ICBA's Jon Bibo and Paula Haerr just returned from “Hot” Vegas, where they attended the Las Vegas Market and the ASD Market Week Conferences (after dealing with 113-degree temps in the shade, a city-wide swarm of grasshoppers, and flood warnings). Here are their observations and insights that impact ICBA Members…

ASD Market Week (ASD) and Las Vegas Market (LVM) are two massive, yet very different shows that occur simultaneously in the survival contest known as “summer in Vegas.” Both events offer opportunities for college stores to develop/test new product categories and find margin-builders. Here’s what we found to be interesting and notable over 4 days of walking and dodging grasshoppers (Uhh…this pic is NOT a snowstorm in Vegas, it’s grasshoppers!!):

Las Vegas Grasshopper Swarm

ASD Market Week

ASD Market Week 2019

Let’s start with ASD

Filling the North, Central, and South Halls of the massive Las Vegas Convention Center, ASD is mostly a closeout and “opportunity buy” show that attracts 45,000 Buyers from 90 countries around the world. You’ll find lots and lots of categories represented: apparel, gifts, tools, housewares, electronics, jewelry, fragrance, crafts, eyewear, cosmetics, shoes, and even some vendors with collegiate licensed merchandise (mostly closeouts).

ASD Show Floor

We were pleased to see an expansion of education sessions at two different mini-theaters. (Check out a listing of the sessions here.) We attended a number of the sessions and feel that the addition of good quality education programming always increases the overall value of a trade show. We were pleased to see that past ICBA Conference speakers Kizer & Bender and Brian Beck were featured presenters.  

ASD Education Sessions

One simply cannot just “browse” the ASD show—it’s too big and somewhat overwhelming. It’s important to plan ahead and determine a select number of target categories to explore. While there is no set formula for how exactly to “work” such a show, we recommend perhaps 80% of your time (and dollars) for pre-determined categories and 20% of your time (and dollars) allocated for impulse/discovery.

In terms of ASD products, vendors, and trends worth noting:

Colorful Baskets
Reusable Straws

With the popularity of value price-point selections – imagine Target’s Dollar Spot – ASD is brimming with opportunities. Pick your retail price point to create value selections in dorm & kitchen accessories, mobile accessories, novelty décor, desk accessories, and more. ICBA Vendor Partners, Kole Imports and D.M. Merchandising, are perfect examples.


Many ICBA members complement their logo apparel assortment with a variety of non-logo basics like leggings and active wear. SUNY Potsdam has done a steady business with yelete.com. Again, D.M. Merchandising is a great source for popular “TWO LEFT FEET” socks as well as a new line of casual comfort wear. By the way, sloths continue to be on trend across a variety of product categories!

Las Vegas Market

World Market Center LVM
Las Vegas Market 2019

Now, let’s move on to the Las Vegas Market

The LVM takes place at the Las Vegas World Market Center encompassing 3 massive buildings (plus a large temporary pavilion—see pic below) housing hundreds of showrooms of new, first-run merchandise across a variety of retail categories. Buildings A & B are host to furniture markets; our focus was on Building C, which has a number of floors dedicated to permanent showrooms for gift vendors. By the way, the World Market Center is about 5 miles away from the Las Vegas Convention Center (where the ASD Show is held).

Working the LVM, as compared to ASD, is much more about finding interesting vendors whose products would be a good fit, long-term, for the college store market. Many of these showrooms are staffed by rep groups and their familiarity with the college store channel can be somewhat limited, so when we see interesting products, we engage them in discussion and try to meet with company personnel to gauge their interest. It was great to see some current ICBA regulars there including: Corkcicle, Capri Designs, Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild, Avanti, Sellers RSVP, Graphique de France, and Eccolo.

In terms of LVM products, vendors, and trends worth noting:

Enamel Pins
Friends Cup
Rose Gold Home Furnishings
Rose Gold Accessories

Buttons, buttons, buttons, and pins, OH MY! Several showrooms were focused on this hot trend, whether decorating jackets or backpacks. From licensed buttons retailing for $1 to enameled lapel pins retailing at $10, there is a pin or button for every taste and every personality!

Move over unicorns! Narwhals are the next big trend, joining sloths and llamas in the menagerie of fantastical creatures. If you can find them with sequins, sparkles, and rainbows, they are extra special!

With the 25th anniversary of “Friends,” the nostalgia for this hit show was evident in several showrooms.

If you’re wondering if rose gold has met its day, think again! We saw this soothing color in everything from home furnishings to calendars and journals.

And, sooner or later, you’ll be faced with the decision as to whether or not THC-free CBD products are right for your campus sensitivities.

Buyer Breakfast RoundtableAt a networking breakfast for various associations where ICBA was invited to participate, we quickly saw that college stores, zoo & aquarium stores, and museum stores have a lot in common. What clearly resonated with all of us is how profit-generating retail success within these non-profit institutions is dependent upon everyone in the organization being keenly aware of how retail helps support the institution, its mission, and its brand.

We also were able to catch up with Lyndon Lake and Wannita Richards from ICBA Member SUNY Potsdam who were working the ASD Show. ICBA is always happy to host these ICBA Member get-togethers at major events throughout the year!

We’re working with the Las Vegas Market and the Atlanta Gift Mart (America’s Mart) to develop incentives to make it easier for ICBA Members to attend in the future. Look for more info next spring!

We hope to see you next year in Vegas…without the grasshoppers!

Check out more photos from both show floors (click the arrow on the right edge of the photos to view more):