While it was said that traffic was off at the 2016 Fall High Point Market, no one said business was bad. To the contrary, just about everyone I spoke to thought it was still a good time to be in the furniture business.
The mood was upbeat and those that did attend appeared to be interested in buying. That's right, interested in buying. Every six months nearly 75,000 people travel to North Carolina to see, touch and feel the next big thing in home furnishings. This year's event showcased 2,000 exhibitors representing 100+ countries throughout a massive 180 buildings.
The on-demand shopper ― People want express shipping options and it's not just millennials. E-Commerce companies like Amazon have fostered a "need-it-now" mentality. To get in the game, manufacturers are quickly revamping their supply chains to include drop ship capabilities. However, quick shipping creates other issues, as it means carrying more inventory for importers and quicker production cycles for manufacturers. Expedited production cycles are further exacerbated by the lack of skilled cut and-sew personnel.
The middle is where it's at ― There is a continued focus on the mass, mid-price-range market. Promotional players are moving up, and high-end players are moving down. The mid-tier is where you find consumer demand.
Investor interest has picked up ― There's a lot of M&A activity going on in home furnishings, both strategic and financial. Financial buyers were out in droves, which means that the industry is finally doing well enough to attract investment money.
Innovate or…there is nothing else ― There is always going to be a market for designer furniture, but today people expect more from their furniture technically. Many sofas and chairs are now equipped with USB ports. There are mattresses that sense body weight and temperature. But what's next? The industry, which traditionally has been slow to change, will be forced to innovate as technology evolves.
Celebrity lines are working ― More celebrities are lending their names to the home furnishings industry. These lines continue to do well, leaving manufacturers wanting more. In fact, one recently launched line is on track to be the most successful introduction ever--0 to $100 million in one year. Now that's impressive.
Bedroom is doing well, dining is doing well, motion, stationary…when I think about it, it's hard to think of a category that isn't doing well. And brown/gray (bray) is still hot. I don't know if companies are selling it, but everyone is showing it.