Tips & Insights

Designer’s Guide to Market Part 2, Showroom Savvy

How to make the most of your exhibitor meetings

You’ve created a stellar Market schedule: appointments at key showrooms, insightful educational events and dinners with friends and new acquaintances. Although the meals and seminars are familiar, you’re not quite sure about meeting exhibitors. What happens once you cross the showroom threshold? Read on to learn what you can expect during your visit and how to make the most of your time together.

The Visit

It’s easy to be awed and even overwhelmed by some of the showrooms on your first visit. Although temporary spaces can be small, permanent exhibitors occupy showrooms up to 50,000 square feet!

To get the most out of your showroom experience, let your contact know why you’re visiting. “I love it when a buyer walks in, introduces themselves and tells me what they are looking for,” said Carol Gregg, owner of Red Egg, an accent furniture company. “And this does not have to be specific. They could be interested in my company in general, looking for a very specific piece or just curious to see our product in person.”

The time you’ll need to allot for tours varies by size of the showroom. “The Red Egg showroom is relatively small, so we can walk a buyer through the entire space in 20 minutes or less,” said Gregg. “Since we don’t show all of our products on the floor, we often finish the tour by sitting down with the buyer to look at specific pieces in our catalog. If a designer comes in with a project in mind, we may sit down with them and get out the color swatches and catalog and really get to work. I have even sketched out custom furniture pieces with designers, on the spot.”

“Honestly, to really take in everything that we have to offer can take days,” admits Century Furniture Marketing Director Comer Wear. “Knowing what you’re trying to accomplish is extremely helpful.” She suggests meeting your sales representative before Market, to talk through the line. “That way, when you are in High Point, your time can be focused on what fits your business. Century can do and be anything, but the sales representative needs to understand your business to help them narrow down our line for you.”

The Conversation

During the tour, get down to the nitty-gritty, which should include a discussion of pricing. “Some showrooms offer to-the-trade and stocking dealer pricing, which are different prices,” said Lisa Mende, principal and founder of Lisa Mende Design and Style Spotter Alumnus. “Most new designers buy through to-the-trade pricing because stocking dealer pricing means a much higher opening order, as well as an agreement to stock a certain number of pieces on a retail floor.”

“Inquire about the minimum opening order amount, as well as the minimum re-order amount,” notes Mende. “If a company's opening order is $100,000 with a guarantee to purchase that amount each year, they will most likely prefer to work with furniture stores.”

Be cognizant of other factors that affect pricing. “Shipping costs can greatly affect the bottom line of an item,” said Mende. “A table that ships from California to North Carolina can add as much as 15 percent to your cost, which equates to an additional 30 percent at retail.”

You’ll also want to be sure to ask what type of shipping your potential supplier will do. “Find out if they ship to receivers only or if they’ll drop-ship to residential clients,” said Gregg.

It’s also helpful to ask about product and service details. “Confirm their typical lead time,” said Michelle Jennings Wiebe, president of Studio M Interior Design and Style Spotter “Emeritus”. “Ask if you can check stock status online, and clarify how you can receive catalogs, fabrics and finish samples.”

But don’t get so wrapped up in discussions that you leave without testing the merchandise. “If it’s upholstered furniture, definitely perform some sitting tests!” said Wiebe. Wear encourages visitors to take a seat as well. “One of the things I find funniest is watching someone walk through the showroom and not sit in anything.”

Once you’ve looked at the big picture (What do I want from this exhibitor?) and discussed the little details (How many finishes are in your line?), consider yourself accomplished and take some time to celebrate this new partnership. From planning your appointments to closing your deals, remember, even though the world’s biggest home fashion show can be awe-inspiring, there is no need to be intimidated. People enjoy Market because it’s fun. “This is such an amazing industry and High Point is such a great Market,” said Wear. “The people are warm and there is a real ambiance to this furniture capital!”