LAS VEGAS — Get in, stay safe, place orders and get out quick. These simple goals define many buyers’ mindset going into Las Vegas Market’s summer edition this year as the industry tackles tradeshow business amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ron Bailey, owner of Alaska-based retailer Bailey’s Furniture, has been going to furniture markets for the past 30 years, and although the decision to attend Las Vegas Market was more complicated for him this time around, he will not miss the market.
“This was definitely one of the stranger trips we’ve had to plan,” noted Bailey. “But I know I need to be there, and I want to see what’s new.”
According to Bailey, the challenges facing a trip to market at this time are far outweighed by his stores’ needs for new product. After closing for several weeks in response to stay-at-home orders in the state of Alaska, customers have been “just streaming in” to Bailey’s six locations. And with lead times, traditionally already longer for the Alaska-based retailer because of its location, stretching out months in advance at this point, he said he has to get out and source new product or risk falling behind.
Bailey also said, regardless of lead times, that he wanted to get out to market to stay up to date on new product and styles. Staying on top of trends and the latest looks is something Bailey is both personally and professionally invested in, and after missing High Point Market and contending with Las Vegas Market’s delay from July to August, “even half a show is better than waiting for the October show.”
In Springdale, Ark., Joe Donaldson, co-owner and president of Sam’s Furniture, said he is making the trip to Vegas for many of the same reasons. He needs to stay ahead of his customer’s demands for product, especially as he preps to open a new 50,000-square-foot warehouse space. In his opinion, being one of few buyers present at Las Vegas Market will only benefit him.
“I actually went to Tupelo Market this year, too, for the first time in probably 15 years, just hoping to get lucky and find some stuff,” said Donaldson. “And I did, and the eight trucks of upholstery I bought is already at my store inside of two weeks. Things like that make it worth the trip to a market, so we can’t miss the chance at Vegas.”
So, Bailey and Donaldson said they plan to adapt their traditional market plans to fit the new climate because it is crucial to their business.
Bailey, who usually attends at least three and half days of market, will be in and out of Las Vegas in a day and a half. He also will cut down on the amount of people he brings to the market. During a normal market, Bailey would attend with his wife and several members of Bailey’s management, training and executive teams, but this time it will just be Bailey and his wife, who does much of the accessories sourcing for Bailey’s Furniture.
“There’s only going to be half, maybe not even half, of the vendors there,” explained Bailey. “So it wasn’t worth the expense or exposure (to COVID-19) to bring them to the market.”
Donaldson is making fewer changes to his physical plans. He will still be bringing his wife, Larra, director of marketing and business development for the retailer, and a buyer with him. The group will also spend the same amount of time in Las Vegas, flying in on Saturday and leaving Tuesday, as they have in years past, although their goals will be a little different.
Instead of focusing on established vendors in the ways he normally would, Donaldson said he will be out to make more new connections with smaller, less-known manufacturers who will be able to turn around orders faster. He loves his regular vendors, he said, but right now, stock is king in his stores, and with the post-COVID-19 boom continuing and Labor Day coming up, keeping upholstery in stock is his first priority as his customers expect to be able to pick up or have product delivered within 10 days of placing orders. Generally, he’ll also be looking across categories to fill his new warehouse space.
For Bailey, Las Vegas Market will be a key time to meet with mattress manufacturers to find new solutions to the long lead times he has been facing. In addition to that and meeting with some established quick-ship upholstery resources, he is also saving time to visit new companies, much like Donaldson, to help diversify his offerings and find more available product.
“We need the stock and we have the business, so if they’re open and letting us travel, we’ll be at there,” concluded Donaldson. “We have to be there.”