Behind the scenes at the High Point Market

Published 12:05 am Thursday, May 18, 2023

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By Mandy Haggerson
For the Clemmons Courier

BERMUDA RUN — Twice a year, High Point Market brings billions of dollars back to North Carolina.

With over 75,000 attendees from all 50 states, including 10% internationally, it’s no wonder it is the single biggest economic impact to the state.

With 40,000 retailers and designers and 2,000 exhibitors, the most recent event, held April 22-26, was exciting and helpful for local businesses like Meg Brown Home Furnishings and Woodbridge Furniture Company.

Local business owner Megan Brown spent those days with her design team looking for clients and her store at 5491 U.S.-158 in Bermuda Run.

“It’s always helpful to see the new stuff,” Brown said. “We pride ourselves on staying fresh and hunting down new lines that meet our client’s price points. We want quality brands that will stand the test of time but don’t necessarily break the bank. That is the reason we created the outlet at our store. We are looking to bring new lines to the outlet for our clients.

“I spent about five days shopping out there. We’ll also test out the products. We want the pieces to be functional too. Sitting in chairs, feeling the material, we really consider all aspects to better inform and educate our clients about what they might want to buy.”

Brown is excited that lead times on ordering furniture have been reduced significantly too.

“A lot of times, people want to order custom pieces,” Brown said. “However, after COVID-19 happened, that hindered their ability to get something in a timely manner. I’m excited to see that has changed, and we don’t have to be afraid to order that anymore. It’s nice that clients are able to get exactly what they want without the wait now.

“Going to High Point Market allows me the ability to order these new products, keep in mind what’s out there, and customize it too if the client wants something that isn’t in stock at the store. There are so many options, and we appreciate that our clients trust us to know what’s out there. We always leave inspired by the different uses of furniture, wallpaper and new styles.”

Some of the newer styles that Brown visited were from locally-based furniture company Woodbridge.

“We’ve loved working with that company because they have such quality furniture and style,” Brown said. “They are also very talented and great to work with. I really enjoyed seeing their Celerie Kemble line at market.”

Building relationships in the furniture business is vital. Woodbridge is celebrating its 20th anniversary and was excited to have its biggest presence ever at High Point Market this year.

Creative Director Cass Key reflects, “We had our own showroom with 10,000 square feet, which was very exciting. Previously we’ve shared our space, so we were thrilled to have the opportunity to display more of what we have been working on. Some people have asked if High Point Market is one building, but it’s not. It’s basically a square mile of independent showroom spaces that are all similar but different, allowing their niches to be displayed with their price points.”

Key also appreciates that so much of what was displayed comes from North Carolina.

“All of the upholstered folks are manufactured here in North Carolina,” Key said. “Even some of the case goods are done here locally as well. Woodbridge is based in Thomasville, which includes our warehouse, distribution and custom team, which generates about 20% of our sales. We are able to paint anything from our line in any color and use any fabric, which is a nice tool for designers in the trade. High Point Market allows us twice a year to really interface with our customers in person and show them our southern hospitality. We loved hosting a big party for our 20th anniversary and celebrating the milestone with people who made that possible.”

The family-owned business, which initially began with a father, Mike Hinshaw, and son, Kevin Hinshaw, has enjoyed sharing a passion for furniture and keeping it local.

“Every time someone comes to visit us at the market, we want to inspire them and show them our capabilities,” Kevin Hinshaw said. “We have a team of nationwide sales representatives that look forward to seeing our customers. However, the volume of people that come in (usually around 400 visitors a day) makes it tough to do, so we have our entire staff at Woodbridge on hand to make people feel welcome when they come visit us.”

Key added, “When they come in, we go all out on what they experience with paint colors, window treatments, art and rugs too. We want every experience to be fresh. Some of these customers come every time, and we don’t ever want them to experience the same thing twice.”

One way that Woodbridge has kept a lot of their items fresh is by involving award-winning and world-renowned designers. Tobi Fairley, Celerie Kemble and Lauren Liess have launched lines with Woodbridge that have created buzz and excitement.

“It’s fun to collaborate with these designers and highlight our regular line, which includes what we have stock ready for our clients,” Key said. “Including the designers is a way to offer something that’s not necessarily in our wheelhouse and pushes the design element. It also has the added benefit of attracting a new channel of customers. It is a natural marketing piece.”

Woodbridge received a Style Spotter Award for their Plateau Cocktail Table by Celerie Kemble this past market. The award is given by high-profile designers with large social media followings who are valued as tastemakers in the industry. Those designers go around and style-spot their favorite pieces. “We were honored for one of our items to be style spotted,” reveals Key.

Another part of the market that is a highlight for the Woodbridge team is the panel discussions that they hold in their space. “We will hold an event with panel discussions drawing in different talents and creatives. We held one that drew in about 200 people to discuss licensing collections and how it happens. It’s a great way to network in our field and collaborate,” explains Key.

Celebrating the success of the market is short-lived.

“The day market ends, we immediately begin planning what we will do for the next one in October,” Key said. “Recognizing the impact market has on so many local businesses. It’s great to be a part of it. Collaborating with local businesses like Meg Brown Home Furnishings is fun for us because they are passionate about what they do too.”

Because the need for the market is so great, another outlet came from it in 2020 when COVID-19 threw a wrench in many businesses.

High Point x Design (HPxD), a non-profit, was created to support customers in trade and retail past the High Point Markets.

“We realized there was strength in numbers, and it would behoove the local economy to have all the talent and creators come together,” said Key, who also happens to be the vice president of the non-profit.

HPxD comes together to keep all the resources available to design professionals, educators and students, and the community year-round.

“Coming together and supporting locally is important with sustainability, not just in furniture, but with all of our local business owners,” Key said.