By Gerry Borreggine
PRINCETON, N.J. — It appears that the behavior, and perhaps opinions, of both dealers and manufacturers in the home furnishings industry has changed regarding trade shows, post-Covid-19.
With attendance dramatically down at all the major shows, manufacturers are scrambling for ways to show new product to the retailers, and the dealers are looking at creative ways to get new products to freshen their floors.
An industry that has historically been “over-trade-sh owed,” has gone in reverse faster than a Porsche Carrera goes 0-to-60. And has that hurt the business? So far, no.
Does this mean the industry can go on without trade shows? Probably not. But it has shown many of us that we certainly don’t need as many of them as we have been promoting.
Is there a solution looming? Survival of the fittest will determine which shows will survive and continue to serve the industry. Most likely one of the major shows will disappear. I don’t think Las Vegas has the legs to survive a post-Covid market cycle. Which leaves High Point, the Grand Old Lady of furniture trade shows, as the last one standing.
And how will that work going forward? I don’t believe High Point will ever see the rush of visitors twice per year, as it did in its glory years, pre-Las Vegas Market. The market pie definitely got sliced when the Vegas World Market began. And now that Vegas appears to be on the ropes, does that mean High Point will pick up its lost traffic?
Yes and no.
Yes, with the qualifier that there are fewer stores today than 15-years ago, and no in that, traffic, while condensed to one major showplace, probably won’t come in the concentration as it did in the past in the form of two shows — a spring and fall market.
High Point Premarket was so strong that many dealers are replacing the full spring or fall markets with it on their schedules. Many dealers I spoke to said they preferred the more private showings available to them with the Premarket format. It’s quieter, it’s easier to navigate, and they are able to spend more quality time with their vendors.
That said, still many other dealers are planning to attend the traditional spring or fall markets. And there are some dealers who will attend both Premarket and the spring market. The traffic broken-up will be lighter, but it will have a greater frequency.
Then there is the phenomenon of First Tuesday, a creation of Guy Ray and his team at Manwah. (The Market Authority ought to erect a statue of Ray and put it on Main Street in recognition for his helping to save this town and its market.)
First Tuesday is a once-a-month event taking place on the first Tuesday of each month excepting the two market months. It is booked as a “by appointment only” two-day event. It is starting to catch on in the post-Covid, social distancing awareness of today.
With all these “mini-markets,” High Point has a steady flow of traffic into town all year long. Manufacturers like me may find ourselves visiting High Point for a few days every month, throughout the year with meeting with various dealers and customers.
This may be good for High Point, but it could also prove efficient for the industry.
The money saved on fewer big markets could help each of us better serve our customers in a more accommodating manner.
Note: For a different take on the future of Las Vegas Market, see this story on the April event.
Gerry Borreggine is President/CEO of Princeton, N.J.-based Therapedic International.