As a designer who has been working in the field for almost two decades, I can honestly say that my world changed the first time I went to High Point, NC, for the furniture market!
I had no idea how huge, how inspiring, overwhelming, and enlightening it would be.
It’s not that I was uninformed. I had worked in furniture stores, so my knowledge of brands and price range was already pretty extensive. But after running my own business for a couple of years, I found myself wanting a better way to buy products.
(This came on the heels of a very bad experience trying to procure items for a client. But that’s a story for a different day.)
My solution: Invest in a trip to High Point Furniture Market (HPMKT).
I did research for about a month before my trip so that I wouldn’t just wander aimlessly when I got down there, but instead, focus on the brands I might want to offer to my clients. I narrowed the list down to 3-4 each of the following: upholstery companies, casegoods companies, and accessory companies.
A few manufacturers had to be removed from my list because of their own policies. Sometimes a company already has a saturation of open accounts in your geographical area, so they don’t want to add another one. Others won’t open a new account for designers who don’t have a showroom. Being located too close to a “Design Center” can also disqualify you, since the manufacturer wants your business to go through that local showroom or rep.
My ultimate goal for the trip was to open my own accounts directly with the manufacturers so I could finally make a decent profit selling furniture and accessories to clients.
I knew it was going to take an opening order of $10,000 to get into one of the upholstery companies on my list. I wasn’t concerned about this because, at the time, I had a client’s whole house to furnish. (I later found that keeping that account would prove to be more difficult. More on that in a minute.)
The average casegoods company required a $5,000 opening order, and the accessory companies required anywhere from $1,000 – $3,000 to open the account. It’s tough to open these accounts, but not impossible, if you limit yourself to one company per category and have a full house for a project.
I was successful in my endeavor and open several stocking dealer accounts as a result of that trip. I felt confident selling those companies’ products, because I’d been able sit on all the upholstered pieces, open drawers on the casegoods, and ask a million questions about how a piece was made, where it was made, where it would ship from, lead time, and so much more.
However, although I was able to open those accounts, keeping them proved to be much more difficult. Many companies require account holders to purchase a yearly sum ranging from $20,000 to $50,000. If you can’t make that annual minimum, they take away your account and you have to start all over again.
Don’t panic, though. I solved this problem for myself and all designers by creating The Designers Collaborative. (Join us for an easier and more profitable life!)
Of course, making the trip to High Point is an investment. As is the case with most expenses, only you can decide if it’s worth the cost to your business.
I average about $1,200-$1,500 total per trip. That includes plane fare, lodging (hotel or Airbnb), an occasional car service, food, and airport parking — not to mention the cost of putting all of my design projects on hold. (And time away from my family.)
But even so, I believe it’s well worth it! If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll find the money invested in attending HPMKT will bless you in ways you hadn’t even imagined.
To have a successful trip, plan ahead and do your homework about the brands you most want to see. You can either take advantage of the many planning tools and book everything yourself, or you can have the Market Concierge handle it all for you.
The HPMKT website is wonderful: https://www.highpointmarket.org/ — especially the “Plan Your Trip” tab. It has everything you might want to know. Also, the MyMarket app is invaluable and free for any cell phone.
So if you’re an interior designer who’s never been to HPMKT, I highly recommend checking it out. It changed everything for me — no exaggeration!