International Market Centers (IMC) operates AmericasMart in Atlanta, the Las Vegas Market and key showroom buildings at the High Point Market including the cornerstone International Home Furnishings Center. IMC is on a mission to grow and enhance its market business, investing not only in new opportunities but also in existing operations and facilities. HOMEWORLD BUSINESS® spoke with Robert Maricich, IMC’s CEO, about developments that have occurred over the past year and what to look for from the company in the year ahead.
HomeWorld Business: How does International Market Centers view the year ahead in terms of its business, its facilities and the prospect for the home furnishings, housewares and gift sectors?
Robert Maricich: IMC’s goal is to make the market experience effective, efficient and compelling for our customers. With our unparalleled national scale, reach and relationships within the home furnishings and gift industries, we are exceptionally positioned for growth and to deliver an unprecedented platform for B2B commerce for North America— for both sellers and buyers
Though we have nearly 20 million square feet of permanent showroom space on three campuses— Atlanta, Las Vegas and High Point— we recognize that market attendance is regionally distinct and that each market is differentiated by category assortment and channels of distribution. We take a holistic approach to the industry, along with a unique approach to each market so that we can best serve customer needs.
IMC has a long-standing history of strategic reinvestment and commitment to customer experience for tenants, exhibitors and buyers. In 2019, we kicked-off a three-year, $280 million investment in new initiatives to enhance our markets. The ambitious slate of initiatives includes category enrichment and extension, launch of new verticals, strategic remerchandising of existing resources, digital and mobile platform enhancements, and physical improvements in arrival areas and public spaces. Planned improvements will be significant and tangible, and are designed to create value for our tenants and deliver a world-class experience for their customers. We’re very optimistic about the year ahead.
HWB: What new initiatives can we expect from the Atlanta Market in 2020?
RM: Our recently launched Atlanta NEXT multi-stage capital and strategic investment plan stage will transform the AmericasMart Atlanta business through enrichment of all categories and improvements to its three buildings. It is an investment that will elevate the market experience and deliver more value to our customers.
Stage 1 begins with Home category enhancements including a dramatic renovation of the Building 1 lobby and remerchandising of the home décor and open daily resources. This winter, marketgoers will find a concentration of open year round designer resources in Building 1 (floors 11 to 15) and remerchandising of home resources on other floors in Building 1. A reimagining of the gift, gourmet and tabletop resources in Building 2 will begin in July 2020. Overall, we are creating a cross-category lifestyle remerchandising of showrooms to align with the current retail landscape.
Most dramatically, our complete remodel of the Building 1 lobby will create an efficient and inspirational arrival experience for buyers and exhibitors during market and year-round. In addition to a new two-story lobby with lounge, meeting and work spaces, and newly configured registration areas, we will offer improved amenities including a new full-service restaurant and a new grab-and-go café to supplement the existing Starbucks café.
HWB: What new initiatives will boost housewares in Atlanta?
RM: Gourmet and tabletop buyers are coming to Atlanta to source and discover the next must-have styles, tools, techniques and products for their customers. The Winter 2020 Atlanta Market will present 900-plus leading suppliers of tabletop, housewares and gourmet food products in permanent showrooms and temporary exhibits. The market’s six temporary collections with gourmet and tabletop merchandise are Gourmet Foods, Gourmet Luxe, Housewares, Tabletop and Entertaining and Tabletop Luxe. Across the market, product introductions are trending towards time-saving tools, recipes and preparations. Five days of demonstration kitchen presentations by innovative chefs and culinary tastemakers will showcase culinary trends, as well as dining and entertaining innovations.
HWB: How is the Las Vegas World Market Center Expo Center development proceeding?
RM: We broke ground on the Expo at World Market Center Las Vegas, a new 315,000-square-foot facility yielding 194,785 net square feet of rentable temporary exhibit space contiguous with Building C, last summer. This January, market-goers will see the building going vertical. Construction is on schedule, and the new facility will house the Summer 2020 Las Vegas Market gift and home temporary exhibits, allowing for growth and expansion of Las Vegas Market’s trade show presentation. We expect it to drive new exhibitors to campus and to enrich the pipeline of new and innovative product introductions.
HWB: What key initiatives beyond the Expo are in store for Las Vegas Market?
RM: Las Vegas Market is a comprehensive cross-category furniture, home décor and gift buying destination. It offers an exclusive West Coast-influenced product experience on a convenient and easily accessed campus with premier amenities. Our gourmet category expansion has been robust and exponential, with 750-plus gift-oriented housewares, tabletop and specialty foods presented in permanent showrooms and temporary exhibits. More than 300 of these resources are concentrated on Building C’s 11th floor. Las Vegas Market showcases thousands of home furnishings resources— from furniture and décor to rugs and lighting— on one easy-to-shop campus and in a wide variety of styles, materials and pricepoints. Overall, Las Vegas Market presents 2,000-plus furniture lines on 31 showroom floors, along with nearly 200 temporary home furnishings exhibitors.
HWB: How is IMC’s involvement in the High Point Market evolving?
RM: Reinvestment is essential to drive continual growth, relevance and the value proposition of attending market. In October, we announced a $33.5 million capital investment in our High Point Market properties, including a dynamic new arrival experience for the International Home Furnishings Center (IHFC) Commerce entrance as well as customer-facing renovations and refurbishments to several of our other downtown High Point properties.
The cornerstone of the initiative is a $14.4 million remodel of IHFC, High Point Market’s largest property, which features hundreds of the industry’s biggest brands in 3.5 million square feet of permanent showrooms and the celebrated InterHall temporary collection. With its positioning at the nexus of the transportation center and its high-profile roster of 450 exhibitors, IHFC attracts significant and sustained market traffic. The planned improvements will better serve the needs of the buyers and suppliers doing business there.
Plans include a gracious and modernized arrival experience featuring a reimagined façade, an open and inviting lobby, and a more functional registration area. Other planned IHFC enhancements include the addition of new state-of-the-art meeting and lounge facilities, upgrades to the IHFC main food court and office areas, renovation of the 11th floor ballroom, and refurbishment of common areas and restrooms throughout the building’s 14 floors. The IHFC upgrades are scheduled for completion by the Fall 2021 Market.
We are thrilled to participate in the economic development occurring in the city of High Point, not just through capital improvements to our own properties, but also through community engagement and investment. In fact, since our founding in 2011, IMC has invested more than $80 million in High Point Market and the surrounding community. This figure includes new construction and acquisitions, renovations and refurbishments to existing properties, leasehold improvements, as well as overall infrastructure enhancements and upgrades.