19 May 2024, 15:15
By Bill McLoughlin Apr 26, 2022

Rethinking market metrics

In January, Furniture Today’s editor-in-chief Bill McLoughlin attended a principal US furniture event, Las Vegas Market – and the view from the show floor prompted him to reflect on the bigger picture for trade shows … 

As I write this, Las Vegas Market has just opened, capping a busy month of markets that, by various accounts, have been slow, busy, better than expected, slower than expected, quiet but productive, solid with no tyre-kickers.

Depending on who you ask, all of these things are true. Most of them were common phrases before the pandemic, and are as old as the trade show business. I have little doubt that, when asked to assess the very first market, there were those who said they expected to see more people, and those who were thrilled to see as many as they did.

And without having entered a single showroom, I can tell you the traffic report on Las Vegas. It will go something like this: “Traffic was off compared to before the pandemic, but the people who came were there to place orders.”

And that’s good news. Why?

Because over the past several years, buyers had trended away from order writing. Instead, the focus was more about continuing conversations around programmes, getting a list of ideas for later follow-up or, if you had the clout, getting a key exclusive to box out the competition.

While there’s little doubt the pandemic has been a challenge to market and trade show operators, it’s been a blessing in two key ways. First, the focus is once again squarely on buying and selling. Retailers are coming to market because they need goods (desperately in some cases).

In September last year, Furniture Today Strategic Insights conducted a study of furniture retailers to assess the environment for markets. Nearly 80% of respondents described their inventory position as “fair” (49%) or “weak” (29.9%). That’s had a significant impact on retailers’ open-to-buy rate, with 60.5% indicating it had increased since 2020 and 50% saying they expected it to increase again in 2022.

The other factor that bodes well for in-person markets is that retailers are more open to adding new suppliers than at any time in recent memory. The same survey indicated that 77% of retailers are not getting all the goods they need from existing suppliers. And a whopping 89% said they are considering adding new suppliers.

And where will they look?

According to the survey, it’s markets. Nearly 60% (57.85%, to be exact) said markets were “very important” when it came to finding new sources of supply. 

So, when it comes time to assess this week’s market, or even others in the future, the metric shouldn’t be how many bodies you see in the elevator line or how busy the hallways look. In today’s environment, it might be better to measure those you’ve seen whom you’ve never seen before. Are you getting share from your competition? Did you sell more or less to those you did see?

It’s a new game, and time for new conversations.

Pictured: Not enough buyers? Or enough of the right buyers? Perhaps it is time to reassess what constitutes good footfall at trade shows? (photo courtesy Las Vegas Market)

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