Exhibitors: Covid cancellations cut attendance and Covid concerns become an issue for fall business outlook
Traffic was light, concerns about the pandemic are growing and supply chain issues remain worrisome.
Those were some of the key points that emerged from a sweltering Summer Las Vegas Market, pushed back about a month from its usual late July timing to Aug. 22-26 as the pandemic caused major market centers to shift some of their market dates this year.
While the April event in Las Vegas — moved from its traditional January timeslot — was characterized by upbeat moods as exhibitors and retailers began traveling once again after Covid-19 lockdowns, the summer market mood was more unsettled. Some retailers canceled their Las Vegas plans at the last minute due to Covid concerns, which resulted in light traffic in bedding showrooms and on the World Market Center campus.
Bedding exhibitors said they are worried about business prospects this fall as Covid cases rise, and some expressed concerns about the upcoming Winter Las Vegas Market in January, traditionally the launch pad for bedding introductions and a major event on the bedding calendar.
While some bedding exhibitors reported good results at the recent market, others offered bleaker assessments. Asked to describe the market in one word, one bedding president responded, “Lonely.”
The quiet hallways did give bedding executives a chance for in-depth meetings with key retail partners.
“Market is what we expected,” said Steve Rusing, president of U.S. Sales for Lexington, Kentucky-based Tempur Sealy International Inc., the biggest bedding exhibitor on the WMC campus. “This is similar to what we saw in April. We chose to be here to meet with our key retailers. It’s a value to us.”
Added Frank Hood, chief executive officer of Mebane, North Carolina-based bedding producer Kingsdown: “This is maybe 50% of what it should have been. If you are willing to come to one of the hottest places on earth in the middle of a pandemic, you are coming to purchase something. The quality of the dialogues we are having is very good. Everyone is looking for real partners in the business.”
Gerry Borreggine, CEO of Princeton, New Jersey-based licensing group Therapedic International, offered this take: “Things happened for us at market that would not have happened if we were not at market. And we had a few meaningful business conversations. Was it worth traipsing across the country in 100-degree heat during a pandemic that does not seem to be losing its grip? Probably not. But we chose to be there. We are supporting the market and the industry.”
Eugene Alletto, CEO of Farmingdale, New York-based sleep accessories supplier Bedgear, said that retail bedding business “has slowed,” and said some are blaming that — incorrectly in his view — on supply chain issues. He said that as retail prices for bedding products rise and other categories see a rebound in business, the bedding category finds itself in a less favorable position. “People will choose not to buy a mattress if they think they need to spend $3,000 on (it),” he said.
Toby Konetzny, senior vice president of business development at Rancho Cucamonga, California-based South Bay International, which focuses on the e-commerce channel, said e-commerce sales remain good but leveled off earlier this summer. “Our biggest strength is that we have inventory,” he said. “We are opening up more accounts.”
Jon Stowe, managing director of E.S. Kluft & Co., a luxury bedding producer based in Rancho Cucamonga, California, said the August market was stronger than the Las Vegas Market in April. “The luxury and ultra-premium markets continue to grow,” he said. “Our partners’ businesses are growing, and we are riding that wave with them.”
Bryan Smith, CEO of Nashville, Tennessee-based independent bedding producer Southerland Inc., said his company saw West Coast retailers in Las Vegas but noted a challenging climate. “The industry is becoming fatigued,” he said. “Whether it’s Covid or raw materials or transportation issues, there is always another shoe to drop.”
At Resident, Bob Muenkel, vice president of retail engagement for the digitally native platform of brands, found several positives. “We will come out of this market in a pretty positive position,” he said. “We had significant clients and prospects come in. We’re on the ascent.”
GhostBed, a Plantation, Florida-based direct-to-consumer player seeking growth with brick-and-mortar retailers with a wholesale line, remains hot in the online marketplace and enjoyed market traffic that ranged from “very good” to “great,” said Alan Hirschhorn, executive vice president. “People hear about us and see us and they come around to us,” he said. “We are on a roll.”
