While having dinner with a good friend and Greensboro resident during last month’s High Point Market naturally the conversation turned to HB2 and its effect on attendance. Manufacturers whose showrooms are always bustling (Global Views, Visual Comfort, Currey & Co., Wildwood, Regina-Andrew, Four Hands, to name a few) were still full of activity from interior designers; however, other areas were decidedly less populated. There were also a few last-minute cancellations in the temporary spaces due to the passing of HB2.

My dinner companion was worried, and provided good reason. I told her about several manufacturers who are considering terminating, or not renewing, their showroom leases. She, also, had heard the talk among those who came to High Point as to whether there would be a mass migration to the Las Vegas Market. We wondered whether the remaining North Carolina-based factories still making upholstery and furniture in the state would soon be punished by a withdrawal of business. “I don’t want to see High Point become the next Detroit,” she stated. It’s a fair point.

Interior designers were easily the majority of the attendees that I saw at Market, followed by independent boutique owners and style bloggers. The halls and streets seemed to be lacking in corporate buyers from national and regional chains.

“If a good portion of the major buyers didn’t come, how will the end consumer be able to purchase the new products that were introduced,” my friend asked, adding, “Let’s say they see some really cool items from Market in a consumer magazine or on a blogger’s site. If the buyers for stores in their area did not come to High Point and purchase/see those items, what good is a consumer seeing – and wanting – something they cannot easily buy? And can the exhibiting manufacturers still be profitable if they have a big drop in sizable Market orders?”

I was aware of representatives from Amazon and Wayfair attending High Point, so does that give more opportunity to online shopping sources versus the brick-and-mortar stores?

When I asked manufacturers and reps how likely it would be that the HB2 storm would subside to a dull roar by October Market, no one hesitated to say the situation would be far worse. Many pointed to companies that are strongly opposed to the law’s passing, but didn’t have time to officially react in April (due to HB2 passing nearly two weeks before Market). Now, in the months leading up to the Fall Market, there will be time to form a corporate response and decision.

If there is no policy change on the state level – the High Point Market Authority had stated almost immediately upon the bill’s passing that it would not enforce the HB2 law –
attendance among exhibitors and attendees is expected to drop even further come October. The passing of HB2 is a new obstacle that the industry must now combat.

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