That’s a wrap! Today marked the close of the spring edition of High Point Market, the twice-yearly furniture bonanza that takes North Carolina by storm. This week on Retail Watch, host Warren Shoulberg invites fellow Business of Home podcaster Dennis Scully on the show to discuss what lessons the industry can take away from a market that is fast returning from a two-year period of pandemic pivots to something resembling normalcy.
First, the big question: Is the home boom nearing its end? Maybe. “I got this kind of yin-yang thing from Market,” says Shoulberg. “Obviously, the past two years have been terrific for the furniture business. They’ve sold every credenza that they could find at the bottom of a shipping container, and business has just been spectacular. But some of the folks I talked to said if the party’s not over, it’s getting toned down quite a bit … I talked to a number of vendors and a couple of retailers who said their business has absolutely slowed down the past 45 days.”
A sales comedown (albeit from dizzying highs) may not apply at all levels of the market—Scully suggests that numbers may be different on different ends of the price spectrum. “So many of the higher-end dealers said to me, ‘I’m glad I’m not on the promotional side of the business,’ where you already got the sense that things had slowed down dramatically,” he says.
High end or mass market, continued supply chain frustrations are universal. The big revelation from High Point: At this point, they’re normal. “I’m amazed at how Market has transformed itself to accept the reality of these incredibly long lead times as de rigueur,” says Scully. “I visited a showroom for lunch, and they had literally received zero percent of their new product. And the guy was sitting there having lunch with me as though he didn’t have a care in the world. Two years ago, if you had told somebody that nothing was going to arrive for Market, the guy would have been catatonic … [Lead times of] 40 weeks, 50 weeks just rolled off people’s tongues: ‘That is a lovely piece you’re looking at over there, if you can wait until next year I’ll get you one!’ It was almost a joke.”
The other big topics of the COVID-19 era were in the air at Market too, especially inflation and what its effects may be—including the potential that many brands might have over-ordered in the thick of the home boom and will be stuck with goods they can’t offload at elevated pricing. “The speculation is that a lot of this inventory is bad inventory and not sellable at these inflated prices,” says Shoulberg. “I wouldn't be surprised to see a whole lot of furniture getting dumped in the off-price outlets.”
Despite ongoing industry challenges, the overall vibe, say both Shoulberg and Scully, was extremely positive. Attendance had nearly crept back to pre-pandemic levels, parties were well attended and restaurants were full. Great weather didn’t hurt, either. “Out and upbeat was definitely the message at Market,” says Scully. “It was palpable how happy everyone was to get back.”
Homepage Photo: Courtesy of HPMA