Bob Maricich, Chairman and CEO of ANDMORE – the brand behind the Las Vegas, High Point and Atlanta furniture market events – graciously stopped by the Nationwide Marketing Group showroom during Las Vegas Furniture Market. We talked to him about the rebrand (from International Market Centers to ANDMORE), the current state of the furniture industry, what trends have caught his eye, and so much more.
Rob Stott: We are back on the Independent Thinking Podcast. And excited right now. We’re inside the NMG showroom. Been running around all week here at Las Vegas Market, the winter market edition of Las Vegas Market and we got to kick back and relax.
Is it nice to get off your feet, Mr. Bob Maricich?
Bob Maricich: It is. It is Rob. I’ve been here since Thursday, even though things opened up formally on Sunday. A lot of standing up and standing up on hard surfaces.
Rob Stott: So happy to have you come into the showroom, take a load off, if you will, and just relax for a podcast with us. So we appreciate the time and the one thing I’ve been looking forward to all week.
Bob Maricich: Oh, great, great.
Rob Stott: Well, I got to start. It’s always nice to run into another member of the Robert family. So Bob, right, is what you go by?
Bob Maricich: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Rob Stott: So, was it always?
Bob Maricich: No, no, no. My mother called me Bobby.
Rob Stott: Okay. Hey, same, right? I grew out of it. You grow out of it.
Bob Maricich: Yeah. Sometimes Bobby, if you stay Bobby your whole life, then you got to be a NASCAR driver or something like that.
Rob Stott: Oh, that’s fantastic. No, that’s awesome. So, for those that don’t know you, take the chance, introduce yourself, tell them about who you are and your role here at ANDMORE.
Bob Maricich: Great. I’ll start at where we are today and then go back. So I’m the chairman and chief executive officer of ANDMORE. I guess, I was the founder of International Market Centers when, out of foreclosure World Market Center, we were able to purchase that and then 16 buildings in High Point and merge three businesses that house those 16 buildings with the campus here in May of 2011 and did it with Bain Capital and Oaktree. Great partnership. After five years, 2018, Blackstone bought their interest, and real shortly thereafter, we purchased AmericasMart Atlanta, overnight 70% bigger.
Rob Stott: Yeah, that’s incredible.
Bob Maricich: Very different background than that though. I spent, other than my early years at Texaco and a veneer company, I spent almost 30 years, maybe even a little more in manufacturing and I was the CEO of American of Martinsville. At the time, it was the largest manufacturer of furniture for the hotel industry. American Drew. Then I spent 11 years at Century Furniture as CEO, and great 11 years. Just a wonderful time, wonderful company, wonderful culture before saying, look, I want to do something else before the end of my day.
Rob Stott: No, that’s awesome. Well, I’m excited to dive into the more recent background of ANDMORE and what that’ll be or what that’s become over the last couple of months. Before we do that, we’re sitting here at Market, what’s the vibe you’re getting walking around this show, this edition?
Bob Maricich: Interestingly, Rob, last week, we had our largest show of all the shows we have, the High Point Markets. AmericasMart has a couple of big gift markets, apparel markets. The biggest one is the gift market in January in Atlanta, the attendance was off but the buying was vibrant, and with the economy being in a dicey place for a long period of time, it was solid, it was strong. First time saw a lot of new product. So coming here, I think it’s the same story. I think at the end of the day, attendance will be off some, but I think everybody’s going home happy and satisfied.
Rob Stott: I think from the Nationwide perspective, I think about our own PrimeTime and how it relates, and it seems similar, but numbers post-pandemic, coming back from that, travel had been what felt like an all time high, but now, numbers might seem down, but it’s engaging. It’s the more engaged attendees that are there, there to do business and they seem to be really very interested in doing business.
Bob Maricich: Yeah, yeah, the buying power shows up. Everybody’s focused on how many people, but are you getting the buying power? And I use interior designers as an example. They don’t come to market unless they have a project, the day of coming for entertainment or tire kicking. Same thing with retailers in general. I mean, if you have no open to buy, why come to a market? And so the people that are here are energized, they’re here for a reason. Buyers come to market for one reason and that’s discovery, discovery of product, ideas and then implement it, either buying up market or later, as you know.
Rob Stott: For sure.
Bob Maricich: And so it feels really good. With the way the economy has been the last year, this really is a boost in mood.
Rob Stott: Interesting thing to follow, right? It just feels like you’re hearing one thing reported on expectations and what actually happens is consumers keep surprising us.