Brad Rogers, senior vice president of bedding at Arcadia, Wisconsin-based home furnishings producer Ashley Furniture Industries, described market as “surprisingly good. We had a lot of good activity. I didn’t know what to expect. We had some cancellations, but we also picked up people we weren’t expecting.”
Stephen Chen, president of Knoxville, Tennessee-based bedding producer Mlily USA, said the market was “very constructive, but not as busy as we might have liked.”
Alex Cicolella, CEO of Pompano Beach, Florida-based Blu Sleep, a mattress and sleep accessories supplier, said some retailers changed their minds about attending the Las Vegas Market just before the market began and said the spread of the Delta variant is impacting the industry.
At LogicData, an Austrian adjustable bed base producer whose U.S. operations are based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S. President Dexter Weber said traffic was down from normal levels but noted that he remains hopeful about attendance in January. “Everyone feels January will be back to normal,” he said.
At Cleveland-based bedding and accessories supplier Rize, which introduced a self-making duvet with air chambers and a line of CBD products, traffic was “steady,” said Rick Sterzer, executive vice president of sales. “It is quiet but some of the bigger retailers are always here. We’ve had meaningful engagement with them.”
Ante4autism Breaks Its Previous Record
The 13th annual Ante4autism poker tournament held Aug. 21 at the South Point Hotel and Casino’s Grandview Lounge during Summer Las Vegas Market broke its previous record, raising more than $150,000. This year’s proceeds were donated to Autism Speaks, F.E.A.T. — Families for Effective Autism Treatments of Southern Nevada, Cincinnati Center for Autism, National Autism Association of Southeast Ohio, and Rich Center for Autism.
To date, the tournament, founded by industry veteran Doug Krinsky, has raised more than $1,000,000 in support of numerous leading autism spectrum disorder charities and institutes.
“To be able to create awareness about autism and raise this kind of money to help and support our kids and families through these autism charities is just tremendous,” Krinsky said. “There was a great turnout … (of) celebrities, professional poker players, furniture industry sponsors and many, many local Las Vegas players. (We had) a live auction, a silent auction and plenty of action at the tables. The excitement in the room was felt by everyone.”
This year’s Apollo Jett Grand Champion was Chip Jett, professional poker player and, along with his wife Karina, an event co-organizer and co-host. The annual award honors the memory of the couple’s young son who had autism.
The event has a large base of support among bedding and furniture industry members, both companies and individuals. For a complete list of supporters and their donations, check the Ante4autism.com website.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 59 children is diagnosed with ASD, which is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in childhood and lasts throughout a person’s life. It affects how a person behaves, communicates and learns.
Mlily Mixes Moonshine and Makeovers
Mattress manufacturer Mlily USA once again hosted its Moonshine Mixer on Saturday, Aug. 21 before the Summer Las Vegas Market. The event helps raise funds for Special Spaces, a nonprofit organization that transforms bedrooms for terminally ill children. This year, for the first time, the event also included a silent auction. which providing guests the opportunity to bid on Las Vegas entertainment items, tickets to headline shows, your mattresses from the JAMA collection and more, and donate funds directly to two upcoming Special Spaces room makeovers. The event took place in the Mlily showroom.
The philanthropic event — the fifth of its kind — featured a curated selection of Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine for sampling. Limited-edition collectable bottles also were available to take home in exchange for a donation. All donations from the event went toward the company’s goal of raising $10,000 for Special Spaces, which is equivalent to the cost of two room makeovers.
“Special Spaces is near and dear to our hearts,” said Stephen Chen, president of the Knoxville, Tennessee-based company. “The work they do across the country to create bedroom makeovers for young children with cancer is truly uplifting. It provides the children with a safe place to recover, heal, sleep and play, and makes their bedroom a very comforting space. The Moonshine Mixer has always been an opportunity for us to get the industry involved in Special Spaces, but this year, with the addition of the silent auction, we are offering our guests a unique opportunity to participate in a more meaningful way. Donations will support two bedroom makeovers that will have a lasting impact on two very deserving children.”
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