Anyone who’s been to High Point knows the welcome sign says it’s the “Home furnishings capital of the world.”
Part of that namesake is hosting the High Point Furniture Market, an industrywide conference held twice a year that attracts more than 75,000 people, the website indicates.
It was announced April 16 the event was canceled due to health concerns stirred by the coronavirus pandemic. The High Point Market Authority had already rescheduled the market from April 25-29 to early June. It also plans to hold its fall market in October.
And that decision to cancel the spring market is leaving some local furniture stores at a loss.
Jennifer White owns White’s Sales Home Furnishings & Carpet in Statesville, which sells both furniture and offers flooring services. She said offering both services is what’s kept her open.
“If it wasn’t for the flooring side we’d be closed,” she said.
Furniture stores in North Carolina aren’t considered essential businesses unless they sell hardware, provide maintenance, home improvement supplies, or products needed for people to work from home per the restrictions implemented by Gov. Roy Cooper in late March.
Still, White said the states reaction to the virus has been like a pause button was hit on her business. She’s let go of one regular employee and reduced store hours.
“It definitely killed the foot traffic,” White said.
For her, the biannual market is an opportunity to see what furniture manufacturers are offering up close. White said it helps give her an idea as to what she’ll stock her store with for the next shopping season.
Although with the spring market now canceled, her wallet isn’t exactly flying open to the idea of not being able to put her hands on what she’s buying.
“I’m not going to spend as much money if I’m not sitting on the sofa,” she said.
Jason Brawley works in sales at Brawley Furniture in Mooresville; it’s still open because it sells home office products. He said the majority of his store’s orders come from companies they have longstanding relationships with or from company representatives, so they’re not as reliant on the High Point market as others.
Like White, Brawley said the market is a great place to get an in-person view of new products, and he’s not a fan of just relying on catalogs for his orders. He also said he’s seen a sharp decline in sales due to the coronavirus in what’s usually the busy season.
“Normally, April has been a big month for us,” Brawley said. “You have to be optimistic people are waiting to buy.”
One thing Brawley said he is concerned about is American furniture manufacturers, saying most of them have already been undercut by offerings from overseas competitors and the lack of demand right now likely isn’t helping.
And when the economy does reopen, furniture stores will have another problem. They’ve already paid for the items in their stores and what doesn’t sell will be out of season, in addition to taking up floor space.
White said if furniture sellers don’t recover financially by October, something she’s not too hopeful of herself, they could be less likely to buy as much.
“If (the market) does happen in Oct. 1, I probably won’t be as likely to spend $20,000 to $30,000,” her usual budget for the market, she said.