AmericasMart Atlanta – Staying Steady in Shaky Times

July 19, 2012

Despite the stresses the retail sector and its respective trade shows have undergone since the downturn, some events are holding strong and staying viable, including those representing the home furnishings market.

Case in point is the biannual Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market and Atlanta International Area Rug Market, held July 11-18 at AmericasMart Atlanta, known as the largest permanent wholesale merchandise marketplace of its kind.

With three buildings, 61 floors and more than 4.2 million net square feet of exhibit space housing a plethora of furniture, home accents, textiles, gift and apparel accessories, the venue attracts buyers and sellers from across the globe to its 13 annual markets and shows.

According to officials at AMC, which owns and manages all AmericasMart events, the eight-day Gift & Home Market registered 91,267 attendees and drew 2,376 exhibiting companies, while in 2011, the July show attracted approximately 91,000 attendees and 2,313 exhibitors.

Although other home furnishings marketplaces, including High Point Market, Dallas Market Center and the World Market Center, may follow a similar model of permanent and temporary exhibitor showrooms hosting ongoing trade shows and events, AmericasMart not only boasts broader product categories; but also a strategic floor plan created more than 15 years ago that continues to be a real win-win for its buyers and sellers, said Jeff Portman, Sr., president and COO of AMC, Inc.

“We decided to create our campus and categorize it like a department store,” Portman said. “Our categories get vertical very quickly with sub-categories, so everything we have in our permanent showrooms is replicated in the temporaries. A lot of our customers didn’t believe in the idea of putting them into a category but now they’re the biggest advocates of it – it’s really worked.”

Like most shows facing a difficult economy, finding strategic ways to attract and maintain its audience through value-adds has been key, and one way AMC has pulled this off is through regular launches of cutting-edge product categories. And so far, all that hard work seems to be paying off: according to Portman, the January 2012 Gift & Home Market was the largest since 2007.

“Everything you see here is the result of 51 years of a master plan,” said Michael Turnbull, AMC senior vice president of strategic relations.

He added, “If you had to pull out that one defining difference of AmericasMart, it’s that it has …  everything you see in these three buildings, under one roof – that strategic approach to building everything up and being what we call ‘The Market of Necessity.’”

Of AMC’s many out-of-box plans for improving the exhibitor and attendee experience, one coming up on the horizon is taking the venue into the digital age via a strategic partnership with Verizon.

“Our goal is that by Jan. 2013, we are going to be the first hybrid market that’s completely wired for cell phone usage and Wi-Fi,” Portman said. “So no matter where you go in this building you’ll be able to use your Smartphone, conduct business and take orders … it opens a lot of doors.”

Out in the Market’s busy corridors and rows of vibrant showrooms, many exhibitors and attendees said that although they thought the January event had been busier, they were still pleased with the event overall.

Exhibitor Michael Feder, president of Trade Winds Furniture, said that although traffic appeared flat with last year’s summer event, he was satisfied with the show.

“The January Market was very strong and we had the best show we’ve had in probably five years,” Feder said. “With this show so far, the traffic is not as strong but generally the July traffic is not as strong as January, so it’s not a fair comparison. But it’s in line with where my original expectations were.”

Long-time attendee and buyer Regina Kourafas, owner of Divine Interiors, said despite the economy, her business was seeing a steady uptick, which made the event even more invaluable for seeing emerging trends and color combinations as well as getting a pulse on the state of her industry.

“I’m floored about how much activity there is here,” Kourafas said. “I live in Atlanta, so if I want something, it’s in my backyard … it’s like my store. I’ll be coming to this show until I can’t walk it anymore or if it stops being fun.”

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