First impressions: 1st Vegas fair & market.
What a contrast, the Sodom and Gomorrah-like atmosphere of Las Vegas and the sleepy hamlet of High Point, NC, or Anaheim, the Land of Disney.
These contrasts are worthy to note as they relate to how well the much-anticipated debut of the Las Vegas Market and the first AWFS Fair outside of Anaheim in 20 years played out. The two separately managed, overlapping events brought the entire value chain of the furniture industry--from furniture retailers and furniture manufacturers to the companies that distribute supplies and equipment used to make furniture--together at the same point in time for the first time ever.
Spokesmen for each of the shows claimed strong, qualified attendance at their respective event.
A press release for the inaugural Las Vegas Market, held July 25-29, claimed a combined pre-and on-site registration of 62,000 attendees, far exceeding show management's expectations. While a final head count for the AWFS Fair was not available by early August, Angelo Gangone, trade show director of the AWFS Fair, held July 27-30, issued a statement saying the show was on a record pace for attendance. "On-site attendance at AWFS Vegas the first three days of the show was up over past shows by 21 percent. Registration figures are approaching 20,000 (attendees only), which exceeds all previous registration figures for the AWFS Fair."
The Beginning of the End for High Point?
The launch of the Las Vegas Market, which utilized permanent exhibition space in the new 1.5-million-square-foot World Market Center and temporary space in the Las Vegas Convention Center, has put the future of the San Francisco Furniture Market in doubt. Buoyed by attendance from all 50 states, plus 83 countries, the ambitions of the owners of the new WMC far exceed simply becoming the biggest furniture show on the West Coast.
While it would be premature to say that the Las Vegas Market's rapid rise equals an imminent demise of the International Furnishings Market in High Point, the partners of the WMC are becoming evermore brash in predicting that Las Vegas will supplant High Point as the nation's furniture capital.
"The industry has spoken, and Las Vegas Market is the market of the future," said Jack Kashani and Shawn Samson, co-founders and managing partners of the WMC, in a joint statement. Dave Palmer, general manager of the WMC, added, "Attendees of our market were truly inspired, and have shared that Las Vegas marks the beginning of a new era for the home furnishings industry."
The Las Vegas Market's post-show press release seemed to gloat in quoting executives of two of High Point's leading exhibitors as having phenomenal traffic. Ron Wanek, chairman of Ashley Furniture Industries, reported first-day attendance as being 50 percent ahead of any opening day in High Point. Harvey Dondero, CEO of Broyhill, which occupies the biggest showroom in High Point, said, "This market proved itself as much more than a regional event. I believe Las Vegas has the potential to develop into a very important international market center."
The attendance and number of Las Vegas Market exhibitors--1,200 companies occupying 2.5 million square feet of space--still pale in comparison to those of High Point. Yet, the partners of the WMC said they will put the pedal to the metal to accelerate their plans to develop the WMC into a 12-million-square-foot campus of permanent showroom space for furniture and accessories in seven years, rather than the 10 years previously announced.
As the gloves come off, it will be interesting to see how the High Point Market responds.
AWFS Fair Hits and Misses
Unlike the WMC, officials of the Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Sup- pliers have exercised extreme caution in stating their intent for moving the show to Las Vegas this year was not to challenge IWF in Atlanta as North America's premiere woodworking event. Instead, their stated goal has been to attract a larger national audience to a show that traditionally has drawn three-quarters of its attendance from California.
Most of the exhibitors Wood & Wood Products editors and sales personnel talked to during the Fair indicated that they met with more woodworkers from east of the Rockies than any show in Anaheim.
Assuming the official attendance report bears out this fact, it bodes well for the future of the show.
The move to Las Vegas was not pain-free, however. First, many of the machinery exhibitors on the second floor of the South Wing of the Las Vegas Convention Center complained that the center was not adequately equipped to meet the electrical demands of all of the heavy-duty industrial machines that were powered up for live demonstrations. That issue took hours of valuable set-up time to resolve by bringing in auxiliary generators.
Traffic flow also turned out to be a problem. The long, narrow South Wing required attendees to walk nearly half a mile from the front entrance of either tradeshow floor to visit exhibitors at the back of the halls. Gangone said this will not be a problem when the AWFS Fair returns in 2007 because it will be moved to a newer hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center that is more square in shape and has numerous side entrances to improve traffic flow.
In the meantime, IWF officials are leaving nothing to chance. They have launched an unprecedented early advertising and PR campaign to promote the 2006 show, including announcing that Atlanta-area hotel rates will be rolled back to 2002 levels.
The competition generated by both woodworking fairs to strive for improvement is good for attendees and exhibitors, and the industry at large.