Retailer to Retailer: Fall market was serious business
By Cheryl Kees Clendenon
If fall market 2020 had a t-shirt I think it should have proclaimed:
I was impressed with the level of concern and actions taken by the High Point Market Authority, IHFC, Market Square, 200 Steele and all the independent showrooms to make buyers and vendor employees feel safe and at ease. From door openers to people cleaning off escalator hand rails, the effort put forth was nothing short of amazing.
The air was akin to the last couple of days of a typical non-COVID market. A little slower, less crowded showrooms, more attentive reps and shorter lines at the food trucks. I love the education component of market and usually speak at one or two events myself, but the pace was less frenetic and it was conducive to doing business.
Our tried and true vendors were all there and showing new product — from Vanguard to Currey & Company to Younger, Arteriors, Made Goods, Caracole — they excited our senses and reenergized our COVID-weary passion for retail and our clients.
What did we buy? Nubbier textured fabrics, camel and butterscotch color stories, tassels and fringe, oversized statement lighting and introductions of different finishes and sizes in longtime favorites are some of the design elements that stood out the most. Black and white was also prevalent in many showrooms in upholstery, natural stone and artwork. Organic materials like seagrass, rattan and cane were being used in not just furniture but lighting, pillows and accessories.
We bought for our shop in all of these categories and curated a wonderfully eclectic mix of new product for our customers and clients.
A few unexpected takeaways from 2020 fall market:
- People were excited to see new things — the environment was filled with just as much verve as it always is — albeit with less attendance. I expected a bit more restraint in attitude but was pleasantly surprised market was just as inspiring as it always is. Despite the extra work everyone endured being vigilant about safety precautions, the mood was positive and upbeat and definitely just what the doctor ordered for my team.
- Vendors want you to be successful — too few buyers take advantage of their knowledge to help sell their products.
- Getting around market in a timely fashion between appointments with all the pretty shiny things beckoning from every corner is rough! But the appointments being set were very productive in that product knowledge took front row priority with more scheduled time to spend at our key showrooms.
- We thrive on product knowledge, as it is the one key element to being successful in selling, but often have little time to do much at market. This trip, we came away with more key details and knowledge than ever before. My advice to any retailer or designer is to request in-service training meetings, ask for one-sheets on new intros and utilize the wealth of knowledge most reps have to offer.
- Connecting at industry events is more important than even I wanted to admit. Seeing the faces of new designers as well as some old friends was a visceral fist pump and a much-needed sense of normalcy. As serious as COVID is for everyone, the interaction amongst peers, even at arm’s length, was a boost of Vitamin C (as in connections).
- Driving to market is a heck of a lot of fun. I recommend it for those within a two day drive. We drove up and stopped halfway going and coming back, which was quite restful prior to the busyness of market itself. I really enjoyed the relaxation. You can also bring back some cash and carry items.
Of course, not all could make this market or chose to stay away out of an abundance of caution and I respect everyone’s decision to do what is best for them and their families. But this was an important event for my team and we needed to have boots on the ground to forge into 2021.
This was my 19th market and we have toasted every one as we leave the last showroom — fall market was no exception.
Bravo High Point.
Cheryl Kees Clendenon owns In Detail Interiors, a retail shop and full-service design firm in Pensacola, Fla., and runs a Facebook group for designers and retailers called Small Business Think Big. You can email her with comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.