Building Blocks: Major Market Merger

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]y now you might have heard the news that IMC (International Market Centers) – which runs the biannual High Point Market and the Las Vegas Market – and AmericasMart®, which operates the bi-annual Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market, have agreed to merge.

What makes this arrangement especially interesting for lighting retailers and manufacturers is that the annual Lightfair International trade show and conference – which just wrapped up in Chicago last week – is produced and managed by AmericasMart® Atlanta (AMC) and sponsored by the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES). There has been no mention from any of the involved parties regarding possible changes by AMC for Lightfair as a result of this merger. Next year’s edition of Lightfair has already been set for May 19-23 in Philadelphia; it is assumed, based on history, that Lightfair 2020 will likely be held in California or Las Vegas.

What will this new merger mean for lighting manufacturers & retailers participating in the Las Vegas and High Point Markets, the Dallas Total Home + Gift Market (which includes Lightovation), and Lightfair International?

This merger will create unprecedented synergy between the Las Vegas, High Point, and Atlanta Markets for exhibitors and attendees. It was only in September 2017 – not even one year ago – that Blackstone and Fireside Investments acquired IMC from Bain Capital Private Equity and Oaktree Capital Management. The reaction to that announcement was unanimously positive from the home furnishings (including lighting) community. Last month, IMC announced it plans to break ground on a 350,000-sq.-ft. expo center on the World Market Center campus in Las Vegas. Is it possible that this giant new expo center could become the future “home” of Lightfair? The idea doesn’t seem far-fetched to me.

With the May 15th news of the IMC and AmericasMart merger, this new entity will be the world’s largest permanent mart operator for furniture, home décor, rug, gift, and apparel. According to the official announcement, the combined corporate entity (IMC) will own and operate nearly 20 million square feet of permanent showroom space in Las Vegas, High Point, and Atlanta. The individual Markets will continue to operate under their existing names and branding. Robert (Bob) Maricich, the current CEO of IMC, will also hold that post with the new combined entity.

This merger comes coincidentally less than five months after the death of legendary developer John Portman, the creator of AmericasMart and many other noteworthy hotels and skyscrapers, at age 93 in December 2017. One month later, on January 23, AMC’s board of directors appointed his son Jeffrey L. Portman, Sr. as Chairman and CEO during its annual meeting. Jeffrey Portman is a long-time veteran of AmericasMart/AMC, having joined the business as a young man in the 1960s and working his way up to President and Chief Operating Officer. In wake of this merger, Portman will serve as an advisor to the IMC Board.

In the press release Maricich adds, “This announcement to combine with AmericasMart coupled with our continued investment in High Point and Las Vegas demonstrates our enthusiasm about the expansion of our core business and our optimism for the future of Markets for the furniture, home décor, gift, and apparel industries.”

The battle for retailers’ and designers’ loyalty and attention continues to grow fierce. The Dallas Market Center (DMC) has undergone its own expansions and transformations in order to better serve buyers. At next month’s Lightovation, the DMC and the American Lighting Association (ALA) will debut The SMART Center, a 6,000-sq.-ft. education and activity center. It will be located in showroom space 4826 in the Trade Mart and includes a seminar suite, lounge space, and reception area open to all attendees, exhibitors, and guests. The SMART Center (an acronym for Showrooms, Manufacturers And Reps Thrive) replaces, expands, and upgrades ALA’s previous seminar location in the World Trade Center. 

Last year, the DMC unveiled Made as a new category in The Temps at Dallas Total Home & Gift Market to target buyers seeking artisan-style and one-of-a-kind products. DMC also debuted its new Interior Home + Design Center on the first floor of the World Trade Center after substantially renovating the existing building and creating new exterior façades and landscaping.

With all of the major markets adding resources and expanding showroom space, retailers and designers have tough choices ahead when it comes to scheduling their buying trips. Let us know what you think. Are these mergers and expansions helping you to accomplish your buying mission more efficiently or do they have no bearing on where or when you choose to shop?