High Point Attendance Off by Half: Report

A showroom temperature check at the Fall Market.

By Alan Wolf, YSN

In most years, this week’s annual fall furniture market would turn the sleepy city of High Point, N.C., into a bustling version of Midtown Manhattan, temporarily doubling the population to 200,000.

But 2020 isn’t most years and the venerable Fall Market, a crucial component of the home furnishings trade, has not been spared the aftershock of the coronavirus. In a TV interview with local Fox8 News, Tom Conley, president/CEO of the High Point Market Authority, the show’s producer, said attendance is down by roughly 50 percent to 35,000 this year, and that nearly a third of all exhibitors are staying home.

A downturn during a pandemic was not unexpected, particularly for a venue that’s notorious for its densely packed showrooms, shuttles and restaurants. But after canceling the Spring Market in June, the decision was made to proceed with an on-site event in October, albeit with a slew of safety protocols in place. Among them: extending the three-day market to nine days (Oct. 13-21), and dividing the show into three separate three-day periods to help control the crowds.

Using more than $1 million in state-distributed federal funds, the Market Authority also instituted temperature checks, mandatory face masks and occupancy limits, and dispensed with the public shuttles in favor of single-party vans, sedans and SUVs. Similarly, exhibitors are limiting any food service to pre-packaged meals or are eschewing chow altogether.

“The last thing we want is to have any kind of COVID-19 spike in this community,” Conley told the news crew.

In the meantime, the city is feeling the pinch from the two impacted markets, which typically bring in about $6.3 billion in commerce, he said. But the bigger unknown is the effect that a muted fall show will have on the furniture industry next year.