Tammy Nagem’s recent promotion to President and CEO of High Point Market Authority following Tom Conley’s retirement at the end of 2022 continues to mean good things for High Point Market and the buyers who attend. While she only stepped into her CEO/President role last month, Nagem is no stranger to the inner and outer workings of High Point, having been with HPMA for 21 years, 11 of those as Chief Operating Officer. Making this market a better experience for buyers and all involved has been the number one priority on Nagem’s to-do list for a long time.
“High Point provides a different environment. That’s its secret sauce. We have figured out how to turn a market that covers 13 city blocks into an opportunity for buying, whether you’re a retailer, designer, student, selling your own product that supplies the industry…you can find what you need in a relatively small space in an environment that we think is productive and fun,” Nagem says. “As the Market Authority, it’s our job to enhance that so the next generation of buying and selling feels the same way, like it’s made for them.” As the home furnishings industry and buyers are constantly evolving, that’s no small task for the HPMA team. Some examples of how High Point Market has already been enhanced in recent years include improved transportation to and from and around the city, and better information availability to make it easier for visitors to find their way around and what they are looking for.
While much has improved — and much has changed — since the start of her High Point Market career, Nagem’s focus has strived to deliver an exceptional experience for visitors from the minute they register until they board the plane home. Keeping up with a changing buyer audience and delivering on their needs, however, makes this an ongoing process that has to be reviewed and revised time and again.
“Something we’ve been working on for a long time is how to take as much friction out of this market as we possibly can,” Nagem notes.”We are making sure [buyers] have the information they need to make the best decisions.”
“How can we make things easier?” “Where can we save them money?” “What makes this a better market to shop?” These are some of the questions Nagem puts in front of her team as they strategize the best ways to enhance the market experience for all. Many of the tools that answer those questions are already available, Nagem points out; it’s more a matter of getting that messaging out in the ways different attendees
“Technology changes. How people utilize information changes. We have to look at all of that,” she says. Recently, the HPMA website, highpointmarket.org, has been redesigned to deliver easier navigation, the information buyers are looking for, and excitement around market. Those changes are a result of learning what buyers want.
“There are things we can offer, too, to make market more affordable,” Nagem adds. “Lots of people don’t realize that there are rental car discounts, for example. If you use our concierge, we can help you with whatever is important to you regarding your hotel. One of the things I’ve outlined is, ‘How do we tell the story of why you need to come to market, the best way to get here and the best way to plan for it?’”
A Changing Buyer Landscape
While elevating the buyer experience has always been the priority, High Point Market buyers and their needs continue to change frequently, requiring an ongoing evolution from Nagem and her team as to what those needs are and how effectively this market meets expectations.
For example, when she began her career at HPMA, it was a retailers’ market, and designers were mostly turned away. “Today, designers are 60 percent of the buyer base that comes to High Point Market. There are more designers here than any other buying segment,” she notes. “Exhibitors have figured out that designers are an important customer base, but they [designers] buy in a different fashion, and exhibitors need to be prepared to sell to them.” And not all exhibitors are set up to sell directly to designers either. “We can’t change who an exhibitor would like to sell
to but we can get the information out as to who is designer-friendly,”
Education and up-to-date information are hugely important for this buyer segment and others, and Nagem sees the Market Authority’s role as helping buyers and exhibitors understand each other’s needs and the ways they do business.
Creating a Valuable Experience
Beyond the relationships between buyers and exhibitors, much has changed in what attendees are looking to gain from their experience at High Point Market as well. Understanding and creating optimal experiences for a diverse buyer base falls, in part, to Nagem’s HPMA team to assess
“When you look at what designers are looking for from a market, it’s different from what a retailer is looking for. Retailers have a prescribed way they work market. They come in early, and they want to get in and out,” Nagem says. “The designer has looked to us to provide some additional excitement. They want to talk to people who do what they do in a non-competitive arena. They want to be better marketers and understand how others are using social media, for example.”
To that end, part of Nagem’s job, and a larger part of her role going forward, will be delivering those connections and informational opportunities in ways that different attendees prefer to receive them. As such, HPMA focuses its attention some on formal education, such as keynotes, and some on more relaxed round tables and panels in environments around High Point Market — such as The Point.
Preparing for the Next Wave
In addition to ensuring all involved in High Point have a positive experience, understanding how the first-time buyer perceives the market is an important assessent. As such, part of the Market Authority’s role is
bringing in new buyers and then delivering the experiences that will make them want to come back.
“We need to ensure that first-time buyers find High Point Market productive,” Nagem notes. “We concentrate on the first-time buyer because the way people shop changes; there are new product categories that we have to consider. Really looking at this every market with a different focus makes a lot of sense.”
Getting first-time buyers to market, too, requires telling High Point’s story from varied points of view. HPMA engages with buyers and stakeholders — building owners, exhibitors, and even the state of North Carolina — to glean the information and resources that help tell a compelling story as to why High Point Market is so important. “It’s our job to help people understand what’s here, beginning to end,” Nagem says.
In her time as a member of the High Point Market Authority team and now as its leader, High Point Market has been through a lot — 9/11, a recession, COVID. The Market — and Nagem — has weathered them all.
It’s time to look forward, she says. “Now it’s time to make this market even better. Let’s look at what that means for tomorrow. Looking in the rearview doesn’t get us anywhere.”