Investing In Safety

Clint Engel of Home News Now explores High Point Market stakeholders’ response to COVID-19

The High Point Market Authority (HPMA) is taking new steps in a multi-million effort to keep all attendees of their Oct. 13-21 event in the loop and safe as our industry works through the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of this effort, HPMA launched the #HPMKTsafe site to keep all attendees up to date on safety practices and protocols.

On July 14, the day online registration opened, HPMA held a conference call with building owners and managers and Don Campbell, Guilford County’s Emergency Management director, to discuss safety and compliance issues. Campbell “did a great job explaining all the COVID-19 related issues exhibitors, buildings, and the Market Authority are going to have to comply with,” said HPMA President and CEO Tom Conley.

Transportation System Enhancements

“But we’re going to go above and beyond all that’s required. We’re going to fog and wipe down buses. We’re going to make sure people are socially distanced on the buses,” and HPMA will be adding a fleet of smaller vehicles — SUVs and sedans — to the 15-passenger Go Anywhere vans “so we can match vehicle size to the number of people in a group.”

Encouraging Online Registration

In addition, the Market Authority is working on pre-registration online with International Market Centers in order to mail all IMC exhibitor passes this year; it’s a collaborative step Conley said the organizations have never taken before and one that will help eliminate some of the person-to-person contact at on-site registration areas that would otherwise occur once visitors arrive.

“We’re also encouraging buyers to pre-register so they don’t have to go through the registration process on-site,” Conley added. “Anything we can do to make sure the Market is safe, we are doing.”

A Multi-million Dollar Effort

The federal government, through the CARES Act, provided billions of dollars to the state for various COVID relief efforts, Conley noted, and, in turn, North Carolina earmarked $725,000 for the Market to deploy for COVID-19 response alone.

“And we’re going to spend all of that and more just in making the city safe and making sure people understand all they have to do,” he said.

“I don't think it’s a stretch to say this is a million-dollar effort by the High Point Market Authority.” Add the investments building owners and exhibitors are making to ensure an “open, inviting and safe” environment, and it’s a multi-million-dollar effort, he added.

More attendees expected to drive in

Asked about attendance forecasts, Conley said he can only speculate given the ever-changing circumstances surrounding the pandemic and the months still to go before October. This time around, the Market likely will see few, if any, international buyers – not because of any particular Market action, “but because of the political climate around the world,” he said.

And since many people are still nervous about boarding planes, Conley predicts the attendance of buyers who typically travel long distances will be down.

“Because of High Point’s proximity to over 50% of the population, I think if a buyer can drive, he or she will drive,” he said. “There’s no question attendance will be down, but by how much we really don't know.”

An Industry-wide Endeavor, An Individual Choice

Conley said he hopes the industry appreciates in these unprecedented times that it’s not just HPMA’s efforts, but HPMA, the exhibitors, and building owners all working together to make the Market safe and welcoming to those buyers who feel comfortable coming and who aren’t exhibiting potential signs of the virus.

“If somebody doesn’t feel right, we don’t want them to come,” he said. “If someone feels uncomfortable about leaving their home or their office, then don’t come to Market.

“But if you feel as though your business demands it, and you feel comfortable traveling, when you get to High Point, you’ll be impressed with how clean the venues are and with all of the precautions that are being taken to make sure the environment here is as safe as it could possibly be.”

If you do decide to attend, the Market Authority advises you to review the special registration for this Market. Be sure to have your passes mailed to you before you leave for High Point, and make appointments with all of the showrooms you wish to see.

To follow more home furnishings industry news from Clint Engel, visit the new online publication, Home News Now.