Hickory Furniture Mart has an enduring legacy in and outside North Carolina

The nearly 1-million-square-foot facility features showrooms from many local and regional manufacturers, and attracts customers from around the world

HICKORY, N.C. — If you are an industry veteran, you remember the days when the premarket started in Hickory, North Carolina. Buyers started rolling into town on Sunday at the beginning of the High Point Home Furnishings market week. They shopped through Wednesday before moving onto High Point for the traditional opening day on Thursday.

Today, under one roof (just under 1 million square feet), some 20 tenants representing 100 individual showrooms and galleries, sell case goods, lighting, home décor and rugs to the public at the Hickory Furniture Mart, formerly known as the Southern Furniture Market.

Tracey Trimble, executive vice president and general manager of Hickory Furniture Mart, is proud of the craftsmanship showcased in multiple galleries on four floors.

“The difference here at Hickory Furniture Mart is that we offer local furniture, made in the U.S., and quality craftsmanship that lasts a lifetime,” Trimble said. She credited the influence of the Catawba Valley Furniture Academy, located in Hickory, that teaches the next generation of craftsmen and women with local instructors that have worked in local furniture manufacturing facilities for

Trimble shared some thoughts with Home News Now about the current business climate at Hickory Furniture Mart.

“Business has been good this year but showing a slight decline for the first time in the last two and a half years,” Trimble said. “People are still shopping, but a bit more cautious and taking more time to decide since home mortgage rates and inflation have both increased. Showrooms have always offered different discounts and incentives for customers each month and our prices are normally lower than other furniture retailers due to our location and our long-term partnerships with local manufacturers.”

“Consumers have been visiting the outlets more frequently because their main objective is to find something off the floor and immediately available, especially those customers who were buying investment homes during the housing boom to rent out for additional revenue,” she added. “Customers do not like to wait for what they want. Additionally, customers were motivated to buy
office furniture for their new remote work environment these past two years — and larger tables for remote learning at home in addition to individual workstations, allowing each student to have their own space.”

E-commerce business also is a growing part of the overall business at Hickory Furniture Mart and increased steadily during Covid, according to Trimble.

“We adapted early on and many of our tenants had their sales and design staff working from home with transactional equipment to
continue working with customers remotely. Now customers enjoy the convenience of the online experience when needed.”

A timeline of Hickory Furniture Mart from the late 1940s to 2014.

Trimble addressed how traffic has changed following the pandemic.

“We used to have 100% in-store traffic but over the last five years, and especially within the last two and a half years, people have visited and purchased online so we now have a healthy mix of in-store and online traffic,” she explained. “Overall, I would say in-person traffic may be down slightly, and online traffic has steadily increased. Since we are a custom-order destination location, we will always continue to have in-person traffic to see, touch, feel, etc.”

Trimble added that some showrooms offered Black Friday deals, but most did not since furniture retail does not always fall into the same category as other retail.

Who shops at Hickory Furniture Mart? According to Trimble, people from all over the U.S. and around the world.

“Because we are a destination store and not a local store, we bring in customers from all over the world,” she said. “We have visitors from every state represented and several international countries, as well. We also service the Hickory area and some of our smaller tenants concentrate on customers within a 250-mile radius, but for the most part, we receive a mix of local, regional, national and international
visitors on a weekly basis.”

Trimble stated it was not hard to remain competitive during Covid because of the advantage of its location.

“I think the best advantage we have had these past two and a half years is our close proximity to some of the most popular manufacturers’ factories, allowing us to secure floor stock much quicker than other furniture retailers,” she explained. “We also have Market samples from High Point that we sell to the public after each show in High Point. On top of that, we have the advantage of offering a large number of options and styles carried under one roof, along with knowledgeable furniture experts that can work with customers either in-person or remotely.“

A look at some of the tenants at Hickory Furniture Mart

Designing Women

Sally Bentley, owner and lead designer of Designing Women, is located with her team on the third floor in the Hickory Furniture Mart. DW has close relationships with the industry from years of working closely with support industries and manufacturers located in Hickory. The staff of 25, including translators and interpreters, work frequently with international clients from the Middle East on primarily whole-home projects from furniture and rugs to artwork.

