations. Explaining the appeal of the company's high-end furniture, Founding Partner Taylor Feero said: "A dining table is pretty much the centrepiece of family life and the focal point for lots of memories. As such, you really don't want to just discard it – it should have a lasting and lingering presence."
Starting life as a garage-based cottage industry, the company has now established a distinct niche among high-end consumers. Despite the famously mobile nature of many American families, Feero still believes the company's tables are destined for a long life, especially as they are eminently suitable for re-staining and resurfacing in line with changing times and styles.
On the funky and less serious side of the spectrum, meanwhile, many retailers uncovered one of the true hits of the season – the iridescent see-through purses available from Florida-based Vere. Not only on trend and in line with the season's coming space theme, they are also said to be eminently suited for use at those concerts and events where only clear bags are permissible.
Expanding upon their appeal, Co-founder Janet Cao said: "As they're made out of thermoplastic polyurethane, they're biodegradable and non-toxic. Our customers also love the fact that they're stylish while also being good for the environment."
The 2019 Winter Las Vegas Market took place from 27-31 January at the Las Vegas World Market Center.
Anna Huddleston, Special Correspondent, Las Vegas