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From Home Furnishing Business

Take 5: Tom Conley


Tom Conley has been at the helm of the High Point Market Authority since 2011 when he was named president and CEO of the organization. During the past three years, Conley has steered the High Point Market through transition, funding battles with the state of North Carolina and continues to lead a continuing push to increase buyer attendance at the twice-a-year event.

Home Furnishings Business: How would you describe the changing dynamic between the High Point and Las Vegas markets in light of International Market Centers’ 2011 High Point real estate purchase?

Tom Conley: Extremely positive. Las Vegas has now positioned itself as a regional show. They’ve done a wonderful job with the bedding folks and the gift folks, as well as other niches, and been very successful at building those segments in Las Vegas.

We partner with them on a number of events here where their expertise makes sense.

In all reality, we compete with every market — Atlanta, Dallas, New York — that hosts exhibitors.

HFB: Has the Saturday opening had the desired impact on High Point Market weeks?

TC: The change to a Saturday opening was before my time, but it seems to be working.

There are some buyers who will always want to come ahead of an official opening, and there are some suppliers who will always accommodate them.

We don’t dictate when people can come to Market.

As long as the suppliers and the buyers get along and agree with each other on when they want to show the product and when they want to see the product, we’re OK.

HFB: What is the Market Authority’s primary focus for 2015?

TC: We have a couple of things we’ve set as priorities.

We’re diligently working on our telemarketing and cleaning up our contact lists. We’ve used an outside company to look for new retailers who have for whatever reason not been to Market. Our target list is in the best it’s ever been.

Outreach continues to be a strong thrust for us. We used three different marketing efforts. First, we partnered with Foundation Marketing Group out of Maryland, and they called folks who had not attended market in the past or had only attended intermittently. Then, we hired a full-time, part-time person to manage our internal call service so that callers to our office communicate with a professional team.

After market, we’ll follow up with first timers to see how their experience here was. We’re building one-to-one customer relationships.

We have to find creative ways to identify new segments. We continue to work with our exhibitor partners to bring in more buyers to the market. It’s a partnership.

The exhibitors are about 95 percent responsible for their success at a market. I’m continually amazed at the number of exhibitors who come to market and do no marketing prior to unlocking the showroom door.


HFB: Let’s talk Market cycles. Do we really need all of these markets?

TC: That is why Vegas is expanding into other categories and diversifying. Building owners are looking to other categories that make sense. It’s not for me to say whether we have too many markets or not. That’s for the buyers to determine and decide how many markets they’re willing to attend.

HFB: What will High Point Market look like in five years?

TC: The best: It will continue to grow and expand. We have to get smarter, like IMC with grouping like exhibitors in buildings to create better efficiencies for the buyer.

Some folks won’t want everything they have to offer. We’ll see growth in more areas to cover and buildings will fill up. We’ll spread out, which is good for the exhibitors, but bad for the buyers.

The bad: The economy struggles and the Market continues to contract even more. It would be great from a buyer’s standpoint in working the Market. From the aspect of getting to see the breadth of product it wouldn’t be good at all.

Our job is to cater to buyers and offer them the best product we have available.

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