Update: Home furnishings industry reacts to HB2’s impact on High Point Market

The home furnishings community responded in force after the High Point Market Authority issued a statement cautioning that North Carolina’s House Bill 2 could negatively impact the April 16-20 market, and by extension the state’s economy.

The Market Authority said it has heard from “dozens of customers” who plan to boycott the spring market over the controversial bill, which was passed by the North Carolina legislature and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory on March 23 after a one-day session.

HB2 bans discrimination based on “race, religion, color, national origin or biological sex” in businesses statewide but does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes, and it prevents local governments from passing their own broader nondiscrimination ordinances.

“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 HB2 is having on the High Point Market and on the North Carolina economy,” the Market Authority said in its statement. “Based on the reaction in just the last few days, hundreds and perhaps thousands of our customers will not attend Market this April.”

A visit to the Market Authority's Facebook page shows extensive feedback on the law and multiple threats of boycotts, as well as people speaking out in favor of attending the show, despite their opposition to the legislation.

The American Society of Interior Designers, which represents 26,000 interior design professionals, manufacturers and industry representatives, issued a statement April 1 calling laws such as HB2 "unacceptable and counterproductive for business and the profession at large." While the organization will proceed with its scheduled programming at the spring High Point Market, it will "evaluate future interactions and business opportunities in North Carolina as well as other states with similar laws."

"A thriving business environment depends on inclusive practices that welcome all who want to participate," ASID said in the statement. "In fact, North Carolina prides itself on being one of the top states in the nation in which to conduct business and to establish businesses. Yet HB2 sends a clear and harmful message to the contrary. As a result, numerous businesses and consumers are calling for boycotts of North Carolina’s economy and, more specifically, the upcoming biannual High Point Market; one of the largest income producers for the state of North Carolina.    

"Members of the design community have not only joined these calls, but also are forgoing participation at High Point Market — at a cost to their businesses. ASID commends their actions in the name of pressuring the governor and legislature to rescind HB2. 

"Similarly, ASID supports those individuals attending market who wish to champion the many manufacturers and businesses speaking out against the new law. Laws such as HB2 that permit discrimination are regressive and place individuals at risk of being denied service, lodging, employment, and business in general. Therefore, ASID encourages anyone attending market to ask hard questions of the organizations they do business with and to consider carefully, and morally, where they spend their money."

Chris Bruning and his companies, Groovystuff and Chris Bruning Collections, have been attending High Point Market for years, not only as exhibitors in the Suites at Market Square, but also as the organizers and sponsors of Groovystuff by Design, a program that has showcased the accessories and furniture designs of more than 500 students from across the country. Bruning said that after years of supporting and "building up" the High Point Market, he's "exhausted just thinking of how to repair the damage" this has caused the venue.

In a letter to the High Point Market Authority and IMC, Bruning stressed his concerns about safety, dignity and liability:

"Due to the extreme nature the HB2 employs at the expense of individuals that are FREE and ENTITLED to the SAME rights and respect of ALL other FREE and sovereign people, I will have no choice but to look after the safety and well-being of my staff and the customers we choose to do business with and cease all business relations with IMC Properties. If the safety and dignity of those subject to these intolerable laws are put at risk then that action would make Groovystuff directly liable and open to litigation by knowingly and purposefully putting my employees and customers at risk from being forced to do business at the High Point Market.  

"Legal contract or no legal contract, if the safety and human decency of any Groovystuff employees and customers are put at risk by the passage of the HB2, then I will NOT endorse the High Point Market after our contract expires in 2016. Groovystuff will NOT take responsibility for the enforcement of these policies and will not be subject to them where we do business.  In addition, as the President of Groovystuff I do not wish to witness any members of the general public, facilities management, police or state agency abuse the sovereign rights of ANY of my employees, colleagues, or customers courteously visiting the High Point Market to do business. Please advise what can be done to ensure the safety of my employees, customers and the patrons attending The High Point Market or Groovystuff will be forced to remove ourselves from this open liability concern."

In a letter to the editor sent to Furniture/Today, Claus Ihlemann, president of Virginia-based retailer Decorum Furniture, said he, husband Robert Roman and the store's staff will not attend market this spring because of HB2.

"Since 2003, Robert and I have been actively supporting Equality Virginia, and the Human Rights Campaign," Ihlemann said. "It is so important that all Americans can enjoy the same rights and freedom, and that discrimination is fought at every level across this nation. We are both totally shocked by recent developments in both Georgia and North Carolina and cannot remain quiet or indifferent to this situation."

Currey & Company issued a statement last week saying the lighting, accent furniture and accessories manufacturer is "deeply disappointed" by the passage of HB2.

"We oppose this measure to undermine equality for all and discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This legislation is contrary to our core values, which reflect inclusion and diversity as strengths, not weaknesses. Since 1988, our mission statement has been to serve our customers, owners and employees in an exemplary manner through a culture in which all are encouraged to flourish. We take our commitment to these words very seriously and have long enjoyed fruitful, productive relationships with many talented individuals, including members of the LGBTQ community.

"Currey & Company has been conducting business in North Carolina for many years and knows that the spirit of this law is not reflective of the wonderful people with which we have had the pleasure of working. We are looking forward to this year’s High Point Market, and as always, we endeavor to create a warm, inviting environment in our showroom for all to enjoy."

Interior designer Jill Gordon said she will not attend the spring High Point Market because of HB2's passage.

"As an interior designer who deals with many furniture and design companies that are based in North Carolina, I am appalled at the passage of HB2," Gordon said. "I will monitor the companies that I deal with to see their response to this odious legislation and will seek other options for my business accordingly. This law needs to be repealed as soon as possible and I expect all North Carolina-based companies doing business in the interior design trade to zealously work towards this end."

Home Accents Today Staff | News & Commentary

Home Accents Today provides industry news, product trends and introductions, exclusive industry research, consumer data, store operations solutions, trade show news and much more.

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