Generational Change

Young leaders gather to fashion the future of Market

We’re about to see a changing of the guard in the home furnishings business. Today, about 10% of the buyers you see at Market are 22-37 years old. Over the next decade, their influence and impact will grow. They will become our industry’s leaders. What will they want their Market to be? At Spring 2019 Market, we sought the answers from a rising group of young professionals.

“As Baby Boomers retire and Millennials take over leadership positions across our industry, we need their opinions, preferences, and advice to create a Market that meets their needs. There’s plenty of generational research available, but we believe our best source of actionable information comes from our younger colleagues,” said Tom Conley, President and CEO of the High Point Market Authority. “We formed the Young Professionals Advisory Group in partnership with the Home Furnishings Association – and with the help of Michelle Cowan of HW Home – to guide our planning and implementation to ensure that this is the show of choice for our next generation of leaders.”

A group of eight Millennials representing retail and design businesses across the nation participated in the first meeting. Enthusiastically sharing their views, the group identified areas for improvement and suggested changes that will make Market more productive for younger buyers. Not surprisingly, technological concerns were paramount. “Better cell service in the buildings,” “Universal passwords for showroom WIFI,” and “More charging stations!” were among the top recommendations.

“It’s all about the total experience,” said Salem Scholten, owner of Simply Salem Designs in Myrtle Beach, SC. “Our favorite retailers are companies that have figured out what appeals to us. At Anthropologie, they greet me with a glass of cucumber water. The store smells great because they burn fragrant candles to create a soothing ambiance. The sales consultant writes my name on the fitting room door. They play my music. They engage all my senses, personalize my visit, and make me feel at home. Market planners need to check those boxes to delight people our age.”

Joel Haimsohn, VP of Operations for Lawrance Furniture in San Diego, CA, put it more bluntly. “Make Market sexier! Aspire to be more like Comic-Con. Obviously, we aren’t going to have Marvel characters, but let’s attract high-level influencers and bring in entertainment acts that we want to see! I know we won’t have TED Talks, but TEDx Talks are completely doable.” As a fourth -generation retailer whose grandfather and father founded Contemporary Design Group, a national association of modern and contemporary furniture retailers, Joel appreciates the many opportunities Market offers for networking. “We need more events that introduce us to people our age who are facing the same challenges. We don’t compete with retailers in other regions, so we can learn a lot from each other.”

Other requests included “more communal areas with long picnic tables to facilitate meeting new people,” “more sales training seminars presented by people who aren’t trying to sell us anything,” and “a focus on collaboration rather than competition.”

Erin Donaghy, Marketing Director with Dunk and Bright in Syracuse, NY suggested visitors, particularly women, would welcome strategically located kiosks selling headache and allergy medicine, flat shoes, chargers, and umbrellas. “It’s hard to find these conveniences in the middle of Market. Sometimes it’s the thoughtful little things that can make a big difference – at any age,” she said.

“It was a very productive session, filled with excellent suggestions,” said Market CEO Conley. “Many of them fit very well with our vision for what this Market can be, others were common-sense ideas that will improve the Market experience for everyone. This is just the start of our conversation. We intend to meet with our Young Professionals Advisory Group every spring. If you are Millennial retailer or a designer who has a retail presence or works with a retailer and interested in joining, please contact Ashley Grigg, Director of Marketing and Communications at the High Point Market Authority via Ashley@highpointmarket.org.”