Bob Maricich: They do.
Rob Stott: Don’t they? It’s unbelievable.
Bob Maricich: They do. They do.
Rob Stott: No. So obviously you get the opportunity to walk around all these showrooms and see so many different things. So is any specific trend or a thing stuck out to you as super exciting about this show?
Bob Maricich: I would say it was just the broad… For the first time since 2020, there’s been a broad introduction of new product, whether it’s outdoor, whether it’s motion, whether it’s massage chairs, whether it’s outdoor grills, there’s just a lot of what’s new, and that, I think, is exciting.
Rob Stott: Yeah, for sure. Again, I’ll relate to that, walking around these showrooms, picking up the interviews for our members. We do our Las Vegas Market live production here, it felt like everyone had something new. We stopped in, what, 14 different showrooms and sometimes… We’ve done this for a couple of markets and sometimes there is, sometimes isn’t, but it felt like every single one of them had something new and they were excited to get in front of a camera, get in front of people that are here and describe it all and share it all.
Bob Maricich: And of course, this is a, as you know, Rob, a major market for the sleep industry. And so the innovation going on with sleep products is really amazing.
Rob Stott: Have you been by Legends?
Bob Maricich: I have not.
Rob Stott: No? Okay. You want to talk about innovation, they had… We’ve seen mattresses with massaging features and things, they’ve done something with the base that has, it’s almost like haptic feedbacks, if you’re familiar with virtual reality and the technology of making it feel like you’re… I mean, talk about an immersive mattress, two words I never thought I’d put together. It’s innovative for sure.
Bob Maricich: Well, I will go check it out. We all could use a good night sleep, right?
Rob Stott: Yeah, right? It’s unbelievable. But no. So unique stuff, right? You mentioned economy, does what you’ve seen at this show do anything to tell you kind of about the current state of the furniture industry?
Bob Maricich: Yeah, it reinforced where we thought the world was, and I’ll give two conflicting data points that have come together, I think. One is if you look at in recently published just the third quarter imports of furnishings from China and Vietnam, in the second quarter, imports from China were down 30, I think, 37%.
Rob Stott: Wow.
Bob Maricich: Big number.
Rob Stott: Yeah.
Bob Maricich: Vietnam, 32%, even Mexico down 10%. They just released the third quarter numbers. It improved slightly, but like 28% down, 26% down. And then, we monitor, real closely, consumer consumption and that’s been down the last six months from, say, -5% to -12%, changes weekly. So you go, what’s going on there? I think we all got wrong last year that the inventory glut has pushed through the system. It hasn’t. The only way you can explain that discrepancy is the fact that there’s a lot of inventory still being burned off at retail.
Rob Stott: Interesting. No, it goes to the fact that we have been able to really get a grasp on this, the current state of things, right? It’s hard to follow. You see those conflicting points and the R-word has been floating out there for what feels like two years. I don’t know. And maybe everyone saying it’s coming.
Bob Maricich: And everybody’s been wrong. Everybody’s been wrong.
Rob Stott: So the can keeps getting kicked further, they don’t want to be wrong, so they keep kicking the can further down the road, but again, the consumer hasn’t allowed it to happen the way they’ve been kind of-
Bob Maricich: And the other thing we see because we are in the gift business, the home decor business, apparel and then, of course, furniture and furnishings, the ticket size makes a difference. The consumer’s not out of love with their home. They’re still in love with their home. They’re just more motivated to buy less expensive products.
Rob Stott: For sure.
Bob Maricich: And you can just see it, like portable lamps and things that are lower ticket things, that you can be sold on e-commerce, bigger ticket items, much, much more difficult.
But back to the overall economy, I think we’re muddling along at the bottom. I don’t think there’s no indication things are going to get worse.
And last week, I had lunch with a small group with Raphael Bostic, who’s the fed governor for the Atlanta district, which includes Florida. And he was pretty adamant that they were not going to and he was not going to support reducing interest rates till the third quarter, said they’re just not going to make a mistake, and the mistake would be to reduce and have to go back up, and you get that yo-yo effect that happened in the double dip recession of the ’80s. He says, we’re still in a post-COVID hangover.
Rob Stott: Yeah, it makes sense.
Bob Maricich: We’re not in a recession. And so I think this muddling along the bottom, if people got their inventories in good shape, if they’ve got their costs in line, they’re going to make the best of it and then hopefully, third quarter, fourth quarter we’re going to see some green shoots.
