International attendance also reported up more than 45% from last fall
HIGH POINT – Market attendance as of Tuesday was up 8.7% compared to last October and 5.3% over this past April, according to preliminary figures shared with the High Point Market Authority board of directors Wednesday morning.
The figures were based on the number of preregistrations and on-site registrations, which will be updated to include attendance figures through Wednesday, the last day of Market.
Attendance was still down 15% from pre-pandemic levels three years ago, HPMA President Tom Conley told Home News Now. However, he said the numbers are moving in the right direction.
“The message for me is that we are directionally valid,” he said. “You will see more data as time goes on, but the numbers tell us we are recovering from Covid, and that we are recovering at a rate that, quite frankly, we didn’t really think would happen.”
The attendance figures included some 1,720 new buyers, which Conley described as “really fantastic.”
Conley also noted that there was a 45.13% increase in international attendance, a figure that highlights a significant easing of travel restrictions and the increased comfort levels that international visitors have attending Market.
He said that the while issues remain, such as high inventory levels and the slow recovery of supply chain challenges, he believes that the energy level at Market was particularly strong.
“That is not quantifiable, but I didn’t talk to anybody that didn’t feel the energy and enthusiasm level wasn’t high,” he said.
Some large buyers such as Amazon, he said, were not here at Market, although he said the company has indicated it will return in the spring.
But Conley also noted that Wayfair alone had a team of 150-160 buyers here and that of the top 200 buying companies overall, 164 were in town.
“The buying power is still here and the buying power, in fact, is still growing,” he said, noting that while the number of actual buyers from the retail segment is consolidating, more and more designers are coming to market. “While he or she may not have a big budget to spend, it adds to the buying power at Market.”
There were also 1,689 exhibitor brands on the Market Authority website, compared to a peak of nearly 3,000.
“That is coming back very nicely,” Conley said of the increase in exhibitors and a drop in the number of empty showrooms.
This was Conley’s last Market Authority board meeting. After 11 years, he is retiring Nov. 15. Tammy Nagem, a long-time executive who currently serves as chief operating officer, will take the reins as president Nov. 16.
Board Chair Alex Shuford III congratulated Conley for his many years of service.
“Tom has been a bedrock for us for the last 11 years in this industry and has taken this Market through some of its most tumultuous times,” he said of his leadership through the tail end of the financial crisis, not to mention Covid.
“We are in a healthy and healing position because of the steady hand that Tom has provided, but also in setting us up with a great staff,” he added, noting that he believes a sign of a great leader is their ability to put a succession plan in place with strong and talented individuals.