By Barbara Thau
Retailers headed to the Las Vegas Market this week are on the hunt for higher-end fare and merchandise with a modern edge and a distinct twist—from eco-friendly goods to quirky decorative accessories—to spice up their home businesses this year.
The Las Vegas Market is quickly becoming a premier bedding venue, and merchants are shopping the show for the latest and greatest in mattresses.
Unlike High Point, Vegas offers a concentration of national mattress brands and an opportunity to meet “with all the principles,” John Young, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of home for Boscov’s department stores, told HFN.
John O’Connell, executive vice president of 1800mattress.com, said his focus at the show is to solidify the chain’s traditional innerspring business, “but I will also look at eco-friendly products,” he said. “Specialty bedding is taking a lot of market share, but the reality is that innerspring is still the largest part of the business, so I won’t walk away from that.”
Still, the retailer is also looking to enhance its specialty business. “We know visco and latex are there, but what else is there? That’s what I hope to find out,” O’Connell said. “Also, part of enhancing specialty is understanding the price points. In other words, what is a good product at each price point?”
But savvier shoppers are not falling for a product’s bells the whistles if they don’t deliver tangible benefits, said Barrie Brown, president of Mattress Giant.
“Our target customer is an increasingly savvy and knowledgeable one. She is looking for real benefits,” Brown said. “She doesn’t care about coil counts; she doesn’t care about layers of foam; and she doesn’t care about the newest technologies found in a mattress unless they can directly translate into a comfortable night’s sleep.”
With the housing market slowdown in mind, Chris Nielsen, vice president of home and garden of Amazon.com, said he’s looking for items oriented to redecorating, such as home decor and lighting, as opposed to big-ticket merchandise.
The e-tailer will also be on the lookout for emerging trends in Las Vegas.
Today, home goods with simple lines and clean designs “are resonating with customers,” Nielsen said.
While it’s no secret that the home business has been challenging for many retailers of late, “We had our strongest holiday season ever, including home,” he said.
By contrast, the holidays were dismal at Boscov’s in home, but the category is now looking up, Young said.
The department store will shop the show for lamps, upholstered and accent furniture and to see what’s new from West Coast vendors.
The retailer will also work the market to build up its “upper-end business,” Young said.
Although the past few years saw leather furniture prices drop due to lower-quality Chinese imports, Boscov’s “went the other direction, offering better styling and wood frames on sofas,” for example, Young said.
However, leather furniture prices have begun to stabilize, he said. “Basically this year, we’re looking to raise our average dollar per sale.”
At the show, “We’re looking for value promotions—not just down-and-dirty promotions—but better product at promotional price points,” he said.
Instead of selling a $399 sofa, for example, “a promotion that’s working is ‘buy the $999 sofa and get the love seat for free.’ ”
Although Boscov’s shoppers have traditional tastes, “we’re missing a little bit of the contemporary on our floor,” Young said. “We’ll be expanding that this year,” Young said.
Nanette Mortell, chief merchandising and creative officer of Chiasso, which sells contemporary home goods, will be scouting for modern furniture with clean lines in both muted and vivid colors, as well as offbeat home decor.
“Regarding categories we will be sourcing in Las Vegas, we’re seeing continued growth in art and occasional furniture: simple pieces that make a big difference in a room,” she said.
What’s more, “Unique decorative pieces are on the rise and something we will be sourcing in Las Vegas.”
Chiasso will also comb the showrooms with an eye toward expanding its home office, dining and bedroom furniture in the fall.
“In terms of color, we continue to like white upholstered furniture—it’s a minimalist’s staple, and it’s still trending for us,” Mortell said. “Other neutrals, such as gray and brown/beige continue to be hot, but with yellow and vibrant green as a pop. Aqua blue, and blue in general, is still a never-fail, however.” — David Gill contributed to this report.