The interior design event calendar certainly looked different in 2020, with postponements, plenty of outright cancellations, and a handful of in-person events amended to follow new health safety protocols. As the interior design community looks forward to 2021, Design Manager is updating this list of the industry’s major trade show events with a look back to what was successful about the events that did end up taking place in 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and what to expect as the interior design community prepares to resume a busier event schedule in 2021.
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High Point Markets
Where: High Point, North Carolina
When: June 5-9 2021
High Point Fall Market was one of the few major interior design events that took place after the coronavirus outbreak hit the U.S. The Spring Market, originally scheduled for April and then moved to June, was ultimately cancelled. But the Fall Market took place as an in-person event from October 13-21 as originally planned.
The event was a great success thanks to diligent planning that made the event safe, including safety measures such as strict enforcement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), staggered attendance, and encouraging attendees to make showroom appointments. High Point Fall Market also had a number of well-received panels, including Design Manager’s “15 ‘Free the Designer’ Keys” presentation and panel discussion, featuring a roster of industry super stars.
The High Point Authority has announced that for 2021, the Spring Market will be moved to June 5-9 in anticipation of the COVID-19 vaccine that is currently being rolled out, and will follow similar safety protocols to the Fall 2020 experience. They have not yet announced plans for the Fall 2021 Market.
Where: AmericasMart in Atlanta
When: Jan. 12-19, 2021
AmericasMart Atlanta is a permanent collection of showrooms open all year that features an annual interior design event, the Atlanta Market. The 2020 iteration of the event took place before the coronavirus outbreak in early March, but the event planners have been working hard to deal with the current need for social distancing and low- to no-touch interaction for the 2021 event. Pre-registration is required for Atlanta Market and those who do not come having already done so will have to register on their mobile device outside of the event venue before getting in the line to enter. What were once in-person panels and presentations that are part of the Market experience will take place virtually.
Las Vegas Markets
Where: The Las Vegas Design Center, Las Vegas
When: April 11-15, 2021
The Las Vegas Summer Market was, in addition to the High Point Fall Market, one of the few major interior design tradeshow events that took place in-person this year. International Market Centers, the parent company of the Las Vegas Markets, canceled the event’s exhibitor booths, converted live seminars to virtual events and required PPE, social distancing, and limited capacity for permanent showrooms.
Bob Maricich, CEO of International Market Centers, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that buyer attendance was only 20 percent of its typical volume, but showroom tenants were satisfied with the level of attendance. He also noted that instead of catching up with the latest trends, buyers were more interested in snatching up any inventory that was available, which speaks to a high demand for furniture.
For 2021, the Winter Market, once scheduled for January, will take place April 11-15.
NY Luxury Design Fair (Formerly the AD Design Show)
Where: Javits Center, New York
When: Sept. 9-21, 2021
The 2020 AD Design Show was originally scheduled for late March, right as the spread of COVID was becoming an international crisis. Event organizers tried to reschedule for June, but the design show was eventually cancelled. Instead, Architectural Digest put on a virtual showhouse, The Iconic Home, which featured the work of 16 Black-led design firms (virtual showhouses are becoming a trend gaining significant traction in the interior design industry).
Interestingly, going forward there will technically be no AD Design Show. Architectural Digest no longer has the name license for the event, and it will now be known as the NY Luxury Design Fair produced by theMart, the same group that manages the Chicago Design Center at the MerchandiseMart. It is difficult to say how similar the event will be to previous years, but the NY Luxury Design Fair website promises an immersive design experience to take place at the Javits Center in Manhattan.
Where: The MerchandiseMart (theMART) in Chicago
When: NeoCon Oct. 4-6, 2021
NeoCon was cancelled in 2020 and has moved its next conference from the spring 2021 to the fall. The event is taking a conservative approach to making announcements for its October 2021 edition, with its website being regularly updated to reflect the current status of the event, and COVID numbers continue to rise. The program for 2021 will be a hybrid approach using a mix of in-person events and livestreaming for registered attendees.
International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF)
Where: Javits Center, New York
When: Nov. 14-15, 2021
The 2020 edition of ICFF was cancelled ahead of its scheduled date in mid-May. The 2021 event will take place in November, although there is no word on whether or not the event will be permanently moved to the Fall.
ICFF and WantedDesign Manhattan, a platform for the design community that produces content and hosts industry events, will co-locate for the first time in 2021. Together, the two shows will present more than 800 design-driven exhibitors at the Javits Center in NYC, plus additional keynote speakers and panels.
Texas Design Week Dallas
Where: The Dallas Design Center, Dallas
Texas Design Week usually happens twice a year, in Dallas in the Fall and in Houston in the Spring. Texas Design Week Dallas takes place at the Dallas Design Center, a permanent collection of high end showrooms, which makes it a large draw for the region. The weeklong event is typically full of parties, presentations, and other opportunities to network. While the permanent showrooms are currently open (although many require an appointment), Texas Design Week Dallas and Houston were both cancelled for 2020 and plans for 2021 have not been announced yet.
Where: The Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles
Westweek takes place annually at The Pacific Design Center and is something of a slimmed-down version of the Las Vegas or High Point Markets. The Pacific Design Center is a collection of showrooms that are open year round, but Westweek is a special week where vendors launch new collections and show off their latest innovations while attendees also attend panels and parties. The March 2020 event was canceled, and no plans for 2021 have been announced yet.
Virtual Interior Design Tradeshows
The impact of COVID in terms of mainstreaming digital over in-person interaction has birthed the virtual tradeshow, a new concept where an entire tradeshow is conducted online. A new technology company called Virtual Market Center launched its VMC virtual marketplace platform in October 2020. The technology solution offers manufacturers the ability to provide its customers with a thorough 3-D walk through of its showrooms, and combines sales tools to streamline the purchasing process. While many of 2020’s tradeshows had a virtual component with livestreamed panels and events, it will be interesting to see if the concept goes further to produce a new breed of tradeshows that offer an entirely virtual meeting and buying experience.
COVID threw the interior design community – and the whole world – for a loop, leaving the industry’s calendar of major tradeshows largely empty. Those that had the time and resources to carry on, such as the High Point and Las Vegas Markets, provide a stellar example for how to execute a successful tradeshow in the limiting conditions per COVID, so we expect 2021 to be a time when business can resume as (almost) usual.