Las Vegas Market strikes positive note amid all the negatives

Despite significant headwinds due to bloated wholesale and retail inventories, high gas prices and fears of a recession, last week’s Las Vegas Market was an upbeat event that included – to the surprise of many observers – a decent amount of order-writing.


Granted, most exhibitors (especially furniture showrooms) described showroom traffic as light to moderate, but we were told that those who did show up were primed to buy.


“Demand is not the problem. Inventory is the problem,” one exhibitor said bluntly. “Dealers still need new product to sell.”


Attendance appeared to be strong from retailers west of the Rockies – many of whom don’t shop the High Point Market – and several exhibitors noted that quite a few major retailers from the Midwest and Eastern U.S. returned to the event after a lengthy, pandemic-driven absence.


And since designers, whose presence is becoming more significant with each Las Vegas show, don’t keep inventory, they also came to buy -- as long as they weren’t required to buy it by the container.


“Most of the designers that we deal with have a lot of projects going on,” another exhibitor told us. “There’s no slowdown for them.”


Almost every exhibitor we visited at market said furniture demand is down this year, compared to 2021. But when asked how this year’s demand compared with 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, most said it is well above those levels.


That was very encouraging to hear, and in our humble opinion, 2019 is a much better benchmark. Keep in mind that last year – not to mention the latter half of 2020 – was an anomaly that featured unprecedented demand levels that are unlikely to be seen again anytime soon. And the issues stemming from unprecedented demand were exacerbated by unprecedented supply chain problems – another scenario that’s not likely to be repeated.


As a result, we’re not stressed out over reports that consumer demand for furniture and retail store traffic has slowed in recent months. We’re certainly not happy to hear that, but it’s important to put this trend in the proper context.


Besides, many exhibitors told us they believe the retail inventory glut will be largely alleviated by the fourth quarter, which will set the stage for a more “normal” 2023.


“All in all, it was a very positive market,” said Zuo CEO Luis Ruesga. “Dealers came to buy, and they were optimistic. What more can you ask for in times like this?”