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  • Jennifer Marks

Got Moxie?

This is a story about how one company can turn an industry on its ear. It's set in High Point, N.C., home to the turbulent furniture industry, which only recently has begun to grapple with the trends of big-chain consolidation and Chinese imports that over the past few years roiled the domestic home textiles business.

The High Point furniture market is large — like Heimtexil on steroids. Getting through the 10-day market is a colossal task with week-long “pre-markets.” However, between consolidation and imports, attendance over the past couple of years began falling off significantly. The trend accelerated after the new Las Vegas World Market Center held its inaugural show last July.

Lifestyle Enterprise, a Chinese company, has a lot invested in High Point, specifically, a huge pile of a showroom built after the fashion of the Forbidden City's imperial palace. Its chairman, William Hsieh, was concerned about the declining attendance at High Point and the rising threat of Las Vegas, whose second show is taking place this week well in advance of High Point's March pre-market week.

So Hsieh decided to hold a show of his own ahead of Las Vegas Market.

He invited the furniture industry's top accounts to visit Jan. 16-18, paid for their airfare and hotel rooms, arranged their transportation between airport, hotel and his showroom and flogged the daylights out of the event in the industry's trade paper. (Full disclosure: Furniture Today, like HTT, is owned by Reed Business Information.) He also announced that the company would give away a BMW 2.5i Roadster convertible and a Mercedes SLK during the show.

Lifestyle Enterprise's promotion of its one-company mini-market created such a stir that when all was said and done, 500 buyers from 350 accounts made their way to High Point and roughly 60 of Lifestyle's competitors were compelled to open their showrooms. Millions of open-to-buy dollars that might have been spent this week in Las Vegas were instead captured days earlier in High Point.

All of Lifestyle Enterprise's competitors — and the company itself — were wringing their hands over the changes taking place in the furniture industry, even executives opening showrooms in Las Vegas. The difference is Lifestyle did something about it. The event was such a phenom that one of the company's chief rivals — and a mover in the furniture industry's 2005 anti-dumping campaign against Chinese companies — announced that Hsieh might have single-handedly saved the High Point market.

The point is this: All it takes is one person with a great idea — and one company with moxie enough to set the vision in motion.

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