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High Point is for Hospitality? An interview with designer Gary Inman

A designer, author and speaker, Gary M. Inman, Allied ASID, is VP of hospitality at Baskervill and was in on the ground floor of the genesis of Hospitality at Market. Inman has more than 20 years of experience, along with a background in boutique and luxury work.

InspireDesign caught up with Inman to talk all things Hospitality at Market, which will be held in High Point, NC, during Fall Market, Oct. 13-17.

How did Hospitality at Market start?

I was a part of High Point Market’s official “Style Spotter” team in 2014. This gave me a chance to meet the High Point Market Authority leaders and I used that opportunity to promote the concept of a hospitality event at the Market. They were intrigued by the concept and agreed to create an advisory committee of industry leaders to explore the potential benefits to the Market and to the industry. Fourteen of us met in April 2016 and by the end of that meeting, the Market Authority had agreed to launch Hospitality at Market in October of 2016. Step one of the dream was in place.

Why did you feel there was a need in the industry to form Hospitality at Market?

I’ve been shopping at High Point Market for 27 years and I couldn’t understand why my colleagues in hospitality design were content to specify products they had never had a chance to see in person. I don’t believe any designer can reach their full potential, if their only contact with products is via the internet. The other hospitality events I attended—and I’ve done them all—were great for networking but had almost no products to evaluate. My experience at High Point was the opposite. I simply couldn’t see the logic of ignoring the oldest and largest design trade show in the world. Several colleagues have made their first trip to High Point at my urging and, without exception, they were impressed by the content and opportunities and have become advocates for the Market throughout the industry. My mantra then and now is: designers must know products.

But wait, isn’t High Point just for home furnishings?

Great question! High Point Market has always been a great design market for all sectors of architecture and interior design. It truly transcends residential, contract and hospitality limitations. All the major hotel groups have used High Point as a resource for many years, and with the introduction of Hospitality at Market, their numbers are increasing. When you consider companies like Bernhardt, Mitchell Gold, Currey & Company, Kravet, EJ Victor, Surya, Century, Visual Comfort, Phillips Collection and so many more who are major players in the hospitality world, High Point is absolutely a relevant industry event for hospitality designers, hoteliers and purchasing agents.

Now, heading into its third year, how has this “show within a show” grown?

The old cliché, “people are talking,” really sums up the growth of Hospitality at Market. When I first began approaching design colleagues, hoteliers and manufacturers, they were reticent to consider another event. Today, when I mention it to colleagues, their replies are almost always, “Yes I’m hearing great things about High Point.” This organic credibility—or street cred—has exploded with the partnership with InspireDesign. We also have more manufacturers contacting us to participate, and more industry buzz on social media and at other trade events.

From a designer’s perspective, why attend Hospitality at Market?

High Point Market puts the world at the fingertips of a designer. They can see more product, test more chairs, explore finish options, production schedules, cost levels, and opportunities for customization more effectively there than anywhere else in the world. There is also the benefit of meeting the design teams and the management teams. Add to this an extraordinary offering of educational programs, many offering CEU’s and networking events that put designers face to face with the top editors in the industry and the value of this Market becomes crystal clear.

From a manufacturer’s perspective?

For manufacturers, the Hospitality At Market program is bringing them exposure to the top hospitality designers, purchasing agents, and hotel brands. Collectively, these buyers represent billions in spending each year. The logic of bringing these buyers to High Point can’t be disputed.

From a purchasing agent’s perspective?

Purchasing agents need to know products in order to be effective. The more exposure they can gain to product design, manufacturing schedules, and cost, the better their performance. They also have the opportunity to meet the entire executive team in the flagship showrooms and develop relationships that can be tremendously helpful when issues arise and they need direct access to the top management team.

From the hoteliers or brand managers perspective?

Ownership and brand design directors are constantly reviewing design specifications as they craft their new lifestyle brands, existing luxury brands, and mainstream products. It is clearly valuable for them to know what the manufacturing sector is offering. For design directors it can inform and impact their direction of a brand vision. With so many soft brands and lifestyle brands that require a residential flavor and thinking outside the normal prototypical offering, High Point Market seems like a great research lab for them. It gives them an edge in terms of knowing what possibilities exist in the marketplace.

What niche does Hospitality at Market fulfill in a market overcrowded by hospitality events and shows? What’s the key differentiator?

Product, Product, Product. It is hard to overstate the importance of seeing product and being in the company flagship with 60,000 to 100,000 sq. ft. of space filled with their products. This opportunity simply can’t be replicated elsewhere. In a real sense, designers have the benefit of full immersion in the manufacturer’s culture. What better way to determine if a product brand is an appropriate fit for the hotels, clubs, spas, and restaurants they’re designing? Knowledge is power and High Point is all about bringing product knowledge to their audience.

Let’s talk about the evolution of Hospitality at Market. What’s next?

My vision for Hospitality at Market is that we will become one of the top five hospitality industry events in America. This vision is based on the tremendous value of visiting the largest design trade show in the world, coupled with the networking, educational, public relations and editorial opportunities that High Point always delivers. Having InspireDesign as our media sponsor will take this value statement to the world. High Point has the content, and now we have a powerful partner to help us carry that story to hoteliers, designers, ownership groups, purchasing agents and all sectors of our industry. Content and storytelling are a powerful combination.

Any tips or guidelines for those wanting to attend Hospitality at Market for the first time, or for those who may be overwhelmed by the incredible size of High Point Market?

I suggest that they study the Hospitality at Market Directory and form a plan of action for which showrooms they will spend time in. Pre-booking appointments will assure that the hospitality sales team is ready to meet with them. I also suggest that they spend some time in the more design-forward or trend-forward areas such as the Inter-Hall in the International Home Furnishings Center and The Suites and Salons at Market Square. They may find unique design solutions and inspiration in these spaces.

—Corris Little

…and more!