Welcoming the World with Warmth

International Buyers Center is an invaluable resource for guests from around the globe

“Our mission is to welcome international visitors as valued guests, create a space for them to relax and recharge, minimize their stress, and make them as comfortable as possible,” said Lee Allen. “The International Buyers Center (IBC) becomes their home away from home. We help them achieve their business goals, which often involves opening new markets for our industry.”

Allen, Manager of the IBC and MediaLink, located in the High Point Theatre, has been helping Market visitors since 1998, when his company, Travel Quest, Inc., opened a travel desk in IHFC. In 2006, he contracted to open and manage the first IBC, which served about 25 people per day. Exponential growth required a move. Today’s IBC serves up to 1000 visitors daily, including the onsite registration required for all international buyers. “Our goal is to anticipate our guests’ needs, so they can concentrate on buying. We’re also responsible for vetting all international visitors to maintain the integrity of the Market,” he said.

“Since 2005, High Point has been our main source of supply for our high-end boutique,” said Maryam Khatmi of Thornhill, Ontario’s Treasures & Co. “We travel to the markets in Europe, Atlanta, and Dallas, but we curate the best here. We wouldn’t miss one!” Her partner, Amir Nejatian, agreed, “I build upscale custom homes and Maryam finds the unique pieces to furnish them. Lee and his team help us with travel details and provide access to this cozy place to relax and enjoy a good meal during our busy days of visiting vendors and researching new supply lines,” he said.

“Our complimentary breakfast and lunch service, prayer room, and business services are probably the most visible, but a lot is going on behind the scenes,” said Allen. “We handle travel arrangements including airline and hotel reservations and pre- and post- Market travel around the state. We perform product research to help buyers find exhibitors, provide shuttle assistance, restaurant reservations, interpreter referrals, freight-forwarding support, foreign currency exchange, and if necessary, health care referrals. We work in cooperation with the NC Department of Tourism and host representatives from the North Carolina and U. S. Departments of Commerce on site to assist our visitors.”

“I’m here for a week of buying for our stores in Nablus and Ramallah in Palestine,” said Ahmad Musallam, General Manager of Al-Talfeeti Furniture. “We’ve been in business for 30 years and started buying furniture in the U. S. after our first trip to High Point in 2012. At 15 hours, it’s a long trip to get here! I know the folks at the IBC will help with any last-minute plans while I’m meeting with the vendors that I usually communicate with through email or phone. In our region we see a shift from the big footprint furniture to sleeker, more contemporary lines, so that’s what I’m researching this trip.”

“It’s not unusual for our international visitors to travel long distances to get here, so one of our most appreciated services for newcomers is to match them up with exhibitors whose products best suit the preferences in their market,” said Allen. “This saves them time on the ground. The more we know about the latest innovations and introductions by exhibitors, the more accurately we can guide the buyers. We also introduce buyers to brands through our partnerships with the companies that provide furnishings for the IBC.”

Helping international guests optimize their time and developing their trust can sometimes lead to unexpected requests. “One of my buyers from Bahrain had children attending a school in the U. S. that was affected by a hurricane, so I helped relocate them to High Point during the storm. We had a Jordanian visitor interested in meeting the President of a local University, so we made that happen. We have purchased items online for guests that they might not have had access to in their own country,” said Allen. “It’s like Christmas every six months. We are excited to welcome back our visitors – many are dear friends. Our reward is their thanks and the knowledge that their overall experience was exceptional – and their plan to return next Market!”