What the Las Vegas Market says about the state of the industry

Heading into any furniture market, no one really knows what to expect in terms of attendance or business activity in general. That goes for exhibitors, buyers and anyone else who decides to attend. Certainly, high hopes have been dashed before, particularly during the early pandemic period, when issues ranging from supply chain disruptions to high costs for materials and containers made it difficult to pursue normal order-writing activity.

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All that was further compounded when retailer inventories went from depleted — meaning they scrambled to get their hands on anything they could — to record highs, which limited their ability to buy hardly any new products. For many, there was almost no middle ground during this period, to the dismay of anyone making the investment to show at a home furnishings market.

At the recent Las Vegas Market Jan. 29-Feb. 2, things looked different on many levels. For one, attendance appeared robust, harkening back to pre-pandemic January 2020, before the world came to an almost complete stop. While perhaps not a record-breaking market, the seemingly back-to-normal attendance levels were met with positive moods among many buyers, ranging from small independents to top HNN 125 accounts from across the country.

This made for some busy schedules indeed, as many exhibitors told Home News Now that their appointments appeared back to normal levels, with some reporting even higher-than-typical winter attendance.

And most attendees, sources said, were there to buy and not just out of desperation for anything they could find. Instead, they were seeking the best possible mix to replace slower selling items with new, fashion-forward looks. That’s not to say they weren’t seeking good value as well, as consumers fed up with inflation are looking for the best deals they can find, whether it be in travel, electronics, apparel or furniture.

But here, too, exhibitors didn’t disappoint, as the cost of goods flowing from Asia, in particular, has fallen dramatically with much more reasonable container costs, in turn, lowering the cost of finished goods. The result was seen in both imported case goods and upholstery, including some value-driven products meant to fill voids created by the sudden closure of United and Lane in November.

Exhibitors knew retailers needed to fill these slots and went to market prepared with goods — domestic or import. In addition, lead times are approaching pre-pandemic levels, meaning that customers can get those products sooner rather than later.

Of course, there are other challenges looming on the horizon, notably the new federal tip-over standard for clothing storage units that case goods producers must meet sometime between late May and the end of the year. While not necessarily halting orders in the bedroom category for now — as the standard will impact goods manufactured after May 24 at the earliest — the situation is causing alarm for many retailers, at least those who are paying attention to the issue. One large retailer was overheard telling someone in a World Market Center hall that this could be the most disruptive issue to impact case goods since antidumping on Chinese-made wooden bedroom furniture nearly 20 years ago.

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Home News Now has been covering the tip-over standard and will continue to do so as the situation develops.

The economy is also a challenge, and we continue to watch housing construction, existing home sales and unemployment closely.

But if the January Las Vegas Market is any indicator, the year has gotten off to a positive start for retailers and suppliers alike. I was pleased, like most everyone else attending market, to see things seeming like they were back to normal — if not better than normal — during the show.

Let’s hope the momentum continues throughout the year.

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