Over the last month or so, home furnishings industry members have crisscrossed the country flying to trade shows in Atlanta, Dallas, Las Vegas and New York. Travelers looking out their plane windows saw a mostly frozen, snowed-over continent, then were greeted with colder-than-usual weather at their destinations.
Despite the record-breaking chilly weather, most of the vendors at these shows confidently proclaimed that things seemed to be heating up--with their business, that is.
Vendors and retailers have been suffering through a frigid business climate for what seems like eons. Refuting the old adage that “everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” vendors at the winter trade shows invested in new products and marketing plans to counteract the chill in sales.
If last month’s trade shows are any indication, the economy’s severe winter weather may be behind us.
No one needs to remind the folks at AmericasMart in Atlanta that it’s been a long, hard winter. The city experienced the worst ice storm in more than a decade and people were ice skating down Peachtree Street just before the combined Gift & Home Furnishings Market and International Area Rug Market. Yet, the event set a strong pace for other winter markets by reporting attendance gains in the double digits.
A week later, attendees at the Dallas Market Center’s Total Home & Gift Market were welcomed with near-freezing temperatures. Lighting and gift-item vendors however, heated things up with loads (hundreds, in some cases) of product introductions. Escalators and hallways were full, and the Market Center reported that it had its strongest opening day in the past 40 gift and home shows.
Continuing the weather trend, it wasn’t exactly balmy in Las Vegas during the World Market Center’s Winter Market. The World Market Center battled the frigid temperatures with outdoor heaters and hot chocolate in its usually inviting outdoor Grand Plaza. Things heated up in the showrooms, though, with tons of introductions, and plenty of business being done.
More than one vendor described the show as the best Vegas market ever.
“Not good—great!” is how Ron Wanek, chairman of Ashley, described the Las Vegas Market. “I think everybody is optimistic about business.”
A mid-show snowstorm didn’t damper attendance at the New York International Gift Fair. Show organizer GLM reported a 10 percent increase in attendance for the event. Perhaps more importantly, vendors said retailers weren’t as price driven as at previous shows.
Combined with the positive macro-economic signs (retail sales are up, unemployment continues down), the good news from the shows tells us that the worst winter—and sales conditions—most of us have ever known are behind us.
Even if it snowed last night in your neck of the woods, chances are you feel the unmistakable signs of spring. The days are getting longer, the nights are slightly warmer.
Maybe, just maybe, we’re coming out of the prolonged ice age. The survivors should proudly slap themselves on the back.
The big thaw has started.