Jon Bibo and Paula Haerr from ICBA just attended two major shows in Las Vegas: ASD MarketWeek and the Las Vegas Market. Here are their observations and insights that impact ICBA Members…

ASD and Las Vegas Market (LVM) are two completely different shows that occur simultaneously in the rotisserie/broiler known as summer in Vegas. After 120-degree Las Vegas afternoons, 107-degree mornings and evenings “almost” felt comfortable!

Being trade show veterans, we properly hydrated, wore comfy shoes, and set off for 5 consecutive days to see find opportunities for ICBA Members!


Let’s start with ASD

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

New this year was a mini-theater between the North and Central Halls that featured a series of education session as part of something called the Independent Retailer Conference. We sat through a few of the sessions and some were quite good and addressed key topics such as: best uses of social media, change management, improving customer satisfaction, and more.

The entire North Hall is dedicated to “Cash & Carry Jewelry.” (Think humongous flea market on a Black Friday—including some light pushing and shoving!!) When faced with literally 50+ jewelry vendors, how can you know which are reputable and reliable? Follow the crowds!

There are definite bargains to be had for college stores. However, we believe the key to success (and frankly, the key to not getting overwhelmed by thousands of booths with similar merchandise) is to have a plan. Go to ASD with a set amount of dollars in mind as well as some target categories or themes to develop.

In the area of closeout collegiate-licensed merchandise, ICBA is cautiously examining this opportunity to see if it can yield benefits to ICBA Members without creating any negative consequences. If you have thoughts on the opportunities and risks of developing programs with closeout licensed merchandise, we’d love to hear from you! ( or As you can see from this professionally designed sign, it’s definitely a little bit of “buyer beware!”

Overall, we do believe that attending ASD and making smart purchases can be a complement to your sourcing strategies, especially if you are developing a boutique or specialty section for non-licensed apparel/gift/accessory products.


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 3 large pavilions 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.

Working the LVM, as compared to ASD, was much more about finding interesting vendors whose products would be a good fit, long-term, for the college store market. Many of these vendors were not that familiar with the college store channel, so we were happy to give them the “pitch” and get them excited.

There was clearly a 70’s boho chic vibe in the furniture mart, blending styles from mid-century modern to French farmhouse and macramé accents to gilded mirrors. That fusion of styles also translated across the gift lines we saw.

Most interesting were the back-stories behind many lines: the New Orleans native that went to music venues to ask for used guitar strings from which she could make jewelry, the “shreds” headbands made from strips of t-shirt materials by an ecology-minded creator, the in-your-face musings of an artist who decorated her products with her own family photos.

Some of the key trends we saw:

  • Unicorns
  • Llamas
  • Sloths
  • Mermaids
  • Macramé
  • Intelligent Toys
  • Artsy patterns on pillows
  • Organic decorating elements (driftwood,
    succulents, moss, wood, stone)
  • Desk signs with clever and edgy slogans
  • Good-for-you body-care
  • Bath Bombs
  • Aromatherpy
  • Shampoo “bars” rather than liquids

We also were able to catch up with ICBA Members from Cal State Long Beach, UC Davis, UCLA, and SUNY Potsdam, where we exchanged ideas about what was both “hot” and “not.” ICBA is always happy to host these ICBA Member get-togethers at major events throughout the year!

See you next year in Vegas!