I can always count on the High Point Market  to be equal parts invigorating and exhausting, and the most recent edition was no exception. It’s always exciting to see that much new lighting product in such a range of styles and price points, a stone’s throw from other furnishings that will provide the context for those designs. I also enjoy seeing longtime industry friends and meeting new contacts. The exhausting part is probably self-explanatory: 10 million square feet and a sign that reads “we never close.”
It’s no wonder we tend to look to this market as the mother of all measurements for how the home furnishings industry is faring as a whole. Nobody does it bigger. And based on feedback I received at this spring show, it’s a bit of a mixed bag right now.
In my informal conversations, most exhibitors told me their traffic was up slightly from October or relatively flat. While this keeps the momentum moving in the right direction, April is traditionally better attended than October, so some were expecting a bigger jump after fall’s fabulous comeback. All reported brisk buying, however, continuing the trend that attendees who make the investment to visit a market (any market) are consistently serious about the task at hand.
Weather certainly contributed to the traffic patterns this time around. In contrast to October’s hospitable temperatures and mood-lifting sunshine, rain, cold and wind made appearances throughout this show, with all three showing up in full force on Sunday, April 22. It seems like the days of predicting that buyers would work their way from furniture floors to accessories on a reliable schedule like migratory birds are long gone anyway, but throw in a little thunder and all bets are really off.
Many cited this year’s Presidential politics as a reason that many retailers (and their customers) are somewhat cautious once again. Before there was a clear Republican front-runner, nothing got too nasty on that front and we could cling to modest economic improvements with unbridled enthusiasm. Now there are more reminders in the news of how far we still need to go before we are truly out of the woods, a dialogue with potential to escalate as Election Day approaches.
These are all valid viewpoints. But my feeling is that those who were disappointed by High Point’s performance may have had their expectations calibrated unrealistically. Although it sure felt good last fall for everything to be coming up roses, we’re not going to see a leap and a bound every six months. I’m thankful for continued forward motion, and for the businesses continuing to innovate that keep our industry moving in the right direction, even when I’m impatient about the pace.