The High Point Market begins Oct. 13, and the Home Furnishings Association’s Resource Center provides a key business location for retailers.
The newly renovated Resource Center will be open throughout the market’s nine-day run. It is in Plaza Suites, 1-527.
Everything is different about this market because of COVID-19 restrictions. It will be longer than usual, stretching from Oct. 13 through Oct. 21. The schedule is broken into three segments of three days each. Buyers are asked to attend just one of the segments. Attendance is expected to fall far below normal overall, and it will seem even thinner spread over nine days.
HFA’s Resource Center will look different, too. It’s larger and dramatically reimagined. It features more open space for casual interactions and networking. Vendor booths are more attractive and business-friendly. The seminar room is expanded, brighter, quieter and better-equipped. Conference rooms are redesigned. The new design will help to ensure safe social distancing.
Resource Center protocols for this market
Retailers are invited to see the Resource Center for themselves and meet with vendors. However, the HFA must implement these changes for this market:
- All seminars and group meetings are canceled.
- There will be no catered food or beverage service in the café.
- Many vendors will be available. However, because of social-distancing restrictions there will be limited total showroom occupancy of 95 people.
- Exhibitors may conduct one appointment at a time and must adhere to social-distancing guidelines.
- Seating will be limited in Resource Center common areas. Social-distancing will be required.
- Additional cleaning and sanitation protocols will be offered.
- Masks will be required at all times within the Resource Center.
Resource Center is where key interactions happen
“Although activity must be limited during this unusual market, we will be there to facilitate business opportunities for our members,” HFA CEO Mark Schumacher said. “We will provide a safe, professionally cleaned space where furniture retailers can find helpful services, hold small meetings or just relax with friends and associates. The Resource Center can’t be as busy as usual, but all it takes is one or two key interactions to make this a great market for our retailers and our vendors.”
The High Point Market Authority plans to make the nine-day event as safe as possible, Tom Conley, its president and CEO, told the HFA.
“We probably didn’t think of everything,” he said, “but I think we thought of most things. I’m sure we thought of all the important things.”
The authority has worked with state and local health officials to develop its safety protocols, making requested changes to assure compliance with government directives.
Showrooms can operate at 50 percent of capacity
“High Point showrooms fall under the safety guidelines for retail, so right now, showrooms can be open at 50 percent capacity,” Conley said in a news release. “The showrooms and buildings will be monitoring their capacity limits closely, and we’ll be doing the same on our transportation systems. Coupled with other safety measures such as required face coverings and daily health checks, enhanced cleaning and social distancing, we feel prepared for market to take place safely this October.
“Given High Point’s layout over 13 city blocks in various different buildings, we are uniquely positioned to be able to follow all of the outlined safety guidelines and still offer the in-person buying interactions our industry desperately needs at this time,” Conley added. “We are also geographically positioned well, with a large percentage of the industry living close or within driving distance.”
Still, many factors indicate much lower than normal attendance. Very few international visitors will attend. Some states currently have North Carolina on their “hot list,” meaning that anyone who comes to High Point from those states must quarantine when returning – a significant discouragement. And premarket was unusually strong. Many premarket exhibitors and buyers won’t participate in October.
Premarket was a successful test
Premarket wasn’t only successful from a business standpoint. It tested the safety measures visitors will see in October, including health screenings at entrances to the main showroom buildings. Everything went well, Conley said, calling it “mission accomplished.”
He hopes to see many retailers in October, with a caveat. “If you have an underlying health condition, don’t come,” he said. Otherwise, “there’s no reason not to come.”
The industry needs a good market as consumers are fueling a strong demand for home furnishings. Retail sales were robust all summer but fulfilling orders has presented challenges because of manufacturing backlogs and supply chain delays. Shipping costs are climbing, and retailers are facing rising prices.
Buyers will see plenty of new product introductions and open showrooms, the High Point Market Authority promised in a news release. “The recently launched What’s New webpage provides an overview of available new product details, including articles, product previews and over 500 new product image submissions,” it said in a news release.
The market’s best venue for retailers
“A new filter has been added to the Exhibitor search feature of www.highpointmarket.org to highlight exhibitors who have confirmed they will be open for Fall Market, and only confirmed open showrooms will be filtered to the exhibitor listing in the High Point Market app. Appointments are strongly encouraged for showroom visits, with many exhibitors requiring such.
“With the demand for home furnishings currently at record-breaking levels, and given that our industry has not been able to meet for High Point Market since last October, we are thankful for the exhaustive efforts of our state and local health community to help us create an environment in which necessary business interactions can take place safely this fall. It’s vital for moving our industry forward and meeting the current consumer demand,” Conley said in the news release.
The HFA also looks forward to providing the market’s best venue for retailers to meet their business needs and have a safe and successful experience.