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Las Vegas Market furniture show and design center show signs of economy revival



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"The really important number is, the number of buyers that actually attend the market," said World Market Center Las Vegas CEO, Robert Maricich and that's where the exciting news is." photo by Valerie Miller | THP.
August 15, 2013
The crowds have cleared out of the World Market Center Las Vegas, as the 2013 Summer Market is now in the books. But the furniture mart's CEO, Robert Maricich, is busy at work again, making sure the valley's furniture design center experiences year-round success.

After five years at the helm of the massive West Coast furniture market center, and weathering one of the greatest industry downturns in history, new life seems to have been breathed into the biannual convention.

The just-passed 2013 Summer Las Vegas Market attracted an estimated 50,000 people, according to market organizers. Maricich said the market doesn't release official numbers, but he considers the July 29-Aug. 2 market was a success.

"It was the best Summer Market that we've had since 2008," he said. "We've talked (registration) rather than tracking total attendance, which we do, which of course has a major economic impact … It was in the 50,000-attendee range, which is important for the economics of the Las Vegas (Valley)."

But buyer head count, even more so than the number of attendees, are at the heart of a furniture markets success or failure, Maricich explained. This summer's market also touted about 72 new exhibitors.

"The really important number is, the number of buyers that actually attend the market -- and that's where the exciting news is," the Las Vegas Market CEO said. "We had an actual increase in the numbers of buyers by 31 percent, and that is just phenomenal. I think it's within that 31 percent -- the core furniture buyers were up 13 percent. And then we had just dramatic increases in gift and home décor buyers."

The World Market Center Las Vegas has gone through some diversification, much like the overall economy. The furniture mart started out as a furniture-centered show in 2005. Today, there's a 70-30 percent mix of furniture vs. home décor and gifts.

Eventually, Maricich predicts that home décor segment to grow to about 40 percent.

"I think it's fair to say we're the only growing home décor show in North America," the CEO said. "We're the second-largest furnishing show in North America, and so it's really become quite a compelling venue for cross-shopping and so a buyer can shop home accessories gift, home accents, and furniture all in one place."

The history of the World Market Center Las Vegas campus has been symptomatic of rest development in the Las Vegas Valley.

Eight buildings were planned for the Las Vegas furniture mart, and by 2007, three buildings – A, B and C were built. In addition, the campus' Las Vegas Design Center was opened year-round.

Then, the Great Recession devastated the national and local economy.

Millions of people in the U.S. lost their homes to foreclosure, and the demand for new furniture all but dried up. Creditors came knocking at the World Market Center Las Vegas' door.

The recession took its toll on the furniture mart, and now it is bouncing back, Maricich said.

Key to the revival of the World Market center Las Vegas was the 2011 merger with rival High Point Market properties in North Carolina. The financing, through Bain Capital and Oaktree Capital Management, allowed for the creation of the International Market Centers.

"We merged four separate free standing companies," he recalled. "The World Market Center Las Vegas; International Home Furnishing Center in High Point; Market Square Property, in High Point; and Showplace Property. We decided we wanted a merger of equals."

Despite the new venture, and the popularity of the gift and home décor shows (which are run concurrently with the winter and Summer Las Vegas markets), Maricich knows challenges remain.

"First, I think is what kind of traction would we get with a gift home décor in the continued flushing out of the furniture business is great." He explained. "But, how good is the economy going to be? Because homebuilding, which appears to be very strong, has not drug along the furniture industry like it historically has, and there are a lot of theories as to why that hasn't happened."

Maricich is hopeful that the sluggish furniture industry is going to pull out of its current lethargic state. And until then, he is grateful for the strength of the gift and home décor sector.

"I'm a believer that it is going to happen," Maricich predicted about a furniture-industry recovery. "I'm bullish on the housing market, there's incredible growth and we're still building houses at a level we did 23 years ago. There is still a dramatic need for new homes and new construction across the United States. Inevitably, that's going to create a better furniture market."

For now, encourages locals to come to year-round Las Vegas Design Center, which is open to the public. The Las Vegas Design Center caters to the local 2 million residents of the valley, Maricich said.

The Las Vegas Design Center is open daily, Monday to Friday. It is through the trade show room in that the transactions are through interior designers, he explained.

"We want to be very supportive of the design community," Maricich said. "Consumers are welcome to come and browse and I would hope bring their designer or we can help them get a designer. It's predominantly upper-end product, very, very nice designs and it's an incredible shopping experience."

Valerie Miller is a writer based in Southern Nevada. She can be reached at (702) 683-3986 or valeriemusicmagic@yahoo.com.

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