23162 Mon, 11/14/2011 - 11:35am
You might think that Tom Conley, the recently named president/CEO of the High Point Market Authority, has seen it all.
As the former president of both the National Housewares Manufacturing Association and the Toy Industry Association, Conley has been around the block, as they say. But in his current position, he’ll be walking around the unique, showroom-filled blocks of High Point, N.C., the furniture capital of the world.
The unusual layout of the High Point Market—spread throughout the small North Carolina town—underscores the uniqueness of the twice-a-year event. There’s really nothing like it in the home furnishings industry, which mostly relies on huge showroom buildings or convention centers to showcase introductions.
And there’s really nothing like Conley’s new job at the High Point Market Authority. Like the market itself, duties of the position are sort of spread all over.
“I’d been to High Point before, so I wasn’t naive about it,” Conley said. “We are such a unique animal.
“From my perspective, we have four constituents: the community of High Point, landlords, vendors and buyers. Finding a way to appease those groups can be very difficult at times.”
Conley headed up the NHMA—now called the International Housewares Association—for about nine years. He pointed to the centralized location at McCormick Place as an example of a much simpler trade show.
“There are many more players involved in High Point,” Conley said, “so it’s a much more complicated process.”
When the International Market Center, which already owned the World Market Center in Las Vegas, bought some of the major showroom buildings in High Point, there was potential for the process to get even more complicated. But Conley said the two entities have “pledged to work together.”
Conley said the IMC’s purchase of the showroom buildings was an asset to the market.
“It’s great that the real estate situation has settled down,” Conley said. “While IMC’s purchase scared some folks, now it’s peace and tranquility as the competition has gone away.”
Their missions, Conley said, are distinct in that the HPMA is responsible for overall promotion of the market. The IMC is oriented to working to attract buyers to visit their specific buildings.
Conley said last month’s High Point Market reflected optimism about an eventual upturn in business. “I hope that when the economy picks up, we’re going to go gangbusters because of the pent-up demand.”
Moving forward, the HPMA will look at providing more educational programs and addressing “some of our infrastructure challenges.
“It can be a daunting experience when you come to High Point for the first time. We want to make sure that the first impression is a good one, and that everyone comes back again and again.”