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Amid pandemic, Las Vegas Market vendors say ‘business is good’

Updated January 23, 2022 - 7:35 pm

Annie Buchtrup walked into the spacious exposition hall at the World Market Center in downtown Las Vegas in search of “unique” and “cool” items for her retail home decor and gift shop back home in Michigan.

The biannual Las Vegas Market trade show — which attracts buyers like Buchtrup and hundreds of wholesale vendors — started Sunday and runs through Thursday with masking requirements.

While COVID-19 has taken a toll on the economy and the convention industry, vendors expressed that “business is good” in the home furnishing and decor departments in which the expo specializes.

On the heels of CES, World of Concrete and the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show, Las Vegas Market is the latest convention to operate as the spread of omicron grips the nation. Full recovery of in-person conventions is vital to economic recovery in Las Vegas, and experts have offered a strong outlook for the convention industry despite the pandemic.

World of Concrete, a construction show specializing in masonry materials and services, and the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show, the largest firearms and ammunition event of its kind, begin Tuesday in Las Vegas.

They come a little more than two weeks after CES.

Reminders of Nevada’s masking policies were posted throughout the complex and the overwhelming majority of attendees donned face coverings.

“We’re very excited to be here,” Buchtrup said about herself and the group of women with her, which included a sister and her social media manager.

She said her Lemon Tree storefront in South Lyon, Michigan, has a motto of bringing “big city into small town.”

At the five-day exposition, she had a plethora of options to choose from.

Justin Healy, owner of San Diego-based Backyard Candles, displayed candles that had been poured into coconut shells.

The 26-year-old was working on a digital marketing and analytics degree when he was given an assignment to create a healthy drink. His coconut-based concoction “tasted pretty bad.” But working next to lit candles, he had an epiphany: Why not combine the two?

This was his second Las Vegas Market experience, and on Sunday he was in the middle of a trade show tour.

“There’s been a lot of good vendors and traffic actually has been pretty decent compared to the other shows that I just did,” he said, adding that “the venue’s been cool, and people are nice.”

His family business in San Diego shifted from manufacturing collectible baseball bats to earrings and other accessories and puzzles 12 years ago.

Business ‘booming’

Lance Nybye has been at the forefront of Green Tree Jewelry for a dozen years.

His family business in San Diego shifted from manufacturing collectible baseball bats to earrings and other accessories and puzzles.

The 36-year-old has worked with wood since he was a teenager, and is in charge of the designs.

While the pandemic has brought supply chain issues, the business sources its supplies from U.S.-based companies, and Nybye said that 2021 was the company’s best year.

Eric Thuel’s 727 Sailbags business, which was founded in France, has faced “a lot of problems” with manufacturers and “ridiculous” shipping costs. But despite the adversity “business is good,” he said.

His products are made from recyclables from around the world, he said, pointing to a tag on a footrest that noted it originated in Africa.

The trade show used to be held in tents outside the World Market Center, but the new pavilion, a 315,000-square-foot center in one of the Marker Center’s three buildings, opened in April. Buyers also have the opportunity to visit the stores and showrooms that are open in the megacomplex throughout the year. The show, which will next be held in the summer, was expected to draw 60 percent of the attendance from pre-pandemic years.

Cindy Ciskowski, of “House of Cindy,” learned how to sew at age 7 thanks to her grandmother, “who shared with me how to create beauty,” she said.

She has been in the home furnishing business for nearly three decades, but shifted from lighting to pillows, blankets and other linen-based items, which she and a small group of workers have been manufacturing in Los Angeles for about a decade.

This was her 10th expo in Las Vegas where she has showcased, she said.

Her business came to a halt at the onset of the pandemic, but she found a way to reinvent after she posted a photo of a face covering she had sewn. She began making masks for health care workers first, and then started selling them, giving away one to a frontline worker for every one sold.

Business began “booming” as the months progressed, while buyers working from home started to redesign their spaces, replacing pillows and blankets, which are “easy” fixes, she said.

Foot traffic at her booth Sunday was busy, and the buyers she spoke to were all wearing face coverings, which made her comfortable.

“It’s nice to see everybody honoring and respecting each other in that way,” she said.

Tears welled in her eyes when she spoke about her grandmother, who died.

“She definitely gave me a great gift and I feel so blessed to be able to live my life purpose,” she said.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @rickytwrites.

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