Here’s what 4 CEOs said about business at High Point Market

HIGH POINT — There was plenty of discussion about what’s coming in 2023 at the recent High Point Market. Here’s the take of four industry leaders about the mood and the business at this fall’s trade show.
See also: 3 first reactions to fall market from furniture and décor categories

David Gebhart, Global Views

David Gebhart

David Gebhart

Buyers in the Global Views showroom were “seeing red,” according to Gebhart, but in the most positive ways.

“We did a huge red statement that seemed to capture the imagination of all customers who entered our showroom,” he noted. “Our creative director George Sellers and showroom display artist Ely Sellers did an amazing job of creating a red velvet ‘jewelry box’ entrance to our main space off the escalator well.

“Red was very popular with customers, and we had an extensive red offering across all product categories from ceramics, glass, rugs, upholstery, wall decor, and golden coordinating lighting items,” Gebhart said. “Also black and white was a huge statement, and it was truly well received as well, again across all home decor product lines.”

When assessing the overall mood of buyers at High Point Market, Gebhart said that the desire for new “wow” items was strong, adding that buyer needs are shifting as inventory adjusts.

“Everyone was very upbeat and glad to feel ‘free’ to be at market in October 2022,” he said. “Some concerns I heard from other companies exhibiting in the market and also directly from the buyers was relative to many retailer stores being overstocked at this moment, so they did not have an immediate need to buy more during this market. It seems the supply chain issues have begun to allow enough, if not more than enough, inventory to flow into the retail channels specifically.

“Designers, on the other hand, were gung-ho on buying and sourcing new products as all said they were busier than ever,” he continued. “One design duo noted that they have more than two-and-a-half years of projects on the books at this moment and needed to start planning their inventory buys now.”

Gebhart added that original designs, various price points and mixed styles in single-room settings were popular with buyers during market.

“Nothing is out of bounds at this moment,” he said. “It seems that we need to keep our focus on being a ‘total home’ resource for our customers with our very own uniquely designed products.

“I believe that original and unique designs will rule the day as we move into 2023,” he continued. “Shelf goods are everywhere in our industry and market, and it shows a lack of real design work required to capture the attention of buyers, designers and consumers. Any type of color or scale will be accepted, so long as it originates from an original design. Regarding color trends, I believe in picking a color direction and really going for it — full throttle — no holds barred, to help cause customers to stop in their tracks and say, ‘Look at what Global Views is doing now!’”

Adrian Parker, Temple Furniture/Parker Southern

Adrian Parker headshot

Adrian Parker

Six-week lead times created buyer excitement in the Temple Furniture/Parker Southern showrooms at High Point Market, along with a 1960s-inspired theme that included the Beatles, Sonny and Cher, the Supremes, and Jimi Hendrix.

“Our array of colors was a bit hit with our new customers and dealers,” Parker said. “Our Cher and Hepburn sofas were top hitters, and buyers were definitely enthusiastic.”

Parker said that Top 100 retailers, boutique retailers and designers came to the showroom, and he credited increased attendance to access to an omnichannel audience via marketing initiatives. He added that he believes “must haves” for the Millennial and Gen Z home furnishings consumers include “simple and smaller designs, lower seat heights and valuable information available online.”

“We have partnered with Furniture Today on our social media in Q3 and Q4 and have increased our followers exponentially,” Parker said. “Reaching out to the furniture industry has a big impact on our business, so we will continue to do this throughout 2023, as well as equip our factories with good employees to get product out quickly. We saw a lot of buyers at market, and it was great to have a mix of all types.”

Jeremy Hoff, CEO, and Johne Albanese, chief marketing officer and president, global e-commerce, Hooker Furnishings

Jeremy Hoff, 10-2022, cropped

Jeremy Hoff

The Hooker Furnishings showrooms featured several new collections including one created in partnership with Susan B. Komen Foundation, the debut of Portfolio and the launch of Charleston. The Scott Brothers also returned to High Point Market, drawing a crowd of retailers eager to meet the pair, and in each showroom, buyers were happy to be back in person.

“I would characterize the market for our companies as back to normal and cautiously optimistic,” Hoff said. “I’m grateful we are able to have face-to-face conversations with our partners. In my opinion, there is no replacement for those interactions. We gain so much insight when we are all together.”

John Albanese

Omnichannel strategies will remain an important part of the company’s business plan moving into 2023, Albanese said, adding that his team is prepared to help their retail partners move ahead.

“Hooker Furnishings has had a very strong digital first focus since 2012, especially when it comes to online media, marketing and ecommerce sales,” he explained. “We have been extrapolating that strong position for several years across a broad range of omnichannel retailers, including a focus on assisting retailers who haven’t yet entered the space to take advantage of the omnichannel opportunity.

“Our goal is to better communicate our ability to assist with omni engagement to the many retailers who aren’t yet active in the space,” Albanese continued. “We are also expanding our ability to offer our retailers more DTC options across our full fleet of consumer-facing brands, thereby allowing them to offer significantly shorter delivery times on goods that bypass the traditional logistics channels.”

Zack Taylor

Zack Taylor, Wesley Hall

A “mixed bag” of approaches is the term Taylor uses to describe buyer activity at Wesley Hall, but he noted that comparisons to pre-pandemic markets were significant.

“Everyone is comparing results back to 2019, the last ‘full/normal’ year,” Taylor said. “Demand is outpacing 2019 in terms of revenue with less robust increases in production, the result of price increases.

“Having been inundated with both inventory and sold orders as they departed for High Point, buyers were cautious on one hand, yet acutely aware that they need to maintain ‘their’ slot in future production schedules,” he continued. “The culmination led to a mixed bag of approaches: Some staying course with heavy inventory orders while some planned to wait through the holiday season for spring commitments, trusting in continued improvement in lead times. Production timing continued to be front and center.”

According to Taylor, “stylized, organic patterns” captured the attention of buyers in search of the new accent fabric. Additionally, warmer neutrals and greens were popular picks as buyers exhibited an “appetite for color.”

“Per our norm, we had pockets of success with various lifestyles appealing to differing lifestyle and region,” he said. “That said, there was a universal appeal in both the Modern Proper lifestyle, today’s traditional menswear, and Bespoke Amenities, a boutique hotel lobby vibe. Both shared common rooting in sophisticated comfort and livability, and both shared a similar balance of saturated, moody hues grounded in crisp-white neutrals.

“Buyers reacted to subtle pattern applied to sofas and sectionals as well as to a return of layering pattern back into environments,” Taylor said. “Finally, adding lifestyle components like drink tables into sectionals indicate a need for both style finesse and functionality that speaks to the way we live.”

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