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Winter Las Vegas market gives reason for optimism

Buyer attendance up 9% from previous year, international buyers up 16%

LAS VEGAS — The Las Vegas winter market, held Jan. 24-28, suggested a renewed optimism in the industry, delivering increases in buyer attendance over a year ago and setting new company records.

Buyer attendance was up 25% over last summer's market and up 9% from winter market a year ago, with thousands of new buyers in attendance, according to a press release. International buyer attendance rose 16% from last winter, while designer attendance increased by 33%. More than 80% of the Top 100 U.S. Retailers were in attendance.

Las Vegas Market had an increase in all geographic regions across the U.S. Most notably, the West was up 14% and the Northeast 19% over last winter's market. Double-digit growth occurred in key international regions, with Canadian buyers up 23%, Latin American buyers up 30% and Mexican buyers rising by 13% compared to a year ago.

In addition to dramatic growth across all buyer categories, winter market saw a 20% increase in exhibiting companies as compared to last summer market. Joining the 1,200-plus exhibitors at winter market were 150 new-to-market exhibitors.

"It was probably our strongest market in Las Vegas, both in terms of attendance and sales, in three years," said Robert Maricich, president and CEO, World Market Center Las Vegas. "The energy was palpable, which I think was a reflection of what's happening at the macroeconomic level. The Consumer Confidence Index just rose to its highest level in eight months and the second highest level since 2008. There is no denying that this market plays a role in stimulating the industry and the furnishings economy. What we saw at market is an encouraging indicator of what's to come in 2011."

Maricich said innovation and new players have given the industry new life.

"It's very exciting to see new interest in our industry and evolved business models in retail," he said. "These are not your traditional dealers and instead represent new channels of distribution and sales opportunities for our partners."

For many exhibitors, it was an unprecedented market, in both showroom traffic and order writing.

"We've done the last nine shows at Las Vegas market, and this show was by far the best for us," said Wally Stryk, owner, Asian Art Imports. "This show far exceeded our sales and new contacts of any previous show. It was obvious to us that customer sentiment has taken a big step in a positive direction."

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