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AWFS wrap-up

The Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers 2009 Fair in Las Vegas is now over, so it’s time to reflect on the show with random thoughts, Larry-King style…

… It’s so unbelievably hot (always above 100°) in Vegas in July; I honestly don’t know how people can live there. Granted, it’s not living on the sun, but it’s the closest I’ve been to that. I have to drink so much water and eat bananas to avoid dehydration it’s almost crazy. Now maybe if this event took place in the winter months I’d be on board. (At least it’s comfortably in the convention center and hotels.)… As a reflection of the current economy, nearly everything about this show was down from recent years. Almost all manufacturers and exhibitors had smaller booths as a cost-cutting measure, and also most showed only a handful of new products. For many, product development has been put on hold or significantly cut back to help the companies weather the financial storm. And although I don’t have official numbers, it was obvious that attendance was down substantially from past years. I talked to one manufacturer whose booth was a good ways from the entrances, and he said one day it was an hour into the show before he saw anyone walk by his booth. That shows everyone is cutting back.

… In spite of the tough economy, most manufacturers agreed that their business with the hobbyist woodworker is still going strong. It’s the professional contractors and cabinet- and furnituremaking shops that are hurting most, a direct reflection of the housing market. Hang in there folks and ride it out.

… But not all news was negative. Dozens of high school and college students participated in the AWFS Fresh Wood Competition. These students designed and built incredible furniture projects that were displayed at the show. It’s good to know creativity isn’t mired in a recession.

… Always one of the most popular draws at any of these shows, Norm Abram was there on Friday signing autographs and chatting with folks in the Delta/Porter-Cable booth.

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… Funny story. On Thursday Lucas Peters, our Multimedia Editor running the video camera, mentioned that one of our regulars on the WOOD Magazine Forums had posted that he would be at the show. Lucas said it would be great if we could meet up with him, although that seemed like a longshot. Then around noon Friday we were watching Norm Abram sign autographs, and someone came up to me and introduced himself. Sure enough, it was Jose Salazar, JL Salazar on the forums. He lives in Nevada and was making his first visit to the AWFS Fair. After a nice visit with Jose, he joined the line to get Norm’s autograph. Nice to meet you, Jose!

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… Canadian-based toolmaker General (aka General International) announced at the show that it’s stepping up its presence in the United States with a new distribution center and sales network. And to run this operation, General picked up four former top-level men from Steel City Toolworks, including recently-resigned president Scott Box. Scott also used to be president of Powermatic, and was a key figure with Delta for over two decades. Sounds like a coup for General International; not sure what this will mean to Steel City, which is moving its day-to-day operations and warehousing from Nashville, Tenn., to California.

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