Tips & Insights

A One-stop Shopping Destination

Retail leader Bob Eaton finds everything he needs – including inspiration – in High Point

Bob Eaton has been attending High Point Market since 1990, and today it’s his only market. Owner of Dwell Living, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Eaton says, “There’s not a category that’s not available in High Point. You can get absolutely anything you need for your store. If you’ve never been – or haven’t been in a while – you’d be surprised.”

As the importance of accents and accessories grows in interior design, the number of home décor vendors at High Point Market has expanded as well. “If you only went to High Point to buy accessories, you could find everything,” says Eaton. “In the last 5-6 years, I’ve seen a lot more accessory vendors showing. It’s made High Point a one-stop shopping destination. There’s less reason to go to the New York and Atlanta shows, which saves me money.”

While Dwell Living is a whole-home store, accents and accessories are top sellers. Some of Eaton’s favorite vendors in the category include Arteriors, Blue Ocean Traders, BoBo Intriguing Objects, Design Legacy, and Global Views – and he visits them all at High Point Market.

In addition to shopping the main buildings, Eaton ventures out in search of inspiration and new vendors. “I purposely make a point to go to the outlying buildings, I make the time even if I don’t buy something,” he says. In his search for “quirky and unusual” items, he utilizes Market shuttles that serve showrooms located further out. “A lot of people never see the really amazing stuff because they don’t know about it.”

Made in the USA

An important segment of Eaton’s business is custom upholstery, most of which he sources from North Carolina-based vendors such as Younger, Lazar, and Thomasville. “Made in America makes a difference,” explains Eaton. “It makes a difference to me and my customers.”

Espousing the quality of domestically produced upholstery, Eaton points out features such as solid, kiln-dried wood frames and eight-way hand-tied construction. “US-made upholstery is just better. It’s made the old-fashioned way. And more and more customers are asking for these features.”

While the ability to customize a sofa’s size, configuration and cover is important to his customers, quality is also a primary concern for Eaton. It has become an integral part of the sales presentation at Dwell Living. “I do crazy things like stand on the arm of a sofa to show how sturdy it is,” he explains. “I weigh 180 pounds – if you do that on a sofa from a big-box retailer, it will break.”

Eaton says he likes supporting NC-based manufacturers, and it saves him in both freight costs and delivery time. “Everyone wants everything right away these days. So, if you tell them it’ll take a week to get here, that’s OK. If you tell them five weeks, it’s a no.”

Favorite Resources

A preferred upholstery supplier at Dwell Living is Thomasville, North Carolina-based Younger Furniture. “I’ve sold Younger since 1991,” says Eaton. “Meredith Younger is just a dynamo – she knows everything about the operation, runs the factories, designs product, and has her finger on the pulse of trends.”

The retailer also considers Lazar to be a favorite upholstery source. “They’ve been around since the 1960s and one of my best-sellers is theirs,” says Eaton. “It’s a simple sofa with no arms and two removable back cushions, which you can take off to sleep on it. You can put it together in so many ways – with a chaise, double chaise, or create your own sectional.”

For decorative art, Leftbank Art is a go-to vendor. The California-based supplier offers art in a variety of formats, including original hand paintings, giclées, prints on canvas, and other materials. The company’s model makes customization simple, a feature Eaton appreciates. “I can take a picture and sell the same picture to different customers just by changing the size and frame. The ability to customize is huge. I try to look for vendors who understand that.”

At Dwell Living, art is shown with most vignettes as an example, and then ordered to suit the customer’s exact needs. The store’s older shoppers like smaller art with traditional frames, while its younger customers often prefer oversized, unframed canvases, says Eaton.

“Our business comes down to listening to what customers want and then showing them how to do it,” Eaton says, and he is glad to have found a single event with all of the products his customers need, “Every year, High Point Market gets bigger and better and more organized. Everyone is so polite, they make it a pleasure to visit.”