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High Point Pre-Market Event Expanding

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An expanded group of prominent furniture manufacturers gathered in High Point, NC this week to plan Spring 2008 Pre-Market, scheduled for March 3-4, 2008. According to Brian D. Casey, president and chief executive of the High Point Market Authority, who serves as spokesperson for the organizing manufacturers, the original group of 16 has grown to 25 companies and now includes leading upholstered furniture manufacturers like Rowe, Natuzzi and DeCoro Leather, as well as Bernhardt, Hekman and AspenHome. Like the High Point Market itself, Pre-Market is now enjoying a renaissance, thanks to the group of 16 leading case goods makers who came together last Spring to re-imagine what had long been an informal and unofficial affair. “What was once the industry’s best-known non-event is fast becoming an opportunity for significant competitive advantage,” Casey says. “By all accounts, 2008 will be a challenge for many in the home furnishings industry. In terms of shoring up relationships, garnering early commitments and securing distribution, there is little doubt that the Pre-Market participants will be positioned better than most.” As Kevin O’Connor, chief executive of Samson Marketing, parent company of Legacy Classic and Universal Furniture, and widely acknowledged as the “architect” of the revitalized Pre-Market movement relates, “You come to Pre-Market to see the best, from the biggest and the best, and it’s good for both the manufacturers and the retailers. I need my best customers to come in and preview our product. They are our eyes and ears with consumers and their input is invaluable to us. We can’t reinvent an entire group or collection in the four or five-week period between Pre-Market and Market, but we can certainly enhance our offering during that time with input from our customers.” William Colgrove, chief executive of Aspen Home, agrees. “Pre-Market has restored the prior practices of the industry and we’re excited about our participation. Anytime you see the leaders of the industry gathering together it’s exciting, and Pre-Market does this in a big way. I’m all for gathering together as frequently as we can.” Indeed, says Paul Toms, Jr., chairman and chief executive of Hooker Furniture, “Anytime you get the largest retailers and manufacturers together it’s important to the industry. The number and quality of retailers coming to Pre-Market has turned out to be everything we hoped for. We had a good nucleus of exhibitors to start with, and the increase in exhibitors this Spring will only strengthen the event and make it a better draw and investment of time. The Pre-Market movement has momentum and we are building on it. This will further entrench High Point as the place for introductions. High Point is unlike any other market here in the U.S. in terms of the opportunity it affords for exhibitors to introduce new products and for retailers to find new products.” As retailer Leslie Whitehouse, buyer for Cherry House Furniture, notes, “Pre-Market allowed us to shop the majors and took the pressure off when we came to the ‘Big’ Market in October. We were able to make advance commitments and get exclusives in our trading area, which was very important to me. We worked very quickly, and had more one-on-one and face-time with manufacturers, as well as more input into product design. Attending Pre-Market gave us an extra day at Market to shop new vendors and accessories, which we never get to do.” Adds Chris Pelcher, vice president of merchandising at Levin Furniture, “Pre-Market was worthwhile for us because it allowed us to see vendors we typically wouldn’t see during a normal Market given our hectic schedule of appointments with incumbent suppliers.” Each of the participating manufacturers contributes to the cost of the semi-annual event in order to deliver a superlative customer service experience that includes ground transportation, meals, entertainment and networking options. “Participation in Pre-Market is open to any High Point Market exhibitor that wishes to comply with the organizing manufacturers’ mandate: The presentation of product in Market-ready condition,” O’Connor sums. “Others may participate unofficially by merely opening their showrooms, but will not be included in any pre-event promotions encouraging retailers to attend, or the social/networking functions planned for the event, such as the opening night reception. Our goal is not to be exclusive, but to deliver the greatest value to the retailers in attendance and that requires the ability to preview fully realized product introductions.”

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