The High Point Furniture Market authority reported just a 1 percent decline to 79,376 compared spring market registrants one year ago despite widespread fear by show exhibitors and attendees that the trade show’s attendance would be significantly impacted by North Carolina’s HB2 Bathroom Bill. The market had previously issued a warning on March 28, just days after McCrory signed House Bill 2, that “dozens of customers” had canceled plans to attend. The authority issued a statement that said “As leaders and organizers of the High Point Market, we feel an obligation to inform the public and our government leaders in Raleigh of the significant economic damage that [the law] HB2 is having on the High Point Market and on the North Carolina economy.”
Doug Bassett, president of Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co. and the nonprofit authority’s chairman, acknowledged as the market opened on April 25, the authority has gotten feedback from supporters on both sides of the bathroom bill. The non-profit authority received 57 percent of its funding from state and local governments, according to its 2014 financial statement. In 2015 the GOP State Legislature decided to increase funding for the authority by 40 percent to $1.2 million a year.
The overall attendance number includes buyers, exhibitors and representatives, media, students and guests to the five-day wholesale buying event. A 2013 Duke University study estimates the annual economic impact of the High Point Furniture Market is about $5.39 billion, when looking at a 75-mile circle of influence to 22 North Carolina counties, from Catawba (Hickory) and Caldwell (Lenoir) — and eight Virginia counties. According to a published survey by the Winston-Salem Journal, the need to sell and buy home furnishings outweighed any moral dilemma on how to respond to the controversial bill.
The next market takes place in late October, days before the fall election in the closely contested North Carolina governor’s race that some say hinge on voters’ reaction to House Bill 2.