by Karl Kunkel
In a move to recapture some of the bedding traffic that has migrated to the Las Vegas Market and elsewhere, the High Point Market unveiled a new Bedding Center during the spring show.
While the concept got raves, many of the inaugural exhibitors wondered where the dealers were. In defense of Bedding Center organizers, exhibitors in all home furnishings categories were frustrated by low traffic.
The 25,000–square–foot space occupied a corner section on the top floor of the Suites at Market Square. The center was the creation of the staff of Thomas Mitchell, senior vice president and general manager of the Merchandise Mart Properties Inc.–owned showroom buildings throughout High Point, N.C. The inaugural bedding center housed about a dozen exhibitors, including Eclipse of North Brunswick, N.J.; Springwall of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; Glideaway of St. Louis; and Corsicana Bedding of Corsicana, Texas, as well as some bedding accessory suppliers.
Mitchell wants to expand the Bedding Center and to bring in more major brands— including at least one “S” brand—to serve as anchors and draw traffic to smaller bedding exhibitors. Based on surveys his staff conducted, retailers need a central spot to shop for bedding.
“The number of buyers interested in bedding here is over 70%,” Mitchell said. “That’s a clear statement of demand.”
Virtually every bedding exhibitor at the Bedding Center applauded the concept and wants it to work, both to keep the High Point Market vibrant for bedding and to capitalize on the number of retailers at market.
But they want more of dealer traffic directed to the Bedding Center. Mitchell’s team did try to get word of the Bedding Center out to attendees through a variety of media, signage and promotions.
“The concept is fabulous and gives us an additional venue to show product,” said Neal Grigg, a partner in Carolina Mattress Guild. The company’s Thomasville, N.C., headquarters includes a plant and main showroom. “We aren’t going to get anyone just walking by in Thomasville. And we have gotten that customer here. I’m disappointed that there aren’t more bedding shoppers. It would also be nice if there was a big name here.” Grigg said he’s unsure if his company will return to the Bedding Center.
Additional suggestions for improving the Bedding Center included locating it closer to the escalators so dealers could find it more easily. Some would like being surrounded by more case goods and upholstery manufacturers where furniture store retailers would be more likely to shop. The Bedding Center is located on a labyrinthine floor populated primarily by decorative accessory exhibitors. Showrooms near bedding exhibitors included a vacuum cleaner vendor and a small wall décor operation.
Some bedding exhibitors felt that dispersing their showrooms throughout a whole floor, instead of compacting them, would give retailers more privacy and freedom to visit exhibitors without broadcasting those meetings to other manufacturers.
Al Bromberg, regional vice president for Fife, Wash.–based Comfor–Pedic, praised the Bedding Center concept but added: “It needs more work and more planning. Will we be here next time? We are discussing it. Some dealers did come to see us, but it hasn’t been worth it based on traffic.”
Gerry Borreggine, president of Therapedic in Princeton, N.J., however already is committed.
“What Tom’s done is a good thing,” he said. “It’s a great idea, and we are staying. It’s not right yet, but it’s a good start. I see this as evolving into the bedding floor in the bedding building. I’m hoping it will get stronger and better.”