Rob Stott: Start turning around. That kind of sounds like it, but is there a message to retailers on how to, I don’t even want to call it, say weather the storm, so cliche, but just to maybe block out the noise of what they have been hearing and just see success?
Bob Maricich: Well, I’m a great believer in having worked in various elements of the supply chain, if you will. It’s pretty basic. You clean up your balance sheet. I think people held onto inventory that’s been priced higher when container rates were higher, it’s not going to get more valuable. If you can clear out that inventory, take the hit, then fresh product, great presentation at retail, great outreach to your customers, it works.
Rob Stott: Yeah. Of which there’s plenty, right? As we’ve seen at this market with the new intros and for whatever… The one thing that stands out across all the showrooms, color, a lot more color than you’d traditionally see in furniture, and greens and blues and different… I never knew there were so many shades of brown and red. It’s unbelievable. But…
Bob Maricich: I think that does come out in hard times.
Rob Stott: Yeah, right? It does.
Bob Maricich: You need a little brightness in your life. By the way, brightness, we’ve had four days of sunshine here.
Rob Stott: It’s been incredible.
Bob Maricich: Just beautiful.
Rob Stott: Awesome weather. Want to knock on, like, where is some wood I can knock on.
Bob Maricich: Yeah. No, I don’t think no matter where you are in the country, it’s been a rough weather wise, this is really, really brightening as well.
Rob Stott: No, it’s been fantastic. Well, I want to change gears a little bit because I want to save some time to talk about ANDMORE, the name and the brand because that’s-
Bob Maricich: Okay, good.
Rob Stott: Is this correct? Did you guys rebrand after last Las Vegas market or is this…?
Bob Maricich: We rebranded formally in July of last year.
Rob Stott: So right around-
Bob Maricich: Then it takes a while for the signage and the branding and all of that to get through our websites and, yeah.
Rob Stott: Right. So this market here would be the first anyone at Vegas Market that they’d see the ANDMORE name, correct?
Bob Maricich: Correct. Correct.
Rob Stott: Yeah, so talk about that name change, from International Market Centers to ANDMORE and the rebranding.
Bob Maricich: Well, first of all, International Market Centers, we thought was sounding pretty industrial. There wasn’t anything really motivating or sexy about it, and we felt we were a lot more than a market, a physical market. And we went back to kind of the basics and said, look, our value proposition is putting buyers and sellers together. The buyers want one thing, discovery. The sellers want another thing, which is more up to bats. And we’re in a great spot to deliver both, that value proposition, but we need to do more of it, so Interwoven and Omnichannel, you see us restructuring our @Market app, making scan and go registration easier, having a photo curation part of the app where you can log product and we can geofence it, so where you are, so you get home, you don’t have a bag full of pieces of paper and cut sheets and whatever.
Rob Stott: You don’t think anyone’s going to miss those days?
Bob Maricich: I doubt it. But also we’re a very different company, besides the technology, the omnichannel, attracting workers and retaining workers. We said we’re going to do more for each other and we’re going to do more for the communities we live in. We’re going to do more for the industries that we participate in. And I was flabbergasted when ANDMORE was available, and then now every time I hear somebody talk about something and they’ll go ANDMORE.
Rob Stott: Right. Then it’s perfect. It truly makes sense. The more I was kind of the same thing, you think about everything a market presents opportunity wise to the people that come here. What everything boils down to is that it’s more than just what happens here, right? It’s a lot. So it’s perfect. Everything falls so seamlessly into the new story you’re trying to tell.
Bob Maricich: Yeah. Nationwide’s part of the more, right? You guys can be additive to your members, to new members. We can do a better job with more transportation, making it easier, all of those sort of things and it just resonates with people.
Rob Stott: Absolutely. And you talk in the essence and spirit of ANDMORE, we’re sitting here during the busiest time on this campus, what else goes on at World Market Center here in Vegas throughout the year?
Bob Maricich: So we have the Las Vegas Design Center, which is a couple floors in Building A and that’s open daily. And so it functions like a design center, the indie building in New York. We own a separate design center in Atlanta, ADAC, beautiful gem of a property, but that’s day-to-day. And then during COVID, we built a 315,000 square foot expo, a convention center. It’s not geared really for conventions, it’s geared for more trade shows. It’s not a venue for meeting space. It’s a really inexpensive alternative to the local, the Las Vegas Visitors Convention Bureau, the LVCC, the Sands. It’s at a unique size. It’s big enough where you can have a rodeo there.
Rob Stott: Oh, wow.
