Canadian Take on this Season’s High Point Market

By Michael J. Knell

The roughly 55 Canadian companies exhibiting at the spring edition of High Point Market aren’t expecting to entertain hordes of retail buyers from north of the border when the world’s largest semi-annual furniture trade event gets underway for its typical five-day run beginning April 13.

However, these furniture and home furnishings vendors expect those Canadian retailers who make the pilgrimage will be there to shore-up their inventories, which are finally showing signs of shrinking down to manageable levels in the wake of their pandemic-induced buying frenzy.

As has been the case for the past several decades, Canada’s delegation of market exhibitors is anticipated to be the largest of any country outside of the United States, even though it has been shrinking since prior to the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020. Around the time of the global financial meltdown in 2008, there were about 90 Canadian companies with permanent showrooms in one of the 180 buildings tracked by the High Point Market Authority (HPMA).

Most of the leading lights of this country’s furniture manufacturing sector have permanent showrooms at High Point, including Palliser (220 Elm-400, Level 4), metal specialist Amisco (IHFC-D720, Design Centre, Floor 7), casual dining powerhouse Canadel (National Furniture Mart-Floor 1, Suite 102) and upholstery house Decor-Rest (208 Jacobs Place), as well as full-line resources Magnussen Home (IHFC-M810, Main, Floor 8) and Sunpan (Showplace-1200, 1650, Floor 1).

Maximus from Sunpan is a masculine lounge chair that combines modern design elements with contemporary finishes. Stocked in moss green (as seen here) and metropolis blue fabric or with contrasting polo club stone fabric and overcast grey faux leather. A sculpted exposed brown wood frame completes the look.

Who is Going to Market?
The emerging consensus among Canadian exhibitors interviewed by Home Goods Online is they don’t expect to see more than 200 independent Canadian furniture retailers attend the spring market. They attribute this to a variety of factors, many of which were driven by the pandemic.

“We started offering virtual appointments when there were travel restrictions, using technology to help customers feel like they are in the showroom,” says Allison Dineen, director of marketing at Winnipeg-based Palliser. “Feedback has been very positive and we continue to book virtual appointments with customers not attending in person. Our sales team expects to have approximately 200 appointments from Canadian retailers, with 30 to 40 per cent in person.”

Vancouver-headquartered LH Home, formerly LH Imports, anticipates 100-plus Canadian buyers.

“A strong majority of our showroom attendance is from the United States; however, the number of buyers from Canada seems to increase each market for us,” says the furniture resource’s vice-president and co-owner, Jade Merriman.

Carl Lovett, vice-president of Toronto-based Sunpan, seems to share these views.

“We expect attendance to come back to almost pre-pandemic levels,” he says.

There is also emerging consensus among Canadian companies exhibiting at High Point Market that the October event is the more important of the two, at least for Canadian independent furniture retailers. Additionally, most note senior buyers and merchandisers for this country’s national furniture and home furnishings chains will be represented, pointing out it’s their job to attend.

HPMA, the event’s governing body, doesn’t release detailed attendance figures but says approximately 70,000 register for each event, including exhibitors, retailers, interior designers, press and other industry professionals. Last year, 60 per cent of attendees were interior designers, HPMA confirmed, outnumbering retailers.

Designed by Blake Tovin for West Bros. Furniture to fill a void in the market for a truly natural look, the Corsa bedroom collection features clean lines and a stripped down white oak graining.

Will Retailers Buy?
Attending High Point Market is an expensive enterprise, between the cost of travel, accommodation and time away from the store. This suggests that if an independent Canadian retailer attends, they are there with a purpose — to refresh their floors with new product.

“We have lots of appointments so I expect customers will be coming to buy,” says Samantha Mund of Hanover, Ont.-based solid wood case goods specialist West Bros. Furniture. “But so much of what we do is relationship-based, so it’s really about the face-to-face time that the market provides.”

Sunpan’s Lovett agrees.

“For those who choose to go, considering the cost of everything, the average independent is going with a purpose,” he says. “We are looking for those retailers who do come to want to freshen their floors.”

Palliser’s Dineen has similar sentiments.

“Canadian customers who make the trip to market are motivated to buy,” she says. “The visual merchandising team who is responsible for show planning and setup works hard to capture upcoming colour trends and create inspired moments throughout the showroom. Our customers appreciate the elevated showroom presentation and often replicate the rooms exactly when refreshing their retail stores.”

Maddie from Palliser is a double-wide chaise meant to take lounging to the next level. Designed with a transitional track arm, it is available in any of the company’s leather alternative, fabric or accent covers. The plush pillow back contains 25 per cent feather and 75 per cent fibre fill.

Putting their Best Foot Forward
All participating Canadian companies say they will be showcasing both individual items as well as new collections for both their homegrown and American retail partners.

For example, Angelo Marzilli Jr., president of Decor-Rest, says the company will not only open a showroom dedicated to the Superstyle brand (Furniture Plaza-510, Floor 5) that the Toronto-based family owned-and-operated manufacturer acquired a couple of years ago, it will also launch its sister Trendline line in the U.S.

Meanwhile, West Bros. will introduce the Blake Tovin designed Corsa bedroom collection, which Mund describes as following in the company’s tradition of contemporary design with an emphasis on organic materials and craftsmanship.

As for Sunpan, the company is planning an expansion of its upholstery offering this market.

“We are going to put our best foot forward as those retailers in attendance will be looking for newness,” says Lovett.

Palliser is adding at least nine new collections to its assortment, including three new stationary pieces, three new motion upholstery groups and three new additions to its Studio program.

The spring edition of High Point Market runs April 13-17.

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