Twice a year, thousands of designers and retail buyers flock to a small town in North Carolina for High Point Market. A trade show, a conference, a networking opportunity and—by night—a party, the event is as close as the home industry gets to South by Southwest. On this episode of The Business of Home Podcast, editor in chief Kaitlin Petersen and retail columnist Warren Shoulberg join host Dennis Scully to recap the fall edition of Market, which just wrapped last week.
First things first: Vibe check. Despite a slowdown in the retail market, by all accounts the mood was upbeat. That was partially the result, says Petersen, of a return to something like normalcy after two upside-down years. “In [recent] markets, you’d go into showrooms and you’d have missing or partial collections: ‘Here’s the dining table; the chairs didn’t come so here’s a picture of them,’” she says. “[This market,] you weren’t walking into a showroom and the first thing someone did was apologize for lead times or missing stuff. It was, ‘We have an entire thoughtful line; we’re going to show it to you. How great is this.’ That alone changes the mood.”
Shoulberg agrees. While only 12 months ago, logistics was all anyone could talk about, at last week’s Market, “I didn’t hear a single person use the words ‘supply’ and ‘chain’ in the same sentence,” he says. The reason for that shift is less cheery. “When the supply chain was at its worst, everybody said that the only thing that was going to solve it was decreased demand. And eureka! That’s what happened,” says Shoulberg. “We’re still not feeling the full effect of it. A lot of suppliers and dealers are still working off backlogs.”
Indeed, a recent decline in retail buying for home and the threat of a looming recession have replaced “COVID problems” as High Point’s hot topic du jour. But the pain is manifesting differently at different levels of the market, and in different regions of the country. “The high end is absolutely holding up better,” says Shoulberg. “[And] vendors who service stores in the South, where a lot of the population is moving, feel better than those folks with stores in Cleveland or Philadelphia or New York. The population shifts are definitely affecting things.”
That was the big picture. Fall Market also yielded some interesting tidbits of industry news, ranging from the forthcoming debut of a summit dedicated to vacation rental design, to the departure of Tom Conley as the Market Authority’s CEO and the appointment of his successor, Tammy Nagem. Petersen and Shoulberg discuss it all, and share their favorite moments (and products) from a High Point that will likely be remembered as a cheerful return to business as usual. “This was the most normal-feeling Market we’ve had in three years,” says Petersen. “People were in really good spirits.”
Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode was sponsored by Amazon Ads and Universal Furniture.
Homepage image: Market Square | Courtesy of High Point Market Authority