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IMC Based Decisions on Buyer Survey Commissioned with Stax

Friday, May 15, 2020

International Market Centers has postponed summer home furnishings markets to August in order to accommodate participants’ COVID-19-related concerns about travel and trade show attendance.

The Atlanta market, originally scheduled for July 14-20, will run Aug. 13-18, with temporary exhibitors showing Aug. 14-17. Las Vegas Market will postpone to Aug. 30-Sept. 3 from its original July 26-30 dates. Temporaries, which will be staged for the first time in the Expo at World Market Center Las Vegas, are to be open Aug. 30-Sept. 2.

Las Vegas Market will offer the added benefit of running concurrently with the National Hardware Show, which runs Sept. 1-3 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Both markets will feature new trade show layouts designed to enable social distancing and traffic control.

IMC changed the market dates after a Stax survey in April of some 180,000 buyers and 6,000 vendors across the furniture, gift, home décor and apparel categories indicated that enough buyers would be willing to travel by the new dates and that retailers are in great need of goods as brick-and-mortar stores re-open across the country.

Gift buyers represented 38% of respondents, furniture 25%, home decor 24% and apparel 13%.

Bob Maricich

“We believe that with modifications to Atlanta market and Las Vegas Market’s timing and format, and implementation of rigorous health and safety protocols, IMC can deliver the markets our buyers need and are willing to attend,” said IMC CEO Bob Maricich in an announcement of the new dates. “While we cannot currently gather in person, we look to meeting again at our markets this August.”

Looming inventory needs

Sixty-four percent of retailers responding to IMC’s survey said existing product from their existing vendors was their top buying priority, with 55% saying new product, but from existing vendors, was their second priority.

Twenty-four percent of retailers surveyed by Stax said they had immediate inventory needs, with more than half saying they’d need more inventory within three to four weeks of re-opening. By the time of Las Vegas Market’s new dates, 90% of survey participants indicated they’d need more inventory.

“Most retailers expect to need inventory in the near term with a focus on core products with core vendors,” Maricich said during a Zoomcast presentation with industry editors. “The discussion of new product from new vendors is well down their priority list right now.”

He added that many retailers had cancelled orders in light of COVID-19, “so a lot of product isn’t in the pipeline.”

That’s one reason IMC will format its markets to focus on writing business and order commitments, with normal programming such as seminars and trend features offered online only. The elimination of in-person seminars at markets also will enhance social distancing and other safety measures that will be in place. IMC also will not host social gatherings at the shows.

Physical markets still key

While digital initiatives are more important today and will remain so, IMC’s survey indicated that in-person markets remain critical to more than 50% of buyers in all categories: Fifty-six percent of furniture retailers surveyed and a similar percentage of home décor stores said such events are “more important,” although 30% and 26%, respectively, said they’d be less important.

“People are anxious to get back to market, but they have to feel safe and secure,” Maricich said, noting that as the economy reopens, digital platforms will remain an important complement to brick-and-mortar trade shows.

While they do not see digital markets as a viable replacement for physical markets, IMC’s survey indicated buyers are interested in tools that will allow for additional brand discovery and more efficient at-market purchasing.

Dorothy Belshaw

IMC Executive Vice President Dorothy Belshaw expects around 50% less attendance than usual at summer markets but with an estimated 55% of regular buying power.

“We expect attendance to be highly regional and mostly drive-in,” she said in the Zoomcast, adding the survey indicated retailers are now willing to drive six hours to a show vs. four hours before the pandemic, which puts Las Vegas and Atlanta well within driving distance of major population centers. “There’s a high degree of comfort in driving to market.”

Expanded safety protocols

IMC’s COVID-19 response and remediation task force is developing thorough and detailed protocols for market production designed to ensure the health and safety of all those attending its markets.

All back-to-business operating plans are being vetted to verify efficacy and identify best practices by Dr. Carlos del Rio, who chairs the Department of Global Health, is a professor of epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health and a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Emory University School of Medicine.

Safety procedures at the markets are expected to include the required use of personal protective equipment, temporal monitoring, social distancing, occupancy control, and hand sanitizing/ cleansing and significantly enhanced housekeeping protocols for cleaning and disinfecting IMC’s facilities.

IMC also is collaborating with hotels and food-and-beverage partners to confirm and communicate special protocols; planning new pre-registration requirements to enable contactless market entry; and preparing for arrival and departure strategies to facilitate social distancing.

Comprehensive details around onsite health and safety protocols will be promoted in advance of each market and will be updated regularly here.

IMC will issue a white paper outlining details from the survey it commissioned with Stax, an independent global strategy consulting firm.

“We recognize that our decisions do not impact just our business, but the business of the hundreds of thousands of manufacturers, sales organizations, retailers, designers, logistic managers, hotels, restaurants and more who are a part of our markets,” Maricich said. “We approached our decision through sound research and will give our partners the same opportunity by releasing the results of our survey through a detailed white paper next week. We hope this survey can bring some clarity to the current state of the industry and allow for better planning as we all move towards recovery.”

Additional IMC gift and home markets through the end of the year include:

  • Fall Design Week, Sept. 21-23 at AmericasMart Atlanta.
  • October High Point Market, Oct. 17-21.
  • Fall Cash & Carry, Nov. 3-5 at AmericasMart Atlanta.

Home Accents Today Managing Editor Thomas Lester contributed to this report.

www.imcenters.com

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