Off-Grid Business Out West
By Jennifer Marks -- Home Textiles Today, 8/4/2007 12:00:00 AM
The big boys of retailing command so much market share and consume so much of our attention that it often comes as a shock to encounter the home textiles supplier determined to avoid selling major accounts. Or to meet the supplier who does some volume business with one or two of them, but really focuses on boutiques and custom work for designers.
But that constitutes much of the home textiles trade as it is practiced by Las Vegas Market exhibitors. They live in a world of furniture dealers, mattress stores, independent specialty retailers, boutique hotels, and interior designers.
They offer price points that are considered pretty sharp in their realm — eight-piece bed sets at $100 wholesale, embellished decorative pillows at $40 wholesale, simple solid color throws at $19 wholesale, etc. The volume-oriented brain wants to cry out: 'How can you sell an eight-piece at that price when Macy's is offering eight pieces at $99 retail?' And so on.
One might have expected to encounter some angst in Las Vegas, given the housing slump generally and the not-so-great financial results being reported by furniture stores in particular. But many home textiles exhibitors began writing orders on day one of the show, and order-writing tends to brighten the mood.
Home textiles still makes up a small part of the overall landscape in Las Vegas, and among textiles, rug manufacturers have far and away the largest presence. Now that Las Vegas has passed through its fifth market, it's proving to be mainly a regional draw as far as textiles are concerned, with most buyers coming in from west of the Rockies.
There also appears to be a curious assumption circulating both among Vegas exhibitors and their non-Vegas counterparts, to the effect that the January market is larger than the July market. So far, the numbers do not bear that out. After drawing a debut crowd of 62K in July 2005, each 2006 market pulled about 50K visitors. January 2007 logged "in excess of" 50K, and while the finally tally for July has not been released as of this writing, registrations were up 20% over January.
Vegas is still evolving, especially as far as the home textiles world is concerned. It's an open question as to whether it will ultimately become the center of the U.S. home furnishings universe. In the meantime, it offers a fascinating perspective of business being done off the grid.
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