Eagerly looking ahead to market season

This is one of our favorite times of year at Stump & Co.: market season!

Starting this past weekend, premarket began in its typical fashion, a start to the market cycle, with energy building toward the big High Point show in April. Top retailers come to town early, days before the public start of the market and make decisions on new introductions. In the old days, new products were presented, retailers requested changes, the manufacturers took those changes back to the factory, made the adjustments and then 30 days later presented the revised items at the April market. Today, the factories are in Asia and product changes and reviews are an ongoing endeavor, with in-person and zoom inspections year-round. But the general cadence of market behavior remains unchanged.

Then, the show begins. April High Point Market is the big show of the season in the home furnishings world, with over 12 million square feet of showroom space spread out over 150 buildings. Plans are already in place for parties, functions, elaborate meals and the accommodation of the onslaught of 50,000 people into the Triad.

The Stump team loves markets. We believe in-person meetings remain the best way to build relationships, generate new business and get a pulse on this ever-changing and evolving industry. There are a number of new showroom spaces debuting this April, and we are particularly excited about the new Palecek showroom which is continuing the trend we are seeing of destination showrooms outside the big building similar to the moves made by Hooker and Hickory Chair over the past year. We look forward to seeing them, and others, settle into their new spaces. And we are still eagerly awaiting the outcome of who will take over the 90,000-square-foot Klaussner showroom and several prominent open spots in IHFC. We frequently liken the spring High Point Market to our super bowl — and we are excited.

Then in late April/early May, we head to Las Vegas for the HD Expo (hospitality and design). This is a temporary set-up at Mandalay Bay where 10,000 +/- people show up for two days to explore new capabilities and trends in the booming hospitality sector. We are so glad to see the hospitality sector rebounding so robustly, following two tough Covid years. Hotels are full and Americans are traveling, going to concerts, eating out more, so we believe this industry channel has several good years of business ahead. And unlike the residential or office channels, there are no huge players dominating the space, which suggests this sector is ripe for M&A and consolidation.

In June, we travel to Chicago for Neocon, the office/contract show, which is dominated by major billion-dollar-plus companies such as Steelcase, Miller/Knoll, HNI, Haworth and Global/Teknion. This show has become complex, as half the industry is located in Merchandise Mart as the venue (sticking with the traditional location of the market). The other half have migrated to Fulton Market 1 to 2 miles away. It is an interesting shift which makes this market more difficult to navigate. But June in Chicago is a perennial Stump team favorite with great weather, the Cubs in town and tasty food on Rush Street.

In addition to these U.S. markets, we are also making plans to attend several smaller regional and specialty shows as well as travel abroad for key international events. Paris and Milan have vibrant luxury residential markets (Maison & Objet and Salone del Mobile). We also have historically enjoyed the Shanghai Show. And every other year in October Cologne hosts Orgatec, the European version of Neocon serving the office market. We are particularly looking forward to Orgatec following the completion of the sale of Stylex to European-based Flokk owned by European PE firm Triton.

As our friends at Andmore (formerly International Market Center) advocate, it is a good thing to have a physical market. We agree and look forward to seeing industry friends old and new over the coming months.

Stuart Stump Mullens is a partner with mergers and acquisition advisory firm Stump & Co. based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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