Journey of 4,500 Miles Begins With Step Onto Jet

Attendees at the Las Vegas Market in April described the event as important in the return to a “normal” business climate

Caesars Palace sign in Las Vegas
Statues outside the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace sound echoes of ancient Rome.

I stood on the edge of the jetway at Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, North Carolina, contemplating my next momentous step. It had been 14 long months since I last found myself at that juncture — the intersection of land and air. Then I stepped into the American Airlines jet and hunted for my usual window seat. There were no bands playing, but it was a moment to celebrate, nonetheless.

“A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step,” the proverb says. I was embarking on a much longer journey — a round-trip flight of more than 4,500 miles to the Las Vegas Market April 11-15 and back home again. It was my first business flight since Covid-19 shut down travel around the world in March 2020. 

While that was a small step I took onto the plane in Greensboro, it was a giant step in returning to a normal business life. That was one of the major themes of the Las Vegas Market, which attendees described as another important first step in getting back to normal in our business world.

Now let me hasten to say that I don’t know exactly what “normal” will look like. I am tempted to call this the “new normal,” but Eugene Alletto, Bedgear’s chief executive officer, took issue with that phrase when I met with him in Las Vegas. “I don’t believe this is the new norm,” he said. “I think that is a bad way to look at it. Normal is exactly what the world is and whatever is happening at the moment is the norm. The ways that consumers and retailers interact with the product are always changing.” Good points.

That was one of dozens of instructive conversations I had as I made my market rounds in my new role as editor at large for BedTimes and its sister publication Sleep Savvy. 

What I found in bedding showrooms was an upbeat, enthusiastic attitude as buyers and sellers once again assembled to conduct business. Sure, retail traffic was down significantly, but there were some major mattress retailers at the market, and the market was a productive one for many.

In my conversations, I found widespread agreement that business travel will remain curtailed this year and perhaps into next year, as well. The power of online connections is real, and it already has transformed business in many ways. Meetings and conferences can be held virtually. Our industry probably didn’t need to travel as extensively as it did.

That said, physical connections remain vital — the gold standard of doing business. Many of my meetings in Las Vegas delivered insights that I would not have uncovered in a Zoom call. The dinners that I shared with industry leaders strengthened important connections I have forged over the years and gave me a host of new perspectives on industry issues. And did I mention that superb bone-in steak at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace?

That happened to be my final evening in Las Vegas, when I joined an exclusive group of smart digital marketers and their retail customers. The Forum Shops is among the highest grossing retail malls in the country. The glories of ancient Rome come alive in that setting. It’s one of my favorite places to visit in Las Vegas, and it’s a reminder that shoppers always are looking for unique and memorable experiences.

Those experiences can be provided online, and they also can be provided in brick-and-mortar stores and in brick-and-mortar markets. Those worlds continue to merge and work together. That’s the norm in our dynamic industry.

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