I am literally fresh off the the plane from Las Vegas Market, y'all, and I am equal parts exhausted from walking miles and miles, and exhilarated from seeing my design buddies, new products, and feeling a little bit more normal after Covid and Snovid. Markets are trade-only events that designers can choose to visit throughout the year to meet reps, find new products, and literally open/close/touch and sit test SO MANY sofas and chairs and everything in between, and boy have I missed them.
I haven't been to the Las Vegas Market before this past weekend, and I was so grateful to have a change of scenery and to catch up with a bunch of my design besties and one designer's husband (Brian knows a TON from having been to numerous shows with his divine wife Madi). We had THE BEST TIME together. That may be my favorite tip of all...go with friends in the biz (your non-design friends may hate you if you take them...it's A L O T to take in).
The photo above is a great shot LVMKT...its so easily navigable, a total of four buildings....we did it in two days total and while I loved it because it's smaller, there really is no substitute in my book for High Point...it's literally the best and biggest in show(s). I'm already planning my trip for the next HPMKT in June, and I thought I'd share the tips I've learned over the past few years on how to navigate High Point successfully, especially if you're an introvert like me and can't stand crowds or a first timer.
For my first market trip years ago, I was planning to go with my design work wife April, but she couldn't go at the very last minute. In my introvert mind, I panicked at the thought of going by myself, thinking there was no way I could go alone to this huge multi-day event, never having gone before. But anyone who knows me in real life knows that I don't let fear stand in my way of ANYdamnTHING so I put my big girl pants on and decided nope, I got this, let's do this...on my own! Now that I've been back a few more times, I can say that I'm so grateful I had to go alone that first time because I made market work for me and my introvert personality all the way through. If you're making your first trip as a designer to High Point, here are my top tips for the entire event, from prep at home to my best recommendation for tours!
Decide on the length of your trip to High Point.
Friday is the soft opening, HPMKT officially opens on Saturday morning and it usually lasts until Wednesday afternoon (check the schedule though bc they've changed dates and show lengths due to COVID). I usually make it until Tuesday, but it's up to you and how many vendors you'd like to visit, and your stamina, to be honest. I can handle the exercise no problem but being around so many people for multiple days in a row is a very draining thing for me personally, so I keep that in mind when I'm planning my trip.
Make your dream list of vendors and plan your days accordingly.
Who do you really need to see? Make a list beforehand. I repeat do not wait until you go to decide where you want to go. Get the lay of the land and plan ahead if you don't want to be disappointed. Don't go home mad that you couldn't check out a specific vendor. If you make your top 10 vendors you want to check out, plan your first two days around those. Staying longer? Anything extra is bonus! Be sure and wander around the Suites at Market Square for art and accessories galore and then head over to Red Egg (red shuttle stop 29 if they haven't changed it) and tell Carol I sent you! Points if you end up on her instagram reel bustin' a move.
When you register for High Point, you can download their market app and see maps of all buildings and various other vendors throughout the city. I do suggest saving your favorites there, and checking the shuttle routes to see how you can cover all of your must-visit vendors in those first two days. That way you are visiting with the most energy you'll have, and you know you saw what you absolutely needed to see, so everything after that is gravy.
I personally am a planning fool and have a spreadsheet that would tickle Bill Gates' toes. Its broken down by building, shuttle bus route, and also alphabetically. #nerdandIdontcarewhoknowsit
Take advantage of the travel concierge.
Since I didn't know the area the first time around , I definitely took advantage of the travel concierge option provided once you register for High Point. I knew I wouldn't be going out to dinner much by myself, so I requested a hotel that provided room service, and proximity to restaurants that I could walk to since I wasn't renting a car. They were so accommodating and a pleasure to work with!
They also have free shuttle buses specifically for Market at the three surrounding airports, so if you want to save money on a car rental, make a reservation for the shuttles through your market app or the concierge (it's free). The airport shuttle will drive you from the airport to the main shuttle station in High Point. From there you can catch a hotel shuttle (assuming your hotel is on the shuttle route...again, check the website or app) back and forth to market in the morning and evening. Shuttles run on a schedule so plan your day accordingly.
Wear what you would wear in front of a client, with extra cushy shoes.
I made the mistake of getting a suit for my first market after looking at photos online, without realizing most of the people in the photos were the showroom reps. I suggest wearing an outfit you would be comfortable wearing to a client meeting, and bring two different pairs of comfortable shoes you would be fine walking multiple miles in, because, fun fact, you will. I alternate shoes every other day. Some bring a separate pair to change into in the afternoon because there are usually showroom after-parties and dancing! I personally like to wear nice jeans (see my favorite brand below that feels like butter and have a little ab support control sewn in...they are magic) and a cute top with slip on loafer sneakers. People do dress up to the nines and wear heels and some people think it's a beach trip but here's how I see it: you be you. As for me, comfort is key in clothes and shoes but keep it classy. Key tip: comfortable shoes. Don't say I didn't warn you.
