Premarket ‘barometer’ charts industry’s competitive activity | Bill McLoughlin

For the second consecutive year, High Point Premarket will see more than 110 companies open their showrooms to visiting retailers. For context, at the height of the pandemic in September 2020, that number crested at over 320, a dramatic spike from the typical pre-pandemic participation in the mid-to-upper 70 showroom range.

This year’s planned exhibitor openings are on par with last fall’s Premarket, suggesting that the bi-annual event is settling in at new higher attendance levels. For those wondering why those numbers matter, it’s because Premarket attendance — exhibitor not retailer — has become an effective barometer of competitive activity across the furniture business.

For those who may not know how Premarket works, allow me a brief digression. Premarket is put on by a committee of sponsoring exhibitors, each of which contributes financially to bringing key retail dealers to High Point to preview their showrooms. It was originally intended as an opportunity for case goods manufacturers to get retail feedback and, in some instances pre-orders, for products intended to debut at High Point Market. The timing, one month before market, allowed case goods makers to adjust final designs before their more official debut at market.

It also allowed case goods makers to judge the level of commitment from major dealers, whose interest determines whether designs go to a cutting and, in turn, whether those designs will be available to smaller dealers.

Today, sponsoring exhibitors include upholstery makers as well as case goods resources, both of which are vastly outnumbered by non-sponsoring companies that open their showrooms to both those retailers brought by the sponsors as well as those who come for the opportunity to get an early preview of upcoming market introductions.

Which brings us back to the value of Premarket as a barometer of competitive activity. During the pandemic’s height, particularly after the spring 2020 market cancellation, Premarket attendance spiked dramatically. Similarly, as supply chain chaos made products hard to come by and the need for products became desperate, retail attendance spiked, and manufacturers with capacity or goods on hand found Premarket an effective venue to sate the industry’s need.

Conversely, as shortages turned to an inventory glut and retail attendance waned, so did Premarket exhibitor attendance. Since then, the focus has increasingly shifted to a battle for market share, as consumer demand has waned and each retail order has become more difficult to capture.

It’s in that environment that Premarket and High Point Market will take place this fall. The battle for share is in full swing, and the stakes are higher than they’ve been in recent memory. The sudden demise of three significant players in United/Lane, Klaussner and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams is a stunning reminder of the cost of lost sales and the ability to maintain strong, positive cash flow.

It should come as no surprise then that there are likely to be some very aggressive deals on the table and that talk of “enhancing the price-value relationship” will be a widespread talking point among the more than 110 companies that will be vying for attention this week.

Buckle up. It’s going to be a very competitive market season.

See also:

Credit to Source link

Leave a Comment