Region Focus

Summer 2007

Economic History - Going to Market

Although furniture production has declined in the Piedmont region, buyers and sellers still flock to High Point, N.C.
By Charles Gerena

The Evolution of Furniture Marketing in High Point

D. Ralph Parker, a High Point Furniture salesman, announces the formation of the High Point Furniture Exposition Company. The group converts the second floor of an office building into 2,000 square feet of showroom space for use by local furniture manufacturers. A year later, the Furniture Manufacturers' Exposition Company opens its own showroom with five times the space of its competitor.

The rival exposition companies join forces to hold High Point's first formal furniture markets, one for two weeks in March and one for four weeks from late June to early July. Attendance at both markets is only moderate and plans to hold a semi-annual market are cancelled.

Three new furniture showrooms open in High Point, rekindling talk of holding another furniture market.

High Point manufacturers form the Southern Furniture Exposition Company to stage another furniture market. Housed in 30,000 square feet of showroom space in eight buildings, the market is held from late June to mid-July in High Point. Another two-week market takes place in January 1914, but World War I suspends the event for a second time.

After several years of discussion over building an exposition building in Asheville, N.C., the Southern Furniture Exposition Company funds the construction of its own exhibition spaceā€”a $1 million, 10-story building towering over Main Street. The building is finished in April and hosts its first furniture market in June.

The Southern Furniture Exposition Building celebrates its 15th anniversary. Furniture markets are held in High Point twice a year in January and July, mirroring the schedule of markets in the Northeast and Midwest. Despite the Great Depression, North Carolina increases its furniture production to rank second in the nation, behind New York and ahead of Michigan.

Formal furniture markets resume in High Point after a four-year hiatus due to World War II. Attendance exceeded expectations, despite the threat of rival markets forming to serve the South's growing furniture industry.

In May, the Southern Furniture Exposition Building expands by 163,760 square feet. Combined with a 65,620-square-foot addition in 1940, the facility is almost double its original size of 249,000 square feet.

Major furniture manufacturers establish the Furniture Factories' Marketing Association of the South to bring more organization and structure to High Point's semi-annual furniture market.

In response to a growing number of buyers visiting High Point in between the January and July markets, the Furniture Factories' Marketing Association of the South adds two more formal markets in April and October. Also, a 12-story exhibition building is completed across the street from the Southern Furniture Exposition Building. This project was among the many new exhibition spaces and showrooms expansions in High Point during the 1950s and 1960s.

Waning in importance, the January and July shows of the High Point furniture market are ended.

After many years of being called the Southern Furniture Market, High Point's trade show is renamed the International Home Furnishings Market (IHFM) to reflect its global importance. Around the same time, the exposition building is renamed the International Home Furnishings Center and the manufacturer-funded group that organized the market is renamed the International Home Furnishings Marketing Association.

The International Home Furnishings Center adds a 12th floor, bringing its total size to 3.5 million square feet. The High Point International Home Furnishings Market Authority, a non-profit corporation formed by the city and funded with government money, takes over the promotion and operation of the IHFM.

The IHFM is renamed the High Point Market and the governing organization is changed to the High Point Market Authority. A new centralized registration system counted more than 100,000 home furnishings professionals in attendance at the spring market.

SOURCES: Thomas, David N. "A History of Southern Furniture." Furniture South, October 1967, pp. 13-15; other news articles.

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