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True Digital Customisation Boosts Trinket's Personal Appeal in US

Bigger than ever and now part of Las Vegas Design and Construction Week, this year's first iteration of the Las Vegas Market saw storytelling, whimsy and personalization topping the must-have list of buyers to the twice-yearly show.

Photo: Whimsical and cute: Two key selling points for 2015.
Whimsical and cute: Two key selling points for 2015.
Photo: Whimsical and cute: Two key selling points for 2015.
Whimsical and cute: Two key selling points for 2015.

Building on its roots in furniture sales, the semi-annual Las Vegas Market is turning into a full-scale home resource with a strong emphasis on décor and gifts. For 2015, it became part of the Las Vegas Design and Construction week, which also embraces the National Association of Home Builders' International Builders' Show, the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, the International Window Coverings Expo and the International Surface Event. The combined events brought more than 125,000 attendees to Las Vegas, translating into stronger traffic for all shows.

As part of her presentation on global trends, Deb Barrett, an award-winning designer and industry commentator, said: "It's not about the features. It's about being a storyteller." She also noted a growing interest in "true customisation" through digital and 3D printing, something she believes can enable any designer to have his own line of wallpaper, coverings or accessories.

During her briefing to attendees, Barrett cited the example of a technology lab at the Heimtextil 2015 trade show in Frankfurt, where visitors had the opportunity to test-drive the concept by buying original artwork and printing it on-site on a digital printer. This allowed them to see what it would look like as wallpaper.

Overall, she noted, this same notion of customer control over products was also prevalent at the recent Maison&Objet trade show in Paris. She said: "The genius of a human hand coupled with technology is a perfect storm. Fashion has already embraced it."

Among the other trends influencing home goods consumption in the US, Barrett identified the growing purchasing power of the Hispanic population, households headed by single women (up 18%) and households where grandparents are raising the grandkids (up 20%). These intergenerational households, many of which are Hispanic, she said, resulted in a very different demand for furnishings, décor items and gifts.

When it comes to colours and patterns, Barrett singled out four motifs that she sees as likely to dominate in the latter half of 2015:

The Naïve Romantic
This is characterised by pastels, florals and handcrafted techniques and will continue to be strong this year.

The Bare Essentials
These are items that underline quality and simplicity and the need to "edit your life".

Conscious Living
This features patterns of a more eco-friendly nature, as well as true botanical references and a number of vintage elements, such as leather suitcases and accessories.

Rich and Dark

This is heavy on blues and purples, elements that take the traditional opulent colours and reimagine them as contemporary baroque.

In line with Barrett's predictions, the stories behind its products proved key selling points at the bustling stand of Fine Lines, a Los Angeles-based wholesale home décor and gifts company. Explaining the company's approach, President Matthew Katzenson said: "We take a lifestyle view and attract a more design-focussed customer. We're always looking for a value-added experience as part of the sale, something that's inspiring to the buyer and makes them feel good."

Photo: Hefty mark-up: Viancin’s lid covers.
Hefty mark-up: Viancin's lid covers.
Photo: Hefty mark-up: Viancin’s lid covers.
Hefty mark-up: Viancin's lid covers.
Photo: Novelty drink dispensers.
Novelty drink dispensers.
Photo: Novelty drink dispensers.
Novelty drink dispensers.

Many of the lines carried by the company are designed and manufactured in the US, but many of its overseas items also did well, notably a range of items from Maileg – chiefly, whimsical toys that come with a range of accessories, including clothes, furniture and even family members.

Commenting on the success of the range, Katzenson said: "There's sweetness and an interactive process to them. The collections are done with a real sense of imagination. Of late, a lot of people have changed their shopping habits and are now willing to spend on something a little more special."

Quality toys that make great gifts were on the shopping list for Abigail and Susan Niebling, two buyers attending the show on behalf of their St Louis-based Abigail's Gift Boutique. They said their customers are willing to spend US$20-$30 on average on "fun, cute items".

Expanding on their requirements, Abigail Niebling, the founder of the boutique, said: "Humour and risqué sell very well for us. Our top sellers during the Christmas season were Snoozies – cozy slipper socks – and locally made soaps.

"We carry out basic customisation on-site and collaborate with local businesses on special orders. At the moment, our most requested item is men's soap. The line we carry offers 20 scents for women, but only one for guys. So ladies purchase something for themselves and buy the men's soap as a gift for their husbands."

The demand for guy gifts beyond soaps and candles brought a small crowd to the bare-crates exhibit of Zootility Tools, a Massachusetts start-up. Launched by a mechanical engineer who didn't want to carry a Swiss Army knife around with him, the company now offers the PocketMonkey, a multi-tool, the size of a credit card, that fits in a wallet and combines the functions of a variety of screwdrivers, a bottle opener, a knife and a phone stand. It also features a knife.

Founder Tristan Corriveau said: "The interest at the show has been phenomenal and we haven't actually started shipping these yet." A store owner from California asked if the tool could be custom-branded with a dolphin, and Corriveau immediately offered to make it a dolphin with a golf club and brand it a "golfin".

Another exhibitor Tracy Krauter, owner of Seattle-based Impwear Home, was counting on the power of nostalgia, coupled with environmental awareness, to sell her line of waterproof cotton products. While initially resembling old-time oilcloth, they're actually soft, made with water-based urethane and biodegradable.

Highlighting the nostalgia aspect, Krauter said: "A lot of people tell me stories about their grandmothers when they see these." Keeping to a range dominated by aprons, bags and tablecloths, she has also introduced a range of designs inspired by spices. In the near future, she's planning to offer custom prints and products with logos, all thanks to advances in digital printing.

Bright florals brought splashes of colour to several stands. From tableware to graffiti-style handbags, many designs featured delicate watercolours, vibrant tropicals and bold jewel-toned flowers. Buyers flocked to red poppy covers by Charles Viancin, a Parisian designer, and placed orders for his autumn collection, all resplendent with sunflowers and leaves. According to the company rep, the brand's range of lid covers and corks has proved popular with buyers and offers the potential for a large markup.

At the other extreme was the stark whiteness of Christmas arrangements that featured everything in shades of silver and white. Bonnie Weber, owner of Montana-based Shores Floral, was investing in traditional pieces, as well as more trendy items. Asked to plump for one must-have décor item for next Christmas, she said: "Foxes are hot this year."

Photo: Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without an icy bear.
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without an icy bear.
Photo: Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without an icy bear.
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without an icy bear.

Billing itself as "the most comprehensive furniture, home décor and gift market in the Western United States," the Las Vegas Market ran from 18-23 January at the World Market Center in Las Vegas.

Anna Huddleston, Special Correspondent, Las Vegas

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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