Is High Point on the digital map?

An industry in transition

By Barbara Schmidt

Every industry is in digital transition. High Point, primarily focused on residential and commercial interior goods, is becoming digitized. The first thing I was asked to do once I arrived at the High Point media desk was to download an app so I could find my way around. Yes, it’s that big. In fact, it would take years of market visits to cover it all.

High Point  Bernhardt  Showroom with a new track arm Sofa in Blush

High Point Bernhardt Showroom with a new track arm Sofa in Blush

I visited several large showrooms and as a member of the press for a larger syndicated newspaper and as a designer. I found myself with loads of questions. Most of the time I was welcomed but a few of the larger showrooms were not digitally connected and were not familiar the press at all.

Original artwork in the  RFA Decor  Showroom at High Point

Original artwork in the RFA Decor Showroom at High Point

By that I mean no instagram account, no facebook, no wifi and no public relations representation. Why? Because some B-to-B (Business to Business) strategies have determined that a digital presence is not needed. Manufacturers end up leaving the B-to-C (Business to Consumer) strategies to the retailers. 

That strategy used to work when every consumer didn’t have access to every product around the globe whenever they wanted it. Now consumers can be so eager they can pull those products right through to the dealer for sales. The line between brand recognition and target audiences is getting blurrier and blurrier.

A top seller on Anthropologie - this rattan bed is sold to the trade only

A top seller on Anthropologie - this rattan bed is sold to the trade only

What if there was a national digital push from the manufacturers to both audiences? And what if retailers joined them? Sales growth could be exponential and hopefully sustainable in an industry that isn’t just about brick and mortar anymore. 

These are the types of marketing changes that are underfoot in just about every industry. Questions are when do manufacturers go online? What is their presence?  How do they tell their story? Conversationally and with clarity, that’s how.

Spectra Armchair designed by  Jacques Borris

Spectra Armchair designed by Jacques Borris

I met three very interesting people one day at lunch in the Theater building at the mart. One was furniture designer Jacques Borris. He designs spectacular modern pieces for all sorts of spaces and he used to be in advertising back in the day of Fallon McElligot.  He lives not far from my Brooklyn apartment so we had the Minnesota and New York connection. It was thrilling and inspirational to chat with someone who is at the forefront of modern design.

New woven chair by  Selamet  at the High Point Spring Market

New woven chair by Selamet at the High Point Spring Market

The second person was an older salesman from one of the showrooms who commented that the show wasn’t what it used to be.  He said twenty years ago it was much busier. And the third person I met that day at lunch was a salesperson visiting showrooms sharing an app to take orders digitally. It was the history of High Point and the future all at one table. We were collectively one pin drop on High Point’s new digital frontier.

Barbara Schmidt