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Industry & Trends

High Point Furniture Market Report: Better News This Month

It wasn’t the best of times, but it wasn’t the worst either as the furniture industry gathered for its market this month.

Spoiler alert: Until the housing market starts to come back – really back – furniture makers and retailers are just not going to return to the good times they experienced before COVID…much less the very good times they had during COVID.

So, degrees of optimism from the just-concluded High Point Market in North Carolina need to be graded on a curve. Solid attendance figures (relatively speaking), inventory levels mostly back in check (at least on this side of the Pacific) and the supply chain issues generally a thing of the past (unless you bring in goods through Baltimore) created a mostly upbeat mood in and around the miles of aisles that constitute the country’s largest furniture trade show.

Attendance, even as it is increasingly a less-important measure given the swing to interior designers from just retailers, still remains one of the few hard statistics to judge the event. Given that, the report from show organizers High Point Market Authority that it was the strongest spring market since COVID, with attendance up an estimated 1% from last April, had to be viewed as positive news.

The HPMA preliminary figures showed gains in a number of buyer categories, including larger retailers, interior designers and visitors from outside of the U.S. As many as 80,000 people have historically attended the market, held twice a year in what was once the leading furniture manufacturing region in the country.

“I think it just shows that we are consistently growing back from Covid,” Tammy Nagem, president of the organization said in a published interview. “I think we are all figuring out what that looks like. But the most encouraging part is to look at some of those segments like international, new buyers and the top 300 (retailers). We are seeing those grow.”

In the long term, industry sage Jerry Epperson, managing director at analyst firm Mann, Armistead & Epperson, continues to be optimistic. In his regular commentary for the market, he said “We are in what I consider a very exciting period. Looking at the next six months, I think we’ll have some good news.”

That good news would revolve around a rebound in the housing market as mortgage rates come down, as many are forecasting. Those haven’t been reduced yet but Epperson was quick to point out that they aren’t going up anymore either at the time of his presentation. He said he is hopeful the Federal Reserve will cut rates this summer and once it does it could open the floodgates of consumers anxious to buy homes. “There are so many people who want and need homes.”

Still, the reality of the furniture business is that right now it continues to struggle. New government statistics show furniture store sales fell 6.1 percent in March versus a year ago although that was significantly less than the 10.1 percent drop for the previous month. So, with inventory levels mostly back to normal and supply chains largely performing as they did pre-pandemic, the spring furniture market was as upbeat as the industry has seen in some time.

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