Leader fends off Pre-Market criticism

Apr. 05, 2014 @ 03:00 PM

High Point Market leaders have found themselves answering a challenge of sorts as the spring furniture trade show gets underway.
Recently, Bob Maricich, CEO of International Market Centers, which owns the three largest showrooms in High Point, leveled a series of criticisms against the market.
Maricich derided Pre-Market — the two-day display of furniture products by vendors to invited buyers twice a year — as “stupid” and “destructive” to the market as a whole.
He said High Point needs to do more to capture an ever-changing, younger audience of furniture buyers who do more business online than in brick-and-mortar stores. He raised alarms about rising hotel prices and the difficulties of navigating High Point’s diffuse market, spread over more than 70 buildings.
Doug Bassett, chairman of the High Point Market Authority board of directors and president of Vaughan-Bassett Furniture, said he disagrees with Maricich’s views on Pre-Market, but concedes that he’s raised valid concerns in other areas.
He said he sees no conflict between the market authority, which organizes and promotes the semi-annual trade show, and IMC, which owns the International Home Furnishings Center, Showplace and Market Square.
“IMC and the market authority are working together very well on marketing the market and trying to drive traffic to High Point,” Bassett said. “I think our relationship has been a healthy one.”
Maricich raised concerns about the cost of attending the market in High Point compared to the January and July trade shows in Las Vegas.
“I would concede the point that there’s been some increase in hotel rates, but the rest of the experience for the dealer is less expensive than Vegas,” Bassett said. “It’s much less expensive for exhibitors to show in High Point than in Vegas. The vast majority of exhibitors write more business in High Point than in Vegas.”
When it comes to other expenses for marketgoers, such as restaurants and transportation, Bassett said he’s confident High Point has the edge over Las Vegas.
“But Bob does have a point about the rate creep with hotels. That is something we need to monitor, and we need to make sure that our customers can find rooms at a good price,” he said. “The High Point area has a fraction of the number of hotel rooms Vegas does.”
Bassett said he thinks Maricich’s criticism of Pre-Market is off base.
Vaughan-Bassett for several years has been one of the companies that sponsors the event, which he said has been good for business. But he argues it’s also good for the market as a whole because it gets some of the top furniture buyers to spend more time in High Point than they would otherwise.
“We find Pre-Market to be a great value as a vendor. And, more importantly, the major dealers tell us how important it is to them,” Bassett said. “So we think Pre-Market is a wonderful thing. And it’s creating additional value for our showroom space.”
Maricich argued that Pre-Market gives an unfair competitive advantage to some buyers over others and risks alienating dealers as a result. Bassett said he doesn’t see it this way.
“I hope Bob will come to the next Pre-Market and talk to both the vendors who sponsor it and the major dealers that are there,” he said.