Open High Point showrooms putting safety first
HIGH POINT, North Carolina – Fewer than half of the 66 Canadian furniture and home furnishings resources with permanent showrooms here are expected to open for the fall edition of the High Point Market (HPM), which kicks off today (October 13). All are promising to observe all protocols laid down by the organisers and local health authorities during the event’s nine-day run.
Most are expecting to see few, if any, Canadian retail buyers and aren’t expecting record numbers of their U.S. network to attend either. Many also said the showrooms will be manned, for the most part, by each company’s U.S. sales force as rules governing travel across border require travelers to self-isolate for two weeks upon returning home.
The reasons for opening were surprising consistent among those furniture executives surveyed by Home Goods Online and, like those who choose not to open, reported business has been brisk over the past few months.
Roger Friesen, chief revenue officer for Palliser, said Canada’s largest furniture manufacturer had a successful pre-market last month. “We saw more retailers than any previous pre-market. Although many retailers who attended pre-market will not attend market, we felt it was important for retailers making the effort to attend market. We have appointments from 20 of our 26 territories in the U.S.,” he told HGO.
“We expect attendance to be 20 to 25% of normal,” he continued, adding they aren’t expecting attendance from Canada or other international retailers. Palliser’s efforts will be overseen by KC Greenwald, vice president of sales for the U.S. and the U.S. sales team. “Executives and management from Canada or Mexico will not attend market.”
Palliser will also produce a virtual showroom tour for those retailers who won’t be attending.
J.R. Marzilli, president of upholstery house Décor Rest, is also expecting to see only members of their U.S. retail network, who have booked appointments so they can be hosted in what he describes as “a socially distant manner.”
He also anticipates attendance will be, at best, 50% of normal. “Considering the lockdown, we are not counting on any Canadian dealers,” he said.
"We chose to open because our American customers and reps will be attending,” said Eric Abecassis, president of motion upholstery specialist Elran. “The showroom is setup, and we will follow all the strict guidelines put in place by the High Point Market Authority.”
“It’s really a combination of two things,” Mike Saby, chief operating officer of Mercana Furniture & Décor, said when explaining why they chose to open. “Our team felt the safety protocols in place for High Point Market are adequate to conduct business safely for all. Secondly, we’re seeing unprecedented growth this year and have more appointment requests than we’ve ever experienced. With hundreds of new product additions to our line-up and some of the highest in-stock levels forecasted for this fall, we will be able to provide goods to our customers where many other suppliers can’t.”
Sundeep Baga, president of Sunpan, noted the contemporary furniture resource will open a newly expanded 40,000 square foot showroom at the fall market and in collaboration with their landlord – International Market Centers (IMC) – will operate under some strict provisions which include wearing masks and daily temperature checks. They will also limit the number of visitors allowed in the showroom at any one time.
“It wasn’t easy to make the decision to open,” he explained, adding, “but we just finished an expansion that doubled our space. We had committed to this expansion pre-pandemic. We are also introducing over 700 new items and new categories such rugs, lighting, luxe art, domestically made upholstery and our very first outdoor collection.”
Business is good
Most of these execs said business has been brisk over the past few months and most anticipate the pace will continue, at least in the short term.
Friesen said Palliser put safety measures in place across all operations in Canada, Mexico and Asia – such as distancing, temperature checking, sanitisation and masks – early on. Employees with symptoms were required to self-isolate until it was safe to return to work.
“These measures did result in labour shortages impacting production in each factory, which is a key challenge,” he said, adding incoming orders have stretched delivery time to ten to twelve weeks at this point. “We anticipate the current demand levels will continue well into next year. We are monitoring business at retail closely to anticipate and changes in demand.”
This was common theme among those execs HGO spoke with. “We foresee business conditions growing until consumers are no longer in lock down, working from home and are able to travel once again,” Décor-Rest’s Marzilli opined.
“We acknowledge we are living in a bubble and we don’t take anything for granted,” Elran’s Abecassis added. “Over the next few months with people remaining mostly at home, we believe the momentum will keep on going.”
“We’re having unprecedented growth as an organization this year,” Mercana’s Saby said. “Like many, our spring results were strong followed by a ‘pandemic pause’ – then a roar back beyond our expectations. Our biggest challenge is keeping up with outbound. Customer demand and immediacy is at an all-time high. You can hear how much pressure retailers and designers are under as they work on their recovery plans.
“Our best right now isn’t always good enough for some customers. It’s an emotional year for our customers and our staff,” he continued, adding, “staying upbeat with amazing growth and product launches should be a slam-dunk but just isn’t so.”
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