“I have access in Hickory to thousands of manufacturers, which allow us to provide services that no other design firm can provide,” Bentley said to Home News Now. “I have long-term relationships with furniture companies like Century Furniture, Hickory White, Sherrill Furniture Companies, Hancock & Moore and many others. And, this furniture is made locally in Hickory, along with other suppliers of upholstery, hardware and fabrics based here as well.”

“The last two years have been overwhelming in terms of the volume of work,” Bentley said.

To accommodate international clients, she communicates on What’s App, FaceTime and other virtual platforms as well as in-person.

Roya Rugs

Saman Mostafaloo, a second-generation family member from Persia, is the vice president at Roya Rugs, a locally owned company specializing in handcrafted, hand-knotted rugs in silk, cotton and wool.

“People travel a great distance for our rugs,” Mostafaloo said.

This is a selection of rugs seen at Roya Rugs.

He added, “In general, business is good, but there is still some uncertainty due to inflation, mortgage rates and costs remaining high in the supply chain. We are competitive in our prices and have a healthy inventory that is replenished weekly.”

He travels four to six times a year to visit the craftspeople who make the one-of-a-kind rugs using custom looms inside their homes. He also visits the craftspeople at larger production facilities in Persia, Afghanistan, Turkey and India. It takes a village to produce each rug, which can require up to 80 craftsmen.

Roya rugs also can take up to one year to complete.

“Rugs are the foundation of any home, and it truly is an art form,” Mostafaloo said. “So there is definitely a price point for this level of craftsmanship.”

Mostafaloo said that traditional designs are making a comeback across all generations, but more often requested by older generations. Contemporary/abstract designs are increasingly popular with the younger generations such as Biscayne Ocean, a contemporary rug made of wool and inspired by the lagoons in the southeast. Roya Rugs predominantly sells its own brand, but also sells machine-made rugs from Loloi.

Southern Heritage Home

Kathy Gordon is president of Southern Heritage Home, the parent company of four individual showrooms — Southern Style Fine Furniture, Heritage Furniture Galleries, Heritage Furniture Outlet and Hooker Factory Outlet (its only factory outlet in the U.S.).

Kathy Gordon

Outlet sales are strong according to Gordon because of inventory moving more frequently compared to galleries with custom goods.

Gordon’s showrooms reported lower revenue than in 2021, which she attributed to the global economy. She added that supply chain delays are ongoing.

“We still have delays in the supply chain (upholstery, foam, labor and other suppliers), but customers are willing to wait because they are supporting local businesses and factories producing quality products.” Gordon said.

She noted that she works with 24 manufacturing lines that are made in North Carolina. Southern Style Fine Furniture brings in clients from farther distances, while outlet showrooms tend to attract more local consumers, according to Gordon.

Southern Style Fine Furniture carries popular North Carolina brands like Huntington House, The MT Company, and product for Charleston Forge with thousands of customizable options.

Rock House Farm Factory Outlet

“Rock House Farm Factory Outlet is the only factory outlet of its kind,” Trimble said.

Locally owned by parent company Rock House Farm, the 25,000-square-foot outlet showroom offers products that are immediately available from Century Furniture, Maitland-Smith, Pearson, Hancock & Moore, Hickory Chair, Highland House and Jessica Charles. It is considered a “candy store” for interior designers.

Trish Maney

Trish Maney, manager, reported sales were strong from Hickory Furniture Mart’s website and each manufacturer’s website.

“Brands are owned locally and with these manufacturers’ factories located in Hickory, it really makes a difference. We get top-quality samples from High Point after each Market, and with the choice of custom finishes it makes sense for customers to shop

Customers are from surrounding Southeastern states, but are as far away as California. Maney said there also was an uptick in customers from Florida after Hurricane Ian.

Century Furniture is the most prolific brand in the gallery, and Hickory Chair and Pearson are popular with designers. “We sell Hancock & Moore furniture as fast as we get it in,” said Maney. “In the leather category, it is the premium brand that customers want.” The gallery offers special services such as storage without a fee for clients who are building or remodeling.

Times may have changed, but the story of Hickory’s place in the home furnishings industry is still being told. In the 1980s, three market buildings in Hickory were prominent in the industry: Hickory Furniture Mart, Hickory Merchandise Mart and Hickory Home Furnishings Mart. Decades later, Hickory Furniture Mart still stands and remains vital to the home furnishings industry.

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