Breaking news: various sectors of the home furnishings industry got together IN PERSON over the past month or two…and the world didn’t end.
From NY NOW and Las Vegas Market in August to Shoppe Object in September and home textiles and tabletop market weeks in October, it was an amazing confluence of events that seemed almost normal in their lack of abnormality.
Ok, we’re still in the middle (or hopefully the last part) of a pandemic and attendance at all of these shows and markets was not what it usually has been. But after the better part of 18 months spent Zooming, roaming around market centers that seemed like ghost towns and canceling airplane and hotel reservations, it was a rather remarkable period.
Here’s what we learned:
- Trade shows are not going away. Anyone naïve enough to think we were going to go virtually all virtual has been proven wrong. The need to see products in person, meet with your industry colleagues and generally press the industry flesh – figuratively not literally, HR please note – remains a compelling part of the industry business process.
- Things will not really return to close to normal until the big national retail accounts start to travel again. Most of these companies continue to have travel bans for their staffs which have been extended several times as the pandemic stretched on. When will this happen? Watch for return-to-office mandates to get an idea when travel will resume. Companies are not going to ask their people to get on airplanes and attend shows if they aren’t allowing them back into their offices.
- The trade show landscape is going to emerge in a different configuration than as it existed before COVID-19. Big shows will remain, medium size shows will have to find their niches to stay relevant and smaller events will get increasingly marginalized. Just as there remain too many stores in America, there are also still too many trade shows and markets, including in the home, gift and housewares segments.
- But a new twist may yet emerge: micro-shows held for a very local demographic, be it geographic, product sector or vendor base are going to gain in the marketplace as alternatives to massive shows that remain intimidating to certain segments of the population. Hard to say how sustainable this model will be, but it will play a part in the overall B2B process for at least the short-term.
- One last thing: as apprehensive as many people were to start traveling to and working shows again, a funny thing happened once they did so. They realized, hey, this wasn’t so scary and in fact, it was kind of nice. When working the shows I went to, I saw a whole lot more smiles than frowns on the faces of attendees. Which says good things for what’s coming next, the show and markets of the first quarter of 2022. I’ll call it the Winter of Content.
Award-winning Journalist & Consultant for the retailing and home furnishings industries with extensive business media experience in both fields.