LAS VEGAS – Last August, Canadian exhibitors made the journey to the World Market Center here participating what many already knew would be a Las Vegas Market (LVM) short on Canadian attendees. Now, with the event’s winter 2022 approaching, exhibitors are preparing for a more robustly attended show, thanks to somewhat looser COVID-19 related travel restrictions.
Some believe the event – which is slated to showcase more than 4,000 lines and over one million products during its five-day, which kicks-off this coming Sunday (January 23, 2022) – will attract Canadian buyers in droves.
“Absolutely we do [expect more Canadian buyers],” Angelo ‘J.R.’ Marzilli, president of Décor-Rest Furniture, the Woodbridge, Ontario-based upholstery house, recently told Home Goods Online. “We have had a few conference calls with people who are excited to continue on with shows. American contacts seem more excited and for Canadians, it’s their first time going to a show should everything say status quo.”
Whether everything will remain status quo, however, remains to be seen.
The recent disease wave launched by the new Omicron variant, which some experts suggest could be more transmissible and perhaps more likely to reinfect people who have previously contracted COVID-19, has many countries – Canada included – rushing to reimpose some travel restrictions. Indeed, Global Affairs Canada is currently advising against what it terms “non-essential travel.”
According to the U.S. Embassy to Canada, anyone over the age of two who flies into the United States must now provide a negative viral COVID test taken within one calendar day of travel or proof that they have contracted and recovered from the virus within the 90 days preceding their trip.
As for returning home, fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents coming from the U.S. are not currently required to quarantine upon re-entering the country. That said, the Canadian government’s web site says Canadians who are out of the country for longer than 72 hours must submit a negative COVID test or proof of recent previous infection.
But with a two-week quarantine no longer required for residents returning from the U.S., more Canadians are more likely to travel for work and play, prompting Marzilli to expect seeing attendance at the upcoming show reach pre-pandemic levels.
“We’re expecting a normal audience,” he enthuses. “Most of our industry seems to be well-vaccinated and people want to get out. We are Canadians after all and if you want a vacation in warmer weather, you have to be vaccinated to do so.”
Marzilli also observed people have appeared more willing to travel over the past several months.
“A lot of people are starting to test out the travelling aspect now,” he said. “We recently had a mini-show and invited sales associates and dealers to visit us on a one-on-one basis and we had a really good turnout. When we surveyed them to ask about plans for Vegas, they said they’d be there.”
Other exhibitors also believe looser travel restrictions will make it easier for Canadians to attend the market – especially since many might be planning to be away for less than three days.
“Yes, we believe they will [go to market], especially now that a PCR test is not required for an under 72-hour visit,” says Sara Samieian, co-chief executive officer of full-line furniture resource, Moe’s Home Collection, which is headquartered in Vancouver. “We feel many customers will come for two days. Not sure if it will be record numbers, but absolutely higher than we’ve seen since COVID,” she said.
Others agree while record attendance is unlikely, Canadian retail buyers are likely to at least begin making a comeback.
“At the current state of things, we do expect more Canadians to travel this January to Las Vegas Market. With a large majority of individuals who have been vaccinated we suspect that buyers are eager to be back doing what they do best – sourcing new products and partners,” says Sumer Morad, senior marketing manager with the Toronto-based full-line furniture resource SUNPAN.
“Canadians will still have to juggle a few obstacles at the borders with testing protocols, however this process is now quite well defined and pretty straight forward,” she added.
Morad believes while people are warming to the idea of travelling, the unpredictability of the virus could prompt some people to exercise more caution in the not-too-distant future. “We have seen a steady growth in the attendance of our showrooms since last fall but of course this could change if the COVID numbers surge.”
Others say while it’s not necessarily going to be one of the most well-attended markets of all time, it’s coming at a time when Canadians are anxious to check out new products and enjoy better weather.
“I think it’s going to be a hot market. Will it be as busy as winter markets past? It really does depend,” says Gary Christianson, sales and marketing director for Mobital, the modern furniture specialist based in Laval, Quebec.
“Some buyers don’t decide until January, but the people who usually go say they’re going to go this time. I think people are wanting to get out there and see what alternatives there may be. For some buyers, it’s an excuse to get out of dodge and be in a sunny environment for a while and knock off some business at the same time,” he noted.
Christianson says attendance could be mildly tempered by the spate of between market mini-shows – where manufacturers and importers invite retailers to private events held in their own showrooms – that have recently taken place up-and-down the west coast.
That said, he also believes buyers are looking to peruse a wider display of product. “[In British Columbia, where he is based], we have a robust manufacturing and import sector for furniture and there’s been a lot of in-between market sales happening and it kind of liquefies the show, but people are hungry to see who they can source from,” he said, adding last fall’s edition of the High Point Market was slow for west coast businesses.
Others believe the pandemic will continue to keep attendance lower than usual.
“The pandemic recovery will be a slow process. I do not expect the same number of Canadian retailer buyers at the Las Vegas show,” said Simon Jervis, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Sealy Sofa Convertibles. “I do believe that we will see more buyers than we have in about two years. It is true that travel restrictions into the U.S have eased, but by no means are they at the same level as pre-pandemic. There is certainly a nervousness to business travel. I don’t believe that we will see markets return to ‘normal’ until we are clearly past COVID-19.”