As one of the home furnishings industry’s most visible leaders, Robert Maricich has turned Vegas's World Market Center into a national design nexus.
The home furnishings industry in North America largely revolves around two places that couldn’t be more different: High Point, North Carolina, and Las Vegas, Nevada.
Both cities host annual markets—multi-day industry summits where manufacturers display their products for retailers and designers, who come to see what’s now and next. Until 2010, the two markets were in direct competition, but where some saw a rivalry, Robert Maricich recognized an opportunity.
Maricich was then president and CEO of World Market Center, the home furnishings behemoth just north of the Strip, where stunning armchairs and designer sofas fill hundreds of thousands of square feet of showroom space. While High Point was the entrenched home and design hub—a manufacturing town where furniture has been big business since the early 20th century—Las Vegas was the fresh challenger. Maricich imagined them united under common ownership. “In 2010, I realized there was this incredible opportunity to buy not only World Market Center,” he says, “but also the majority of our largest competitor.”
"My wife gets embarrassed because I can’t go into a room without lifting the cushions to see who made the sofa.” —Robert Maricich
With the effects of the recession still reverberating throughout the home furnishings industry, the Vegas-based CEO rallied an investment group, and in 2011 the new International Market Centers spent $1 billion to acquire World Market Center in Las Vegas and 59 percent of the showrooms in downtown High Point, consolidating them within a single organization, with Maricich at the helm.
Today, he says, the two markets attract almost completely discrete buyer bases. “If you want to be a seller of furnishings in North America, you need to be in both High Point and Las Vegas.”
Maricich wasn’t born into the upper echelons of the home and design sector. Raised in Great Falls, Montana, he attended Montana State University on a basketball scholarship, graduating in 1972 with a degree in civil engineering. He briefly worked for Texaco, where, he says, “I discovered I hated being an engineer.”
Suddenly without a career, Maricich found a job managing a factory that produced high-end veneers used by architects and furniture manufacturers. “I’ve always been interested in general management,” he says, adding that he liked the creative aspect of home furnishings, “the element of being involved in creating a product and the satisfaction of seeing something come to life—a sofa, dining room, bedroom, or something like that.”
Over the past 30-plus years, Maricich has gone from product manager at Flexsteel Industries to CEO of the high-end furniture giant Century Furniture to joining the Flexsteel board of directors some 21 years after he left the company. He has emerged as an industry leader—a guy who’s been tapped for government committees, who has a deep understanding of the home furnishings business while also appreciating the beauty of a well-made chair.
“My wife gets embarrassed because I can’t go into a room without lifting the cushions and seeing who made the sofa,” he says, laughing.
Maricich and his wife live primarily in Vegas, just a block off the Strip, in a Park Towers condo featuring a custom Vladimir Kagan sectional that Maricich describes as “literally a work of art” and pieces created by Oscar de la Renta in collaboration with Century when Maricich was its CEO.
These days, the International Market Centers president is excited about the future of World Market Center, where 29 acres are still waiting to be developed. Already, Building C has made Vegas the Western hub of the home décor and gift industries. “You won’t find anywhere on the planet a better permanent showroom complex than what we have in Las Vegas,” Maricich says. “People use the term ‘world-class’ loosely, but it really applies.”