Made in America Furniture Pavilion Brings In New Customers

By Hannah Miller | Posted: 04/25/2013 2:59PM

 

The Made in America Pavilion at the High Point Market allows furniture makers to showcase not only their products but also highlight domestic manufacturing. There’s a unifying note among the furniture, myriad rugs, lamps and other home furnishings displayed in this pavilion: The U.S. flag.

In aisle after aisle in the 25,000-square-foot top floor of Suites at Market Square, flags hang above the heads of market visitors as they wander among the displays of more than 70 exhibitors.

To add to the theme, Capel Rugs of Troy, NC, has several wall hangings of the flag decorating its booth, where an employee demonstrates hand-braiding of baskets.

The décor is only part of the effort, begun in 2011, to create a shared identity for the country’s domestic home furnishings manufacturers by bringing many of them together under one roof. That identity brings them buyers looking specifically for US goods, and the merely curious show up as well.

For years, 40-year old furniture and custom-cabinetry maker Habersham has had a showroom elsewhere in Market Square, but the addition of a presence in the Made in America Pavilion “has helped Habersham discover some new customers,” says spokesperson Suzanne Pruitt.

At the Pavilion, buyers visit not to see a particular company but because they’re drawn to domestically produced product in general, she says. “Their customers are asking for it.”

People are introduced to Habersham’s products in the Pavilion, she adds, and thus inspired to visit the main showroom of the Toccoa, Ga.-based company nearby. “For us, it’s literally, ‘Just walk down the steps.’”

For other manufacturers, like Eddy West, also of Toccoa, the pavilion provides visibility at a price below what a large showroom would cost.The company does primitive reproductions, reproduction of some Canadian designs, and custom.

The company, which has shrunk from 80 to 30 employees during the U.S. manufacturing downturn, intends to maintain a presence in High Point, says Director of Shipping John Caudell. “If you don’t come to market, people think, ‘Hmm. They must be out of business,” he says.

Being in the pavilion highlights Eddy West’s status as a domestic manufacturer, Caudell says. “ I think it’s a good selling point.”

“People ask, ‘Where are you getting your products from?” At Eddy West, they answer, “We make it all in Georgia.

“I think a lot of them don’t believe it.”

“It’s not easy, saying that,” he says. Because of labor costs, “We have to sell our products at a higher price.

“It’s not easy, but we’re still here.” And planning to move next fall into larger quarters that can accommodate more of the company’s 400 SKUs.

That “made in America” identity, he says, “is something for us to sort of be proud of.”

In the International Home Furnishings Center several blocks down Commerce Street from the pavilion, Vaughan-Bassett’s President, Doug Bassett, agrees.

His company is a recognized leader of the “made in America” movement, and would be in the Pavilion if its needs could be met there, he says.

“We are big advocates and fans of that floor and that area. We want to see them succeed.

But, he says, “To show our line at its best, we need a 25,000-square foot showroom.”

He thinks whetting buyers’ appetites with a booth and then expecting them to carry that enthusiasm several blocks down the street and up 10 floors of the IHFC Center to the main showroom wouldn’t be realistic.

However, he thinks the pavilion is onto something. His dealers tell him that customers are coming in and saying ‘Show me your made in America furniture,’” he says.

He’s so passionate about the subject that Vaughan-Bassett is starting a signage program to help dealers display their domestically-made items in one spot in the store, with one identify.

A Roanoke, Va., chain, Grand Furniture, prompted it by asking for Vaughan-Bassett’s help in creating such a display last July 4th.

“We were the 13 bedrooms in a horseshoe,” with other manufacturer’s product in the center, Bassett says.

“Their sales went up significantly.”

And he went home with an idea.

He’s had kits made up with an assortment of signs announcing “Made in America Bedroom Gallery.” There’s a six-foot banner, several three-foot posters, tent cards, and a sticker for the dealer’s front door.

For dealers carrying at least six Vaughan-Bassett bedroom suites, the kit is free. Those with fewer suites will pay a fee.

The back of the two-sided signs and tent cards reads “Bedrooms made by 700 American craftsmen” (the number of Vaughan-Bassett employees in Virginia and North Carolina.

On the front of the cards, the words “Vaughan-Bassett” appear only in small type.

“It’s not about Vaughan-Bassett. It’s about that dealer having a Made in America Gallery,” Bassett says. “They are hungry for this.”


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