Market attendance sees slight rebound

·3 min read

Oct. 17—HIGH POINT — Some home furnishings businesses reported on the opening day of the fall High Point Market that they'd like to see more customers in their showrooms, but their overall business is still strong.

Some of the larger exhibitors on Saturday reported that while their showrooms were fully stocked with products and buyers were coming in for appointments, overall traffic for them was still down significantly compared to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.

"We're about half of what a typical Market would entail, in terms of attendees coming on to the showroom," said Cole Bawek, director of public relations for Ashley Furniture Industries. "But it's more than what we originally anticipated, and the dealers that are coming in are very excited about the product lines that we have here."

The pandemic created unprecedented demand for furniture as people had to work and learn from home, and business has been "off the charts for the past 18 months" for Bassett Furniture, said Bruce Cohenour, senior vice president and chief sales officer.

The company was expecting 50% to 60% of normal Market attendance at its showroom on the 12th floor of the IHFC.

"Is it COVID-based or people don't want to look at new product? There's a combination of factors that are probably keeping them away," Cohenour said. "We'd like to see more people, but the good news is that the quality of the retailers that are here is really good. We're never a company to introduce a ton of product. We're very particular, but we have about the right amount of new product introductions, and our dealers are reacting favorably to that."

Even with buyer traffic down, others said that this Market is shaping up to continue the progress made since October 2020.

"I'm going to say attendance is maybe 50%, which, with where it's been, that's a big improvement over last year," said Jay Quimby, executive vice president of sales for Lane Furniture.

Exhibitors said being able to control their own production processes has been a key in dealing with the global supply-chain slowdown that has led to long delays in filling customer orders.

They said not being dependent on shipping furniture products from places like Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia has been critical during the pandemic.

"Here in High Point, we have a mechanism facility where we take raw steel and stamp it out into mechanisms for our reclining furniture," Quimby said. "There's a global shortage of mechanisms in Asia as well as domestically, so we're in a good spot on that and in our trucking and our wood in producing the frames. Some of those vertical capabilities definitely have made it easier in a lot of the supply-chain issues globally."

Klaussner Home Furnishings in Asheboro has its own foam plant, which has allowed it to support the growth of its core business, which is domestically produced upholstery, said Len Burke, vice president for marketing.

The company does have new introductions it's rolling out for Market at its N. Hamilton Street showroom in upholstered goods, as well as bedroom furniture.

"On our import side, we had some things in the pipeline," Burke said. "The supply chain is still a wreck, don't get me wrong, but I think it's how you're positioned."

Cohenour said Bassett's production process is about 75% domestic, which has helped it get products through the supply chain better than most of its peers.

"I think that's another reason why we're getting people coming in and actually ordering new products," he said. "I'm sure there are showrooms that maybe even didn't get their new products here, if they were counting on them being imported."

On top of the supply-chain issues, companies continue to deal with labor shortages. Quimby said Lane is one of the largest upholstery manufacturers in the state, with several plants.

"All of our plants here in North Carolina are full capacity," he said. "We probably could hire about 350 people locally — Lexington, Archdale, Winston-Salem." — 336-888-3531

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