NEW YORK—A handful of Forty One Madison tabletop tenants have formed an ad hoc group interested in continuing the New York Tabletop Show following the news last week that the building will no longer formally produce shows after the April market.
“The thought is to create an association to promote and run the show on behalf of the tenants,” said David Zrike, president of Zrike Brands, who is spearheading the effort. The group will meet in the coming weeks to formulate a plan, Zrike said. “It’s really grassroots at this point,” he added.
Forty One Madison, citing the changing nature of trade shows, decided to stop formally producing shows in the future but is honoring tabletop tenant leases and will provide all of the same service and support tenants currently receive, such as the newly renovated meeting and event space in the building, 24-hour security and check-in. The building is owned and operated by Rudin Management Company, which owns and operates many residential and office buildings in Manhattan.
In an interview last week, Forty One Madison Director Kristi Forbes said the tenants were welcome to remain in the building and make use of its amenities. “The tabletop show will continue in some capacity,” she predicted. “So many companies want to stay in the building.”
The New York Spring Tabletop Show will take place as scheduled, April 5-8. Dates for future shows that were scheduled years in advance remain on the calendar.
Several tenants want the shows to continue in some form, according to Zrike, an industry veteran who weathered the closure of fellow permanent showroom building 225 Fifth Avenue several years ago. “It’s about having tenants, making appointments,” he said. “It’s a great building; many of our accounts are there.”
The bi-annual show is typically attended by retail buyers from multiple channels of distribution across the country, including department stores, mass merchants, independent and chain specialty stores, online stores and off-price chains. It also attracts interior designers and the hospitality industry. Many of the larger, corporate accounts have had their travel restricted during the pandemic, however, even those who are based in New York.
“Shows are going to become a more vital part of the industry,” said Zrike. “Many of our accounts are anxiously waiting permission to attend,” he added, referring to those corporate accounts yet unable to travel.
Sal Gabbay, CEO of Gibson Homewares, agreed with Zrike. Although the pandemic has led some companies to believe they can carry on without trade shows and do business virtually, Gibson Overseas sees trade shows as critical to business, he said. New York Tabletop, after the Chicago housewares show, is Gibson’s most important market, neck-in-neck with the Frankfurt Ambiente show, according to Gabbay. Ambiente was canceled this year due to COVID.
The show environment creates opportunities, Gabbay said. “New York in particular gave us the opportunity to sit down with customers and brainstorm. I know that can happen one-on-one in an office, but it’s not the same.” Being surrounded by product in a showroom can spark ideas, he said.
“Creativity really accelerates in crowds,” agreed Roger Freeman, CEO of Cambridge Silversmiths. “It’s where innovation takes place.”
What makes the tabletop show such a strong show is that it is appointment-based, said Freeman, whose company has operated a showroom at Forty One Madison for about 25 years. “So what I think happens is that both the retailer and the supplier can prepare in an effective manner. They know what they want to focus on, they know they won’t be interrupted. That’s why I am so supportive of it and why I think it is so effective. It’s very pointed —everyone is concentrated on tabletop and tabletop product. There’s a good exchange of ideas.”
“We’re trying to bring normalcy after COVID,” Gabbay said. “Drastic changes [such as foregoing trade shows] are dangerous. There has to be some normality. We built our business on trade shows. Definitely, 2022 is a year that we have to get together as often as possible. I’ve spoken with retailers. They are so anxious to touch and feel product.”
“I think we can do this,” said Zrike. He said any tenants willing to join the effort can contact him at [email protected]