Market Authority: Attendance strong and trending in the right direction

High Point Market Authority members Christi Barbour, left, and Alex Shuford III lead a standing ovation for outgoing CEO Tom Conley during the Market Authority’s board meeting on Oct. 26.

HIGH POINT — Attendance at the High Point Market continues bouncing back from the doldrums of the early days of the COVID pandemic. That was one of the takeaways from the High Point Market Authority’s board meeting at the String & Splinter on the final day of the fall market.

The preliminary numbers as of Oct. 25 show that year-over-year, attendance at the Oct. 22-26 market was up 8.7% over fall 2021 numbers and 5.3% higher than attendance in April. International buyers, who hadn’t been able to attend recent markets, came back, to the tune of a 45.13% increase. The preliminary figures say the most recent market is the best-attended High Point show since before the pandemic, down about 15% from fall 2019, the last market before COVID.

Outgoing CEO Tom Conley reported that Wayfair sent around 150 buyers to the show, and of the Market Authority’s top 200 targets, there were 164 in attendance. The vendor count continues to grow as well, as 1,689 brands were represented. New buyers were at market in force, with 1,720 first timers in attendance.

“We are directionally valid,” Conley said. “The numbers tell us we’re recovering from COVID. Energy and enthusiasm were high. The supply chain issue is being resolved. There is still inventory at retail, but the retailers are discounting deeply to get rid of product from their distribution centers and floors. They want new product.”

Chief Operating Officer (and soon-to-be CEO) Tammy Nagem added that the neighborhood activities continue to gain momentum, noting the successful implementation of Game Day bingo in the Centennial Wrenn South neighborhood, and that it would continue in future markets. She added that the selfie pods in the area between Showplace and the International Home Furnishings Center were much more successful than anticipated.

The board recognized outgoing members Randy Tilinski, Josh Hudson, Karen Olson and Lee Boone, whose terms are expiring. Tilinski and Olson, who were in attendance, received plaques commemorating their service. Jane Dagmi and Dudley Moore will remain on the board, but in non-voting roles. Incoming board members will be Griffin McClure, Neil MacKenzie, Blake Millinor, Joni Vanderslice, Taylor West and Patti Carpenter.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Chairman Alex Shuford III recognized the accomplishments and milestones in Conley’s tenure at the helm of the organization, while recognizing the smooth transition Conley has set up as he hands the reins to Nagem.

“Tom has been a bedrock for us the past 11 years,” Shuford said. “He has taken this market through some of its most tumultuous times; coming out of the 2008-09 housing crisis, the Bathroom Bill in North Carolina, and then ending his career by starting a pandemic so he could lead us through that.

“We are in a healthy and healing position largely because of the steady hand Tom has provided. More importantly, he has set us up with a great staff so we don’t miss any beats over the next few years. That, in my opinion, is the sign of a great leader: They don’t leave a vacuum.”

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