Joining an ever-growing number of cancellations due to the coronavirus, High Point Market Authority has decided to postpone its Spring Market, which was scheduled for April 25 to 29. Though new dates have not yet been announced, HPMA plans to reschedule Market in early June, pending improved public health conditions.
The decision comes in the wake of North Carolina governor Roy Cooper declaring a state of emergency on Tuesday in response to COVID-19 earlier this week. High Point was one of the few remaining design events left on the industry’s calendar this spring, with everything from the Kips Bay Decorator Show House in New York to Salone del Mobile in Milan postponed until later in the year due to the outbreak. Brands like American Leather Holdings and Sherrill Furniture Company had already begun to withdraw from the Market, citing concerns for the health and safety of their employees and clients.
One challenge was the sheer number of stakeholders included in determining the Market’s fate. “It was a very painful decision that involved so many different people and organizations, including the state health department, the governor’s office, members of the legislature, the city of High Point, and interests within the industry itself,” Tom Conley, president of the High Point Market Authority, told BOH. “We have so many stakeholders, and so many people depend on our Market.”
Though HPMA had announced two weeks ago that the Market would go on, Conley says the situation on the ground changed rapidly in recent days. “We went from ‘Market must go on’ to people saying they’re not coming because their companies or their customers’ companies had a travel ban,” he explains. Following the governor’s announcement, which strongly suggested that gatherings of more than 100 people be canceled (impacting everything from church gatherings to the NCAA tournament), a path forward quickly became clear. The uncertainty in the interim, however, has created hard feelings in town. “We were accused by a lot of the locals of being hard-hearted and not caring [about the community], but quite the contrary is true,” says Conley. “We really do care about public safety.”
“The decision was difficult, as any change in date could have tremendous economic repercussions on our industry and community, as well as the countless small businesses whose livelihoods rely on High Point Market, but underscores our shared concern and well-being of the citizens in our community and our industry partners,” said Dudley Moore Jr., chairman of the High Point Market Authority’s board of directors and president of Otto & Moore, in a statement announcing the postponement.
Now, the Market Authority has set its sights on finding an alternative date. “The hardest decision was whether we want to spend extra time and money to think we’ll have a Market at a later date, when the reality [of the coronavirus pandemic] is that we just don’t know,” says Conley. “But if there’s any hope of having Market, it’s incumbent upon us to try.”
“Our board of directors will continue to monitor the situation, and we will remain in communication with the proper medical and elected officials,” Conley said in a statement. “Our aim is to have a decision in early May as to if Market can occur, given the uncertainties of this rapidly evolving situation.”
Though no new dates have been finalized, HPMA is eyeing early June—assuming the pandemic has subsided. Then comes the task of encouraging designers and buyers to come to Market. “Once we’re satisfied that we have dates, we’ve got to work with exhibitors to figure out who will be open,” adds Conley. “The only way for us to recruit buyers is with a robust list of exhibitors.”
For now, online registration for Market has been suspended, with the plan to reopen it once an alternative set of dates have been confirmed.
High Point Market has only been canceled once before, in 1942 due to World War II.
For a comprehensive list of industry cancellations and postponements, click here.