History of the High Point Expo

The High Point Market (formerly the International Home Furnishings Market and the Southern Furniture Market), held in High Point, North Carolina, is the largest home furnishings industry trade show in the world, with over 12.2 million square feet by roughly 2000 exhibitors throughout about 180 buildings. The market holds two major shows each year, one in April and another in October, running one week in the Fall, and two weeks in the Spring. There are around 70,000-80,000 attendees from over 100 countries. The High Point Market Authority (HPME) coordinates the exposition, whose showrooms have nearly completely filled what had been the historic downtown.  A 2018 Duke University study showed that the market contributed $6.7 billion to the area’s economy.

A short description of a long and renowned history:

The first formal Southern Furniture Market was held in High Point on March 1–15, 1909. In 1921, the Southern Furniture Exposition Building opened for its first show on June 20. Built in 19 months, the showroom cost approximately $1 million and held 249,000 square feet of exhibition space. Regular shows were held in January and July. With the exception of 1943, the market was put on hold from 1941 until the end of World War II.

The $1 million 10-story Wrenn Wing was added to the Southern Furniture Exposition Building in 1950. The center’s fourth expansion is connected to older parts of the building by glass walkways over Wrenn Street. During the 1950s, informal “in-between” markets began to emerge, hosting visitors in April and October. The main markets were still held in January and July. However, the size and scope of the mid-season marketing during April and October begin to surpass the January and July shows in the 1960s.

In the 1970s, showrooms other than the Southern Furniture Exposition Building gained stature, both in size and importance. In 1980, organizers in Dallas made a bid to host the major national home furnishings market. In 1982, marking a complete transition, the January and July shows were discontinued, leaving the April and October shows. Also in 1982, Market Square opened in the renovated Tomlinson Chair complex. It is credited with starting the dramatic increase in showroom space that made High Point a major furniture exhibition center.

The Southern Furniture Market was renamed the International Home Furnishings Market in 1989. High Point’s largest showroom, the Southern Furniture Exposition Building, changed its name to the International Home Furnishings Center, or IHFC. With nearly 7,000,000 square feet of furniture showroom space already available around the city, a decade-long showroom building boom began. In the 1990s, a construction boom added an additional 3,000,000 square feet of showrooms to High Point. Showroom expansion continued in 2000, with the addition of new temporary exhibit spaces: The Suites at Market Square and Showplace. A year later, the 12th floor of the IHFC opened, giving the building 3,500,000 square feet of space, more than 14 times its original size.

Today, the Market is overseen by the High Point Market Authority (HPME). Over 70,000-80,000 attendees include exhibitors, buyers, designers, and media in the furniture industry.

High Point Exhibitions offers exhibit space for international companies during the High Point Furniture Market. The High Point Market is the largest furnishings industry trade show in the world, bringing more than 75,000 people to High Point, North Carolina, every six months. For more information, contact Al Bolton by email, or call (336) 420-0434.