HIGH POINT — A range of vendors are signing on to participate in First Tuesday, a new initiative to attract retailers to High Point showrooms the first Tuesday of each month starting in December.
While numerous showrooms already are opening year-round by appointment, First Tuesday looks to create consistent forum with enough exhibitors open at once to make a trip to High Point worthwhile for buyers who want to see more than one supplier.
That was the idea First Tuesday originator and Manwah USA CEO Guy Ray had in mind when he came up with the concept. So far it’s playing out that way with companies coming on board quickly.
Industry analyst Jerry Epperson likes First Tuesday’s potential.
“Anything that gives a greater level of communication between our retailers and vendors is a good thing,” he said. “This leverages that relationship further than a few days at market can.”
Along with the opportunity for valuable face time with buyers, participating companies interviewed by Furniture Today believe the First Tuesday initiative will enhance the product development process to the benefit of manufacturers and retailers alike, and it will create a smoother flow of new goods into the marketplace.
Fresh goods year-round?
If First Tuesday takes off, it could change the course of product development across the board in a big way, said Jackson Furniture/Catnapper Senior Vice President of Sales Brandunn Rush.
“We believe First Tuesday will evolve over time, and this could change the timing of product development and likely result in year-round product introductions,” Rush said. “Each month, we can present creative ideas and conceptual forms to retailers, not just for feedback, but also for validation of what we’re planning.”
KC Greenwald, vice president of U.S. and international sales at Palliser, sees a chance for tighter and cleaner product introductions through early feedback from its customers.
“There’s been a need to rush every March and September to get product built and to the showroom, and there might not be the level of detail in terms of product and costs that you want,” he said. “It might be 98% there, but now new product will be fully vetted with all the details.”
Greenwald added that, with uncertainty about attendance levels at the High Point Market in April 2021, First Tuesday will allow manufacturers to introduce product as it becomes ready. The ability to gain enough buyer input to roll out goods year-round is a driver for First Tuesday participation among other exhibitors such as Klaussner Home Furnishings.
First Tuesday “ties into the decision we made months ago to keep our showroom open for customer visits year-round,” said Klaussner Vice President of Marketing Len Burke. “We’re looking to flow our product development so when our customers visit our showroom they can see new product each month, 12 times a year, rather than twice a year.
“We’ll keep our showroom displays fresh. We’re adapting and changing to be flowing product as quickly as possible.”
High Point ROI
Vendors have a year-round showroom investment in High Point, and they say First Tuesday helps them get more out of their footprint here. For a company such as A.R.T. Furniture, now open by appointment all year along with participating in this new monthly event, that’s especially true. In addition to a landmark showroom building, A.R.T.’s U.S. corporate offices are in its Hamilton Street location.
“We essentially have our showroom set 90% year-round except when we’re changing out for Premarket,” said Vice President of Sales Jason Foy. “We’re always here, our president and management are here, so why wouldn’t we come downstairs and talk with customers?”
Retailers as well as vendors are eager for safe, socially distanced face time, he added.
“We have a rep in Chicago who had an important customer already tell him he wanted to come” to First Tuesday, Foy said. “A lot of customers have been working remotely for a long time, and they haven’t seen product or talked in person for months.
“First Tuesday and appointment-only are about the intimate conversations you can have about why they should have this product and our new direction in the past year,” Foy added, “instead of dealing with 15 customers at once.”
And while these vendors are battling for retail floor space, there’s a collegial rather than competitive sense among First Tuesday participants regarding the event itself: All expressed variations on a “more the merrier” theme.
“The more people exhibiting, the more retailers will come,” noted Klaussner’s Burke. “I hope more manufacturers do open their doors because that means success for everyone. You never see a car dealership off by itself.”
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