High Point Furniture Market

The International Home Furnishings Market is the largest furniture industry trade show in the world, bringing more than 80,000 people to High Point every six months.
High Point’s rise as a furniture manufactruing center began in the 1880’s and its beginnings as a center for furniture marketing began soon after. Here are some key dates in the history of the market’s evolution.

  • 1889: Production begins in High Point’s first furniture factory. The High Point Furniture Manufactruing Co. ships its first piece, an office desk, by July. Its success inspires others to get into the business. The Industry grows thanks to a ready supply of inexpensive lumber and a regional market for cheap furniture.
  • 1909: The first formal Southern Furniture Market is held in High Point March 1-15. It quickly becomes a popular regional market.
  • 1921: The Southern Furniture Exposition Building opens for its first show June 20. Built in 19 months, it cost about $1 million and holds 249,000-square-feet of exhibition space. Regular shows are held in January and July.
  • 1941: Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, and the United States enters World War II. Material and manpower used for furniture making are turned to the war effort. Except for 1943, the furniture market is put on hold until the end of the war.
  • 1947: High Point’s market resumes, hosting 5,000 buyers. Furniture production is on the rise to meet demand generated by a post-war housing boom.
  • 1950: The Wrenn Wing is added to the Southern Furniture Exposition building by glass walkways over Wrenn Street.
  • During the 1950s, informal in-between markets begin to emerge, hosting visitors in April and October. The main markets are still held in January and July.
  • 1960s: The size and scope of the mid-season markets in April and October begin to surpass the January and July shows. During the next two decades, they become the dominant force in the American furniture industry. Showrooms other than the Southern Furniture Exposition Building gain stature, both in size and importance.
  • 1980s: Although the furniture market is well established in High Point, organizers in Dallas make a bid to host the major national home furnishings market. In High Point, this spurs a trend toward increasing services for furniture market visitors and consolidating the show.
  • 1982: The January and July shows, long relegated to the status of regional markets, are discontinued. April and October are now the only shows in High Point.
  • 1989: The Southern Furniture Market is renamed the International Home Exposition Building, changes its name to the International Home Furnishings Center, or IHFC. With nearly 7 million square feet of furniture showroom space already available around the city, a decade-long showroom building boom is about to begin. About 55,000 people attend the October market.
  • 1990s: A construction boom that continues today brings an additional 3 million square feet of showrooms to High Point.
  • 2000: Showroom expansion in High Point continues, with the addition of massive new temporary exhibit spaces: The Suites at Market Square (April) and Showplace (October).
  • 2001: The 12th floor of the IHFC opens, giving the building 3.5 million organizers estimate about 80,000 visitors on average attend the April and October markets, bringing an estimated $335 million to High Point and the surrounding area.Organizers announce the formation of the High Point International Home Furnishings Market Authority Corp., which will take the place of the hodgepodge of organizations that have run the show. Its formation marks the first time the city has directly intervened in market. The corporation takes over the 92-year-old market in July. International Home Furnishings Market Authority Corp. One of her first challenges is beefing up security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Market Authority hires professional transportation company to take over all shuttle operations for the trade show, replacing the loose network of city buses, volunteers and former school buses that served as market shuttles previously. Developers of a competing furniture show in Las Vegas begin winding their way through that city’s approval process.
  • 2002: Market organizers go to the N.C. General Assembly for the first time in its history seeking state support for the trade show. The market is shortened by a half-day the market now opens on a Thursday and closes the following Wednesday evening. After a year of review, the Las Vegas City Council approves tax rebates for the proposed furniture market complex there. Developers of the World Market Center begin naming names of future tenants, including Klaussner, Broyhill and Vaughan furniture companies.
  • 2003: The Market Authority begins a scaled-down version of its shuttle service starting on the Monday before the furniture market formally opens.The N.C. Department of Transportation sets aside $900,000 for each of the next two years so the authority can offer free shuttles to and from about 100 hotels and Piedmont Triad International Airport. Market organizers ask for $3 million from the governor's transportation program to improve the market's transportation terminal. Construction begins on the first phase of the World Market Center in Las Vegas.
  • 2004: The market's estimated annual economic impact on the Triad is $1.05 billion.
  • 2005: Market attendance is down by 8 percent to 10 percent in October compared to the October 2004 market.
  • 2008: Market attendance continues to decline, but the regional impact of the furniture industry remains significant at an estimated $9 billion.
  • 2009: The Furniture Market celebrates its 100th anniversary.
  • 2009: The Las Vegas World Market Center has trouble servicing its debt – a $225 million refinancing loan taken in 2005. The Market Center changed dates for its fall market that will no longer overlap High Point’s premarket.
  • 2009: The N.C. General Assembly budgets $1.2 million for market transportation services and $848,925 for marketing and promotion of the market.
  • 2011: International Market Centers announces a $1 billion investment to combine the High Point and Las Vegas home furnishings market.
  • 2013: Duke University researchers measure direct, indirect and induced effects of market-generated economic activity within a 75-mile radius of downtown High Point: $5.4 billion - overall regional economy; $197.9 million tax revenue to NC; $25.5 million tax revenue to Guilford Co./city of High Point; 37,616 jobs created regionally; 150,000 attendees.
Market Demographics:
180 buildings
10 million square feet of showspace
80,000 attendees each market
More than 2000 exhibitors
106 countries represented
Tens of thousands of new product introductions
Approximately 10 percentof attendees are international
Source: NC Dept. of Commerce

Sources: Anvil of Adversity: Biography of a Furniture Pioneer, by William Stevens;
The Building at Fifty: The Southern Furniture Exhibition Building;
Getting Started in High Point, by David N. Thomas, Forest History;
A History of Southern Furniture, by David N. Thomas, Furniture South;
The International Home Furnishings Marketing Association;
News & Record archives

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