It has been refreshing to experience renewed optimism and a vibrant energy at all of the industry events I have attended so far this year, but the most dramatic comeback I witnessed had to be the Las Vegas Market. After suffering the misfortune of opening the largest of its three buildings just as the housing market tanked, World Market Center has managed to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, hosting its most successful summer market in years last week.
While the job is far from finished, it’s on an impressive path that really kicked off last summer with a concerted effort to make one floor (B3) really, really great with the right mix of high-design exhibitors. That momentum continued with January’s extension this same mojo across the walkway into C3, and accelerated with summer overhauls on five floors of Building C, resulting in 1.1 million square feet of new and expanded showrooms and 300 new home brands.
Certainly some of this success has been leveraged by parent company International Market Centers’ (IMC) gargantuan foothold in High Point and the financing that made it possible. We can’t all take advantage of those kinds of deus ex machina opportunities in our businesses, but I do believe there are still some universal lessons to be learned.
Don’t try to be something you’re not. Even without the economic downturn, Building C was not shaping up as originally planned. In an omnibus category grab, it was going to have a concentrated home for lighting that would have rivaled Dallas … only that’s not why lighting buyers were already warming up to Las Vegas. They wanted to shop there for accessories as an alternative to High Point. The growth proved to be in gift categories instead, and Las Vegas wisely embraced this and ran with it.
Recognize new category opportunities. In addition to establishing West Coast leadership in gift, IMC saw a conspicuous gap in the tabletop market west of, say, the Hudson River. The opening of c-One this summer fashionably filled this hole.
Break up a big project into smaller tasks. While rebranding and reinventing entire floors are hardly small tasks in their own right, they are certainly less daunting than trying to fix a whole building. Once IMC announced a cohesive game plan for each floor and a schedule for rolling each one out, leasing and marketing teams had focused missions and messaging that added excitement at each step.
There is no substitute for personal outreach. At the end of the day, IMC had to get people to come to the Las Vegas Market to see the fruits of their labors — and their exhibitors’ fine fruits, of course. With an in-house center, IMC made more than 55,000 personal calls to buyers and designers in all categories. The concentrated efforts on lapsed buyers or those who had registered but hadn’t booked hotel rooms through the show website, as well as those identified by tenants as important. The result? Market registrations were up 100 percent over summer 2012 and more than 4,000 first-timers attended the show.
The emphasis shifts for January 2014 to building out the density of established floors, so it will be interesting to see how that plays versus the bright, shiny object that all-new-and-improved always brings. But in the meantime, Las Vegas has plenty to be proud of.