For years, regardless of what actually took place during a market, the story that the trade press would report was remarkably predictable—“Traffic was mixed, but order writing was strong.”
On the rare occasion when a show was really lacking, you could bet your last dollar that somewhere in the story, usually in the first paragraph, an exhibitor would state, “Traffic was down, but I saw and sold the buyers I needed to see.”
Today, thanks to the immediacy of social media and to the fact that everyone with a smartphone deems him-or herself a journalist, there’s much more transparency regarding every event, including trade shows.
So, having spent the last two days talking to suppliers and retailers here for premarket, I am throwing my hat in the ring and will share my observations.
To me, every premarket seems quiet, especially when compared to the traditional April and October markets. The streets are quiet, the elevators are often empty and while a number of the showrooms have doors wide open and lights ablaze, it always has been the softest of soft openings for the big market that will be here a month or so down the road.
So, was there buzz this week and if so, what was it?
From my perspective, the buyers that were here were still anxious about supply chain woes and even more anxious to hear any information regarding supply chain updates.
My impression is that, despite an ongoing shortage of new goods, a number of retailers seemed saddled with a hodgepodge of excess inventory bought earlier in order to have something to sell.
As a result, buyers bought anything and everything—which was not necessarily what they normally would have bought.
To complicate matters further, the word on the street is that while backorders are still huge, new purchases of furniture seem to be definitely slowing down.
What surprised me about this is that people were surprised by the slowdown. I suspect they forget that we got a big bone thrown our way last year thanks to three rounds of stimulus checks Uncle Sam gave to consumers.
Another growing issue that becomes evident during premarket is that, due to price increases consumers are facing for gas, food, utilities, and just about everything else, they can no longer afford opening price point furniture.
Subsequently, I think opening-priced furniture is going to struggle for much of this year. A number of buyers I chatted with seemed to agree and said the increased costs of low-end furniture coupled with across-the-board freight costs just made it a bad buy, at least for the time being.
Conversely, buyers told me consumers with cash seem happy to open those wallets and purses for better goods.
A handful of retailers also said the supply-chain nightmares and excessive container costs have reprogramed them to shop hard for furniture made in America.
Wrapping up, these seemed to be key talking points being discussed here in High Point this week. I will leave it to minds far sharper than mine to determine what (if any) hints premarket will tell us about next month’s market.
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