If you’ve been looking into what it takes to be a professional interior designer, you probably keep coming across the word ‘market’, used in a way that denotes an insider reference. In the interior design industry, markets refer to a group of annual or biannual furniture (and other interior design products) trade shows that range in size and level of attraction. Some of the smaller markets are regionally focused, while others, like the famous High Point Markets, attract thousands of exhibitors and several tens of thousands attendees from all over the world. Exhibitions at a market can vary greatly, with large corporations showing alongside hyper local craftspeople.
Markets are a staple of the interior design industry where designers can find new products and meet new people to work with and learn from, both equally important. The major interior design markets are trade-only which means you have to prove your professional credentials in order to register to attend. This layer of opacity makes it hard to learn about markets when you’re starting from the beginning, but worry not.
We’re breaking down everything you need to know about interior design markets, the importance they have on being a successful interior designer, and what you can do to break in.
What Are Interior Design Markets?
- Annual or biannual trade shows with a social agenda: essentially, interior design markets are trade shows that include exhibitions from any type of vendor with a product that might be relevant to residential or commercial interior design. Furniture, wall finishes, specialty flooring, hardware, and art can all be found at a major interior design market, plus so much more.
They also act as meeting hubs for people across the interior design industry, where visitors take advantage of the opportunity to meet and bond with people they typically only interact with virtually. Especially if you’re just starting out, it’s so important to network, and many markets allow just that.
- The must-know industry giants: The High Point Markets are the largest and arguably the most important interior design markets. They take place every spring and fall in High Point, North Carolina, the furniture capital of the world, and attract over 75,000 visitors every year. The Las Vegas Markets, which take place every Summer and Winter at the Las Vegas Design Center, are the West’s equivalent to High Point Markets, bringing in 50,000 attendees.
- Smaller, yet significant markets: There are a handful of other important markets, including the ICFF in New York City, NeoCon in Chicago, and the Atlanta and Dallas Markets. Any of these smaller or more specialized markets are well worth attending and might be more manageable to fit into your schedule and budget. And oftentimes, smaller but significant markets are better for early networking and can be less daunting while still productive for your career.
What Happens at Markets?
- Showcasing products: From a birds eye view, markets are where vendors exhibit and interior designers experience products, open trade accounts, and maybe place orders. However, there is so much more buzzing beneath the surface.
- Panels and seminars: markets include a full program of interactive, educational events that are open to all attendees.
- Private meetings: pre-scheduled meetings are happening all over at markets. Major markets are pillars of the industry’s event calendar, where attendees want to see their colleagues face to face, get in-depth tutorials from their vendors, and advance their professional agendas.
- Parties: socializing is a key part of a market experience and is where a lot of long-term value is unlocked. Markets usually have a handful of social events open to all attendees, but there are dozens of invite-only parties happening throughout each day. It isn't hard to score invitations to many of these if you begin networking in advance and are friendly and outgoing once there.
Why You Should Attend
- Find new products: At face value, markets are a place to see a massive amount of interior design products in one place. This can include items you’ve only been able to explore online, to discovering brand new vendors and pieces you didn't previously know existed. The convenience and efficiency in having thousands to millions of pieces in one place is clearly valuable.
- Get educated: Whether you are getting a deeper understanding of products you already know of, or are being exposed to something totally new, markets are teeming with both formal and informal learning opportunities.
- Spend time with friends and colleagues in person: if you’ve already started working in the industry, you already have a group of vendors and colleagues you’ve been in touch with, at least virtually. As so many make it a priority to attend certain markets, like High Point, you will get to solidify those online relationships and create a much stronger foundation to build your relationships on.
- Make new friends and professional mentors: People go to markets with the intention of making new professional contacts, which can quickly become friends in the social atmosphere markets offer.
How to Make the Most of Attending a Market
- Plan ahead: interior design markets pack a tremendous amount of possibilities into a very small window, so planning is key. Know exactly which vendors you want to see and find them on the exhibition map so you can determine efficient routes that also allow for some wandering. Make appointments at your favorite showrooms, know which panels you want to attend, and reach out well in advance to get invitations to events. High Point attendees can download the MyMarket planning tool to greatly simplify the process
- Don’t be shy: Networking is one of the most valuable things interior design markets have to offer, but you have to put yourself out there to maximize your possibilities
- Travel smart: Stay in a hotel close to the site so you can stay out longer, know your transportation options in advance, and pack clothes that are comfortable but still represent your professional style.
Interior design insiders know all about markets and how they’re the linchpins of the industry. If you’re just getting started in the field, going to your first market is a lightning fast way to achieve that insider status and be on your way to becoming a professional success!
In fact, registration for High Point Market Spring 2023, taking place from April 22-26, is open now!