Q&A With IMC’s Robert Maricich On 2021 Markets

As 2021 progresses and the world looks forward to some greater normalcy, the 2021 schedule of International Market Centers trade shows will proceed with the Atlanta Market slated for January 12 to 19; the Las Vegas Market rescheduled to April 11 to 15 and August 22 to 26, and the Spring High Point Market rescheduled to June 5 to 9.

Homeworld Business discussed with IMC CEO Robert Maricich what showgoers might experience as they attend the forthcoming markets.

HomeWorld Business: Why did IMC determine to change its show date for Las Vegas; and how did it arrive at those dates?

Robert Maricich: Throughout the pandemic, our decisions about market timing and format have been designed to ensure the health and safety of our customers and our staff. Two factors— both unique to current COVID conditions and restrictions in western states— drove our decision to postpone the winter Las Vegas Market. Firstly, Governor Sisolak’s recent extension of Nevada’s ‘statewide pause,’ and secondly, stay-at-home orders currently impacting travel for key western states.

In deciding to shift Las Vegas Market from late January to mid-April, we had to consider the needs of three industries: gift, home decor and furniture. In regards to home furnishings, the High Point Market Authority’s decision to change High Point Market from April to June created a unique opening in the home furnishings industry calendar which allowed us to shift the winter Las Vegas Market into April. We also will alter our summer Las Vegas Market dates from July to August to allow enough time between the April Las Vegas Market, new June High Point Market dates and our summer market in Las Vegas.

Our Las Vegas showrooms, including the Las Vegas Design Center, remain open for business by appointment for buyers. In fact, several of the larger gift sales agencies and manufacturers are planning to welcome buyers with pre-scheduled appointments to their showrooms during the original January market dates. In line with IMC’s commitment to evolve and adapt market offerings to serve industry needs, we also have agreed to facilitate a mid-March gift preview, exclusively for seasonal buyers and suppliers.

HWB: Given what we’re hearing about travel and vaccines and government mandates, how much of an advantage will the new market dates offer; and how do you expect calendar shifts to affect who goes to market and how heavy the attendance will be?

RM: Our gift and home markets in Atlanta— Atlanta Market in January and Spring Mini Market in March— are running as planned with both showrooms and temporary exhibits. Our decision to maintain current timing and format of these events in Atlanta was informed by buyers’ intent to attend as signaled by pre-registration and the high percentage of attendance within driving distance and unreliant on air travel, as well as IMC’s experience with safely and successfully hosting eight markets for the southeastern region at AmericasMart since June 2020.

The January Atlanta Market will showcase 1,000-plus gift and home decor showrooms in Buildings 1 and 2, as well as the return of our temporary exhibits. Buyer pre-registration for the January Atlanta Market is strong, and we expect the market to be successful and safe.

We anticipate that the later timing of the Las Vegas Market will enable us to host a safe and successful market featuring both permanent showrooms and temporary exhibits for western buyers who are currently unable or unwilling to travel because of COVID-19. And, the summer market’s shift from July to August allows enough time between the April Las Vegas Market, new June High Point Market dates and our summer market in Las Vegas.

HWB: What safety measures are in place, and how did IMC develop, apply and adjust them over the course of operations in 2020? How will they affect participation in and navigation of the market?

RM: Just as they did during our summer markets, Atlanta Market and Las Vegas Market attendees will follow IMC’s Together Safely protocols which include contactless registration procedures, mandatory use of personal protective equipment, expanded sanitization and the implementation of social distancing and traffic control measures. IMC has safely and successfully produced 11 markets in Atlanta, Las Vegas and High Point from June through November 2020, and we continue to actively monitor guidance from public health and government officials. For complete information, visit TogetherSafely.com.

HWB: From the broad perspective how will this market be different, how should attendees prepare for changes?

RM: From a broad perspective, the market experience is not that different from pre-pandemic times. Yes, there are new safety protocols and new sourcing tools in place, but the mission of the market remains unchanged: bringing buyers and sellers together to grow their businesses. Nothing can replace the in-person market experience of discovering new products, acquiring new customers, making new connections and reconnecting with friends and colleagues.

Atlanta Market buyers do need to prepare for some changes to the market experience in Winter 2021. Specific changes include new locations for market temporaries to allow for safer floor plans, safety protocols and an all-digital events schedule. IMC’s print and digital resources, such as the new AtlantaMarket.com website, Atlanta Market Magazine and Buyers Guide, and the Atlanta Market app, are available before, during and after to help buyers navigate all changes.

Some market elements are returning after a hiatus over the summer, including various onsite displays and entertainment. IMC_di will be unveiling JuniperMarket “PreviewPods,” which will provide a dynamic visual overview of the new B2B e-commerce marketplace. Graphics, signage and live demonstrations will provide prospective buyers with a preview of the new purchasing platform, its functionality and its connectivity to IMC’s physical markets.

HWB: What kinds of virtual programming and online resources will IMC offer before market and when can folks tune in? What are the goals of the programming, and how will programs at the market change versus what might be expected even a year ago or for the last Las Vegas market?

RM: IMC will continue to offer a robust lineup of virtual programming before and after each market on a range of topics including trends and design direction, retail and marketing strategy and business operations.

In fact, we had already planned seven webinars to be presented in the weeks leading up to the winter Las Vegas Market, and they will be rescheduled in connection with the market’s shift to April. We also will adjust the timing of content for IMC High Point Market to tie into the market’s new June timing. The mix of programming for both markets will include IMC’s proprietary trend programs “First Look” for Las Vegas and “Trend Watch” for High Point as well as continuation of our popular virtual showhouse projects. Just as we did in May 2020 when we first pivoted to produce a three-week High Point Virtual Market, IMC will continue to look at all models and make necessary changes to maintain content and community for market participants.

As an extension of this market-specific programming, IMC just announced the January 2021 launch of “Market Insights,” a free monthly webinar series. Presented as high-level conversations about current business issues, the series will serve as a year-’round resource for information and inspiration. As an added bonus, relevant webinars also will offer CEU credits.

“Market Insights” kicks off with a live presentation of the “Pantone 2021 Color of the Year” by Laurie Pressman, vp/Pantone Color Institute, on Thursday, January 14 at 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time / 1 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. Other confirmed sessions include Rebecca West, author of “Happy Starts at Home,” sharing products for making home a sanctuary on February 17 and a photography webinar with photographer and design consultant Linda Holt on March 10. Registration for the webinars will be available on the markets’ websites in the weeks prior to each session.

HWB: What digital resources can participants tap at and after market, and how does IMC’s Juniper division contribute and provide show attendee resources?

RM: IMC has robust market websites for Atlanta, Las Vegas and High Point that enable visitors to search by keyword or product category. The market websites also have extensive digital content libraries with trend information and educational webinars to help buyers and suppliers stay informed and in-touch between markets. At-market tools include apps with easy-to-use search and navigation tools.

Beyond this, IMC’s market sites also have links to interim sourcing technologies, powered by IMC_di, IMC’s Digital Innovations division, such as Catalog Connexion, keyword searchable flip-book catalogs, for Atlanta and High Point exhibitors. Each market website’s Exhibitor Directory also has direct links to ShopZio-enabled exhibitors for on-demand B2B e-commerce purchasing. These tools are all precursors to IMC_di’s JuniperMarket, a new B2B e-commerce platform for the gift, home and apparel industries that launches in spring 2021. In addition to the marketplace, Juniper also offers a suite of solutions, including sales and marketing software, B2B e-commerce websites and data management, which are available now for all industry suppliers.