International Market Centers, which operates the Las Vegas Market and the key showroom buildings at the High Point Market in North Carolina, has had a change of ownership. International Market Centers now resides in the tactical opportunities group and real estate group of Blackstone, a private equity fund and real estate owner. Fireside and IMC management are also part owners. IMC is looking to drive growth and is ready to build on the progress the markets have made over the past several years. HOMEWORLD BUSINESS® spoke with Robert Maricich, CEO of IMC, about the year ahead.
HomeWorld Business: With the change of ownership, what should we look for from International Market Centers in the year ahead?
Robert Maricich: We will continue to do what we do best— provide a premium market experience to our exhibitors and attendees through a comprehensive home furnishings product offering in the furniture, home décor and gift categories. Along with that, we will continue to explore initiatives that add value for our customers, ensuring that their time with us is productive, strategic and beneficial to their business. Having the financial strength of Blackstone as a partner gives us access to capital to invest in making the market more effective and efficient.
HWB: What challenges and opportunities has IMC encountered with its integration with Blackstone?
RM: Blackstone is a company focused on investment and growth, and their ownership positions IMC for the same. Las Vegas Market is nearing full capacity and is the western market for furniture, home décor and gift, so there is a lot of potential for development as well as interest in expanding and enhancing our exhibitor base and buyer amenities. In High Point, there is currently more market construction growth than in the past 15 or so years underway, and International Market Centers has been and will be part of that effort as well.
HWB: Earlier this year, IMC realigned its show management, so what were the results?
RM: Each member of our team brings a unique set of skills, professional expertise and talent to the IMC family, and like any forward-thinking organization, we are always looking for ways to maximize the potential of every individual that is part of our company. Our team is strong and strategic with a shared vision for growth and new opportunities. We believe it is a tremendous strength to have teammates that have strong and long-time relationships with our customers.
HWB: What does the year ahead look like for the Las Vegas Market?
RM: Our goals and priorities center around one key strategy— to continue to grow our markets as the leading furniture, gift and home décor destinations for buyers and designers. All of our specific initiatives and strategies have this at the core, from concept to completion. For 2018, we’ll be bringing several exciting developments to the home furnishings and gift industries in coming months.
HWB: How will IMC proceed with its gift, casual furniture and temporaries programs?
RM: The gift category continues to experience tremendous growth. The casual furniture category offers furniture retailers and designers a lot of opportunity to build their business, and they can shop both at our market. We’re committed to expanding and enhancing our gift and casual offerings to buyers through product, programming and market-only opportunities.
The temporaries are an integral part of the market and a valuable product resource. In Las Vegas, we’re opening our third pavilion in January and expanding our design-driven, gift and home décor lines to include additional resources. One example is Artexpo Las Vegas, debuting at this winter in pavilion two. This is an established national fine art exhibition featuring nearly 100 artists that will be co-located at January’s market, and it represents how our strategic partnerships and collaborations support our continued successful growth and our value to our attendees and customers.
In High Point, we’re continuing to experience growth in our temporary show space in the Suites at Market Square. Temporaries are a great incubator for future permanent tenants. To date, early indications are that our winter market will be our largest ever.
HWB: What kinds of initiatives are you planning for the properties at the High Point Market?
RM: Our goal is to continue to add value to every stage of the market process, from showroom setup to vendor and buyer amenities to ease of navigation. There are a lot of opportunities in front of us, and we’ll evaluate each one carefully and decide which ones warrant further development and implementation. We are focused on enhancing showroom space and navigation so we can make those areas even more productive for our tenants.
HWB: How are you encouraging and enhancing participation in the High Point and Las Vegas markets?
RM: We know that people are consuming information in a variety of ways and through various mediums, and our team makes sure that we offer numerous touch points for interaction. In addition to more traditional methods like print and direct mail, we communicate through our website and social media channels, and we partner with industry media sources to extend our messaging reach. Everyone knows that there is no one way to reach consumers any more, and we have, and continue to develop, new strategies and technology solutions that allow us to better serve our customers and bring them to market.