When I first started coming to High Point Market back in the mid-1990s, many of the manufacturers I’d visit didn’t want to sell to interior designers, claiming that the orders weren’t worth the trouble. They’d complain that they only wanted “one-sies and two-sies” of a style or snickered that they were really rich housewives who had self-appointed themselves as “designers” and were shopping for their own homes.  After all, huge furniture chains like Levitz and Seaman’s were sending teams of buyers to High Point Market.

A decade later during the housing boom – when builders were buying lighting in bulk at all price points – interior designers weren’t treated any better. Compared to the quantities ordered for new construction, taking the time to assist an interior designer with the selection for one client’s room or house was seen as a waste of energy/human resources.

Then the housing bubble burst. The International Builders’ Show had been drawing 80,000+ attendees annually and this year’s official number was 55,237.  Last month I wrote about the similar dilemma Progressive Lighting faced when its core customer (builders) was no longer coming in.

Through all of the housing mess, interior designers continued to steadily do business with their clients and were weathering the Recession. Did they experience a reduction in business? Of course, but it wasn’t as extensive as other businesses so heavily skewed toward builders. It also helped that interior designers are, for the most part, retained by homeowners who have the means (and patience) to afford unique pieces that are typically high-end and reflective of their clients’ personal style.

So which group made up the majority of buyers at last month’s High Point Market? Hint: it wasn’t the pack of suits traveling in lockstep down the streets of downtown High Point like I used to see.

At last month’s American Lighting Association (ALA) Conference, many lighting showrooms who survived the Recession credited the interior designer trade with helping in their success.  Many more lighting showrooms out there are hoping to do the same and are eager to embrace the interior design community. With all of the changes in technology that have been going on in lighting, interior designers are just as interested in finding solid resources for information. If you haven’t done so before, please do reach out to your interior design community in the interest of partnering in mutually beneficial ways. It’s time to welcome them into your stores!

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