Friday, May 1, 2009
HighPoint Furniture Market
I just returned from Highpoint, N.C. after spending two days visiting the furniture market held semi-annually there. I went there for the first time to check out the market and see if it is right for our Company to show there in the Fall- October market. Unlike Las Vegas, one of the chief benefits of the Highpoint market is there isn't anything else to do there other than attend the market. No gambling and shows. So the buyers who attend are serious about checking out the possibilities. This was a significant lesson in why Highpoint should be a good fit for us. As this was my first market, I had nothing to compare it to but all of the veterans said "it is nothing like it used to be". That may be, but I found the traffic in the "Interhall" area to be significant and interviewed several of the companies that exhibited there. All were reporting solid sales and leads. They were universally encouraging. My interest was piqued. There is a strong possibility that I will be exhibiting there in the Fall and was invited to the Interhall area. There was a nice sense of camaraderie.
The other factor that was hard to miss was the surge of popularity for Sustainable and "Green" products. The Sustainable Furniture Council, which we are members of, planned several cool events and many vendors are now members and are using their logo. (See our environmental policy on our website for more info:http://straussfurniture.com/?page=environment
There was a "green drinks" social networking evening held at Cisco brothers showroom in a renovated mill building and which is a very cool space.see http://www.millvillagehp.com/ Cisco renovated a 100 year old mill into a series of showrooms. Their furniture is all sustainable and has been very successful. I met financial planners with environmentally friendly investment strategies, a major lumber company executive who is encouraging sustainable forestry within their company, a contract furniture company president who talked to me about potential for working towards sustainable projects, and a free spirited veteran of the industry who has been constructing scenarios for the Sustainable Furniture Council to vault into the next level of popular consciousness. And the hors d'oeuvres and drinks were fantastic too.
I also listened to a panel on social networking and sustainability. All the electronic forms are inherently sustainable as they don't necessitate the cutting of trees. I learned from their anecdotes how Twitter especially (which I can attest to as well) can network you with like minded companies and people in your industry. All Twitter is is a conversation, just like you might have at a cocktail party with others, except that it is taking part on the web. Because it is digital and available on the net, messages can spread at a geometric rate. That can be both positive and negative, but it is incumbent on a company to monitor and participate so that they can have some control over their company's reputation. All messages on Twitter are stored and searchable through Google, so they have a life beyond the moment of the "Twit". Companies need to be in control of who is putting out their message and never "trust" it to someone who has no investment (spiritually) in the Company.
Lastly, as a Northerner, it is a lot of fun to travel through the South and listen to accents from Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama. These are sounds I don't normally get to hear and they remind me that our country really still has regional cultural differences despite the national penetration of Target, Wendy's, Pier 1 and ToysRUs among others. On my way back I stopped in a little diner near the Blue RIdge Parkway in Virginia and had a biscuit and great tasting grits. I could barely understand the fishing talk overheard between the chef and the patrons, but the food and atmosphere couldn't be beat.