High Point Market, held biannually in North Carolina, is already well-reputed as the most comprehensive event for the domestic US furniture and furnishings trade. But in the midst of economic woes, the event has realigned itself to become a one-stop destination for all those working in the interiors profession – from retail supply to interior design, writes JoBeth Phillips.
High Point Market is a sight to behold – featuring an impressive 11 million ft2 of grounds, the event sprawls through its eponymous host town, and is clearly the economic driving force of the otherwise sleepy city.
With that in mind, it’s inevitable that residents of High Point are as equally invested as the show’s organisers in producing a world-leading, international event – and it certainly shows. A community spirit is palpable in the air, with staff and residents alike working together to provide assistance to visitors.
The warm, friendly atmosphere is just one factor in the success of High Point Market. Despite its inevitable struggles against a turbulent US economy, the show still attracts around 77,000 visitors for each of its editions, held in April and October.
“This modernisation of traditional American tastes is vital to the survival of the US retail market – today, a younger, more design-conscious generation of consumer has unparalleled purchasing power”
Historically, the trade-only High Point Market has been tailored to the domestic retail furniture supply chain, but organiser High Point Market Authority has slowly but steadily realigned the event to cater to interior design professionals and international visitors.
Relatively recent introductions, such as its Style Spotters feature, bring a new bond between suppliers, designers and retail owners. Such introductions are small, but effective. All-encompassing features help to close the gap between the various agendas and disciplines of its visitors, and further emphasise a sense of community between attendees.
A major attraction is the sheer scale of product shown. Displayed in showroom set-ups, the event is a far cry from traditional exhibition models – and the warm, almost department store-like atmosphere, offers an inviting and engaged yet relaxed environment in which to do business.
The diversity of products shown is impressive. Suppliers have gradually introduced more and more accent pieces and accessories to their offering, offset against the standard furniture lines offered. This approach to display is twofold – again, it offers an imaginative ensemble for designers to peruse, but more so, it inspires retailers to get creative with their own showroom displays.
And it pays off. It was evident that retail buyers are enthused by this approach to selling, and designers were equally as enthralled. A buyer for a well-known US retailer commented that: “In general, the US furniture market sees so many dark colours, dark woods with neutral wallpapers. It’s not necessarily what the American public wants – but more what we are conditioned to like. However, I think there is a growing movement away from neutrals, to incorporate more splashes of colour. I like how the exhibitors here will introduce small areas of spot colours to inspire even jaded retailers.”
Indeed, quirky, artisan pieces were the centre of attention at the April market. Bespoke canvases, wall art and cushions were juxtaposed against guaranteed sellers, such as dark oak furniture. This modernisation of traditional American tastes is vital to the survival of the US retail market – today, a younger, more design-conscious generation of consumer has unparalleled purchasing power.
Moreover, consumers are offered a multitude of channels from which they may source and buy furniture – making it even more imperative that traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers get it right.
However, a selection of progressive retailers do opt to cover their bases and stock both traditional, affordable products from bulk suppliers – such as Ashley Furniture – as well as a smaller quantity of higher-end, colourful pieces. This methodology to business is proving to be strong, and, when combined with up-to-date, modern websites, many retailers are benefiting from consumers’ multi-channel approach to shopping.
Jim Senta, a retailer from Ohio, is one example of this. At 68 years old, Jim has embraced modern technology to ensure the survival of his business. “I use the website to show people aspirational roomset images, set next to the stock image of the furniture,” he says. “That way, customers can see the piece itself, as well as see its decorative possibilities.
“My website shows everything that is in stock at the physical store. We don’t directly sell online, but we encourage people to enquire about products and visit to see the furniture in person. When the customer comes in store, they already know what they want. We don’t waste time trying to sell. It’s a more direct, targeted sale, and the customer goes home happy.
“I know some retailers hate websites and new technology today – but if used correctly and appropriately to your business, then it’s a valuable tool. I don’t know why there is such adversity to moving with the times – technology can help or hinder business, but it depends on your attitude to it.”
In response to the fast-paced development of new technology, High Point Market hosted a number of keynote lectures on how to remain profitable – including ways to monetise using the internet as a preferred shopping medium.
It is in this way that High Point Market remains cutting edge. Its well-crafted method of traditional and modern approaches to both product design and supporting the industry as a whole – from distributors to retailers, interior designers and all in between – has ensured its longevity as one of the world’s leading industry events.
The next High Point Market will take place from 19-24th October. Free registration opened on 9th July.