Despite an overall upbeat mood and plenty of product innovation at this month’s International Home Furnishings Market in High Point, official registration data indicated about a 7 percent decline in attendance compared to last spring, according to the High Point Enterprise. Winter home furnishings markets — while far from the booming business days of yore — had positive momentum that probably set high hopes for High Point traffic, which still seemed to me to be “good” by current standards.
In a genius stroke of timing, World Market Center Las Vegas made sure some of the biggest buzz at the show remained firmly focused outside of North Carolina. Just before market, World Market Center announced that none other than former President Bill Clinton would be giving the keynote address at its August show. (Does anyone else find it ironic that Serta mattress is a sponsor for his speech?) Then, practically just as participants were boarding their planes for the Piedmont Triad, the deal to purchase Merchandise Mart Properties-managed High Point buildings was officially announced, right on the heels of the offer to buy the behemoth International Home Furnishings Center (IHFC).
All indicators — including the pure speculation that continues to be so popular around any industry rumors — implied a Sin City connection. None of the World Market Center rank and file in attendance revealed anything, save for a few involuntary facial expressions resembling a cat who had eaten a canary.
An April 13 Wall Street Journal article confirmed everyone’s suspicions: World Market Center developer The Related Cos. had formed a new venture (hence the mystery) to take over these key High Point properties while also restructuring its now-famous debt on its Las Vegas investment.
The aforementioned speculation is now fixated on what this will mean if the High Point deals are completed. Will exhibitors be required to take space in both locations? Will leasing staffs be streamlined? Will Elvis take over the departing Brian Casey’s position heading up the High Point Market Authority? Something tells me the parties involved will remain strategically silent about any changes, until such announcements will have maximum beneficial impact for them.