Furnitureville, U.S.A.: High Point, N.C.
Twice a year, more than 70,000 furniture experts, including store buyers and suppliers, descend on the small town of High Point, N.C., for the International Home Furnishings Market. They come to scout next season's trends in sofas, settees, and so forth. But the real boon for the rest of us is what the professionals often leave in their wake: major discounts.
Timing your trip
The best time to go to High Point is not during IHFM, when the few available hotel rooms cost more than they should, but about three weeks afterward. Samples from the market will be for sale to the public and discounted by as much as 80 percent. According to the IHFM website (ihfc.com), the next event is April 27-May 3.
The High Point area--a term that includes the neighboring towns of Thomasville, Jamestown, and sometimes Hickory, 90 miles west--is in between Winston-Salem and Greensboro. The Piedmont Triad Airport, served by most major airlines, is 13 miles north of town.
What you'll find
High Point has three types of stores. The first is a branded showroom, which sells a single company's furniture--Thomasville, for instance. The second is a multibrand store with multiple lines. Rose Furniture has stock from over 700 manufacturers, including Bernhardt, Lexington, and Statton. At branded showrooms and multibrand stores, new furniture is sold for 20 to 40 percent off the manufacturer's suggested retail price. The third type of store is a clearance center, or outlet, such as Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams in Hickory. This is where you see rock-bottom deals on discontinued styles, overstock, returns, and prototypes, all of which are up to 90 percent off.
Where to start
Get your bearings at the Convention & Visitors Bureau. The office maintains lists of showrooms that you can use to cross-reference and find, say, every store with Century. The CVB can also direct you toward stores with certain styles (French country, contemporary, etc). Multibrand stores, such as Wood Armfield, are also good places to begin. For size alone, Furnitureland South is tops, with 400 brands in a million-square-foot showroom (there's even a restaurant).
Getting everything home
If you pick up the furniture yourself, you'll pay the 7 percent North Carolina sales tax; if your order is shipped out of state, you'll be billed for the destination's sales tax, whatever that may be. Shipping fees are determined by the destination and total weight. Furnitureland's rates, for instance, depend on the state where the truck is going; sending pieces to Virginia costs 50¢ a pound, while California and North Dakota cost $1.05. You usually have to leave a deposit of one third to one half of the total price before the store will release a piece, with the rest due by delivery (plan on it taking 6-8 weeks). The good news: Stores are often willing to absorb some of the costs if you buy multiple pieces--and if you aren't too shy to haggle.