The weather can be unpredictable, so bring a waterproof jacket and maybe a mini umbrella that you can bring in your bag, just in case you're caught out in the city in a rainstorm. Otherwise, I have a small bag that can hold my phone, wallet, business cards, lipstick, and a collapsible tote bag you could use for any catalogs or other takeaways from the showrooms. People do bring large totes and roller bags but I think those are big pains...it's up to you though. You can always ask showroom reps to mail you catalogs rather than schlepping them back on the plane or in your suitcase with you. Remember less is more when you're walking ten plus miles a day. (Yep, at least we do on our HP trips.)
Start top down at IHFC.
IHFC is like the castle at Disney World - it is the main building right outside the transportation hub where the shuttles start their routes, and it's the tallest building of vendors, at 16 floors. My biggest tip for this building and other multi-story building with vendors - start on the top floor and work your way down! Most people start at the first floor, so you'll be battling with everyone in each showroom and battling for a space on the elevator, or having to walk up massive flights of stairs. The top floors are much quieter, and you can work through them much faster as well. Total game changer - I do this every year and I never regret it. Again, because I map stuff out beforehand I know there are certain floors I can totally pass over altogether.
Most showrooms open by 8am as well, so being an early bird worked in my favor! Starting early and working top down will win every time.
Sign up for a High Point Market Insider Tour.
High Point, as an institution, wants to encourage new designers to visit every year, so they coordinate with bloggers and designers in the industry to offer tours for new designers that have never been to High Point.
I was lucky enough to land a spot on the Insiders Tour with Jeanne Chung during my first visit, and she was an amazing mentor pointing out different things to watch for and questions to ask of the vendors. I highly, highly recommend signing up for one of these tours - mine was free back then, and I know some other tours have been monetized, but definitely check what is available to you. It was comforting to know other people who were by themselves and first timers in this whole process.
Catalog your finds in your phone.
Take a picture of the showroom sign before you walk in, so the following photos are associated with the right vendor. Trust me, you'll think you'll remember, but when you're looking through photos for a project 5 months from now, you'll be glad you took that sign photo. At the end of the day on the shuttle bus, I use that time to decompress but also review photos and move them into folders with the vendor name and date as the title of the folder (for example: Verellen Fall22).
Save the number for the Go Anywhere Shuttle into your phone.
This Go Anywhere shuttle is great because they'll come get you wherever you are if you call. They can also take you to other vendors that aren't stops along the red or green shuttle routes. There is a limit on the radius around High Point Proper...last time I checked I think it was a ten mile radius or so...but just call and give your destination and they'll let you know if its outside the boundary for them.
If you get caught in bad weather, this is also a great alternative if you miss one of the shuttles. There are maps at the shuttle hub and they'll be passing out info flyers as well when you hop on and off your airport or hotel shuttle or just ask. I have yet to meet someone who works for the HPMKT Authority who is not friendly and helpful.
Take breaks in between vendors.
There are recharge stations all around in IHFC and other bigger buildings like Showplace - so take a few minutes to sit down, rest your feet, plug your phone in to charge, and just chillax to recharge your energy. Having to be 'on' with all of these vendors completely depletes my energy, so these breaks are non-negotiable for me. Take your charging cords and a battery back up pack too...you'll need it. Note: Wi-Fi reception in the IHFC can be particularly uncooperative sometimes so I will actually put my phone on airplane mode to preserve battery life.
You will find food throughout market at many showrooms.
Don't worry about eating or where to eat I should say - free breakfast foods are provided at the drop off at IHFC if you start there, and there also paid kiosks throughout for you to grab lunch as well. However, many showrooms provide free food throughout the week, and the outdoor area between IHFC and Showplace also host food trucks/live music at night for lunch and dinner and socializing (again this may be impacted by covid so plan ahead and take some prepacked bags of things like almonds if you need to).
I will say that Universal Furniture is my food go-to - they have a great dining room setup and catering every time I go. This showroom is on red shuttle bus route, and note you do have to make an appointment to tour their showroom with your rep but anyone and everyone is welcome in their cafeteria plus they have a lovely clean bathroom.
Remember going to any market, especially High Point Market, be like the early days of first time parenthood when you bring baby home for the first time and you have no idea what you're doing. In summary, read what you can and ask questions to those who have been before you, eat when you can, rest when you can but keep moving forward, it will be worth it in the end and you'll be glad you made the effot.
Have a look below for some of my go-to supplies for High Point, and if you have any questions as a designer, don't hesitate to message me on IG or leave a comment below. Hoping to maybe see you there next market! I'll be there with bells on!