Bob Maricich: We have a national volleyball tournaments where it’s in our expo space.
Rob Stott: Oh, that’s incredible.
Bob Maricich: And so that has added a vibrancy to the day-to-day part of campus. And then those with a permanent lease here. I mean, they can use their showroom for sales meetings, for special events, bring customers in. And so there’s more activity than just 10 or 12 things.
Rob Stott: Vegas Market and more, right?
Bob Maricich: And more.
Rob Stott: It works so well. And it’s awesome to be able to talk about the more aspect of what goes on here because I know we’ll be back in just a few short weeks for PrimeTime. We’ll be here March 10th through 13th, but a big part of that, I know you’re the… Jeff Rose and our furniture and bedding team have been putting together a really awesome tour of the property and a bunch of our vendor partner showroom. So a lot of our members, I think I said it at the top, they haven’t actually been able to experience a Vegas Market and we got PrimeTime coming here. So talk about that, the opportunity for them to get into this space and see our vendor partners in even the Nationwide space, in a different light, different sort of venue than a traditional trade show. What is the benefits of that to them?
Bob Maricich: Well, first of all, you guys are a partner. You got vendor partners and we’re your partner. The trade show is you’re really locked into a small footprint, some multiple of a 10 by 10 booth. And most of these companies that doesn’t even begin to tell the story of their trade brand or the breadth of their product line. So if they have a showroom here and you guys have an effective way of getting them here, those vendors have a much better opportunity to show the breadth of their line, the completeness of the line, and to tell their brand story. So it should be a really symbiotic relationship. Again, it’s more than just the trade show portion of it.
Rob Stott: Right. I got to imagine that happens all the time in meetings. You guys talking about it and it’s like the name just comes out. You don’t even intend for it to happen, right?
Bob Maricich: Right. Right.
Rob Stott: It’s so perfect. No, but it will be exciting, I think, to see retailers that haven’t experienced the space, because it’s almost like you’re walking into specialty retail stores for each of these brands and getting to see how they would merchandise it and the impact it can have. You get some idea, obviously you look at the product and learn about the product and what’s going on there, but maybe you see something about how one showroom’s laid out that sparks inspiration for what you want to do in your own retail space. So it’s just so much more than just the product itself that you’re coming to see.
Bob Maricich: Well, and there’s also the element of cross shopping.
Rob Stott: Absolutely.
Bob Maricich: So it’s really interesting in Atlanta where we have a gift show and gift encompasses everything from seasonal merchandise to gourmet to top of the table, top of the bed, all of those sort of things. And those people also buy furnishings. It’s become more of a lifestyle presentation where we’re sitting here and I’m looking at outdoor grills, outdoor furniture, sleep products, massage chairs, whatever.
Rob Stott: It’s everywhere. It’s all over.
Bob Maricich: And in that process, a retailer looks and say, you know what, maybe we should have outdoor grills for part of the year, whatever. We had a strange thing happen at the gift shows as we noticed more and more the gift buyers were going over to our apparel building.
Rob Stott: Interesting.
Bob Maricich: This is like six, seven years ago. And then all of a sudden we realized, look, gift stores, resort stores are starting to carry non-sized clothing.
Rob Stott: Yeah, yeah, it’s true.
Bob Maricich: They saw that cross shopping opportunity to make their store more.
Rob Stott: See, it applies to more than just the company. No, that’s awesome. But yeah, it is. And even for us, I think walking around, obviously point to meet with the partners that are part of the Nationwide Group and available to our members, but the ability to see so much more and experience different product categories and just, again, the way they tell their stories, there’s so much to learn here. And even if it is just a snapshot in one evening to give those retailers that haven’t been to this campus the opportunity to walk through the doors of A, B or C and see what’s going on. I’m excited to see what their reactions are on site as it’s happening.
Bob Maricich: Well, our goal is they see things then they say to you, you got to be part of Nationwide.
Rob Stott: Absolutely. No, that’s awesome. Well, hey, Bob, we appreciate it. This was a lot of fun to be able to catch up with you and have you in the Nationwide showroom here. And I know it feels like we’re only halfway through this thing so far. So we got some time to go. But really appreciate you taking the time and sparing a few minutes with us for a little talk.
Bob Maricich: Well, it’s great. Everybody loves talking about themselves, right?
Rob Stott: Who doesn’t? No. Well, hey, best of luck the rest of this market and we look forward to catching up again soon.
Bob Maricich: Awesome, Rob. Thank you for having me.
Rob Stott: You bet.