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Casey: it's all about the products: the leader of the High Point Market Authority says this edition of the fall event will feature an even-wider array of new items.



WITH ITS INFRASTRUCTURE ISSUES LARGELY ADDRESSED, THE HIGH POINT MARKET AUTHORITY and its leader, Brian Casey, are now focusing on the core strength of the market: product ... lots and lots of products.

"More than ever, those coming here will see an increased investment from vendors in this market," Casey told HFN in an interview on the eve of the High Point furniture market.

"We'll have more new product than you'll see at any other market in the country. And that's really what good markets are about, particularly in economic times like this."

Casey said last month's premarket, which included an increased number of vendors showing new product, confirmed the strength of High Point. "Vendors have said that High Point is the key market for new product introductions."

Casey stressed that the breadth of the market offerings--at all price levels, from high down to promotional-remains a core strength. New high-end vendors this market include Kreiss and Ca Boom, a West Coast resource known for one-of-a-kind products.

This attention to market offerings--rather than market logistics--is a big change for Casey, who took over what was then a relatively new Market Authority some three years ago, charged with improving just about everything at market.

The earlier focus was clearly on infrastructure: transportation, parking, hotel and car rental prices and just basic show logistics. Even High Point's critics say all these areas have been vastly improved, although Casey admits, "You're never done with this.

"But we've been able to obtain hotel discounts as high as 40 percent and an average of 23 percent. We've reduced the minimum stay requirements and helped better customer service. Does it solve the problem? No, but we're making headway."

Same thing for car rental prices. "When I got here these prices were pretty ridiculous. Working at the corporate level of the rental companies, we've gotten reductions of as much as 50 percent. People do need to remember to use our discount codes and work through our Web site when they reserve cars," he added.

These reductions have helped create what Casey says is a market that is both efficient and cost-effective. "The value element is a pretty darn good one if you utilize everything. People can come here and not spend a dime on travel and food once they get here if they want.

"I don't know of any show that offers free health care," he said, referring to the mobile van that is stationed behind the Radisson Hotel in downtown High Point. "And this year, we are offering $20 flu shots for the first time."

Casey also points out the social aspect of market. "It's a misnomer that High Point is a small town and that there's nothing to do at market. There's a plethora of choices.

"We continue to find the right level of entertainment appropriate for High Point."

Not everything is right, he will admit. "When you have 85,000 people come into a town like this, you're not going to be perfect, but the improvements we've made have had a tremendously positive impact."

The challenge for this market, occurring against a backdrop of worldwide economic problems, is to be able to do business when business is tough. "You can't mask the fact that we are in some of the worst economic times we've ever seen and that that's impacting the level of business.

"And you can't deny that more companies are going out of business," he added, which could reduce the total size of the market. But Casey contends any change like that is reflective of the overall business rather than competitive pressures from other market centers.

High Point, he said, will remain at the center of the furniture market. "It really is where the market comes."
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Title Annotation:furniture & lighting
Author:Shoulberg, Warren
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Oct 20, 2008
Previous Article:Texture, tone: find a place at the table.
Next Article:High hopes.

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