Creative Genius Podcast

Season 3 Episode 9

Your Home Away From Home at Market (Neil Mackenzie)

Your Home Away From Home at Market (Neil Mackenzie)

With so much to see and so much territory to cover, it can be a challenge for weary designers to find a place to roost at High Point Market.  Universal Furniture has got you covered, with food, drink, a place to store your stuff, learning events, welcoming staff, and a huge showroom offering something for everyone.

In this podcast Gail and Erin chat with Neil Mackenzie, vice president for marketing, Universal Furniture, High Point, North Carolina.  Recently promoted from director of marketing, a position he has held since 2015, Neil is responsible for overseeing the evolution of the company’s brands, Universal and Universal To the Trade, including its digital presence on the web and social media, which recently underwent a major renovation.  He also initiated Universal’s highly popular educational and social event offerings at High Point Market.

The past year has been a difficult year for designers in some ways, particularly with shortages and delays of products and materials.  Erin asked Neil what sorts of challenges Universal has had as a manufacturer.  The number one challenge, he said, has been setting and resetting customers’ expectations regarding availability of products.   Because all of Universal’s products are manufactured overseas, another major challenge has been the scarcity and rising cost of cargo containers to ship goods that are ready for market.

Following up, Gail asked Neil if he had any advice for designers on how best to deal with the current situation.  He suggested pre-ordering, as soon as possible, to get your order in the queue.  “It’s very challenging right now,” he said, trying to keep up with the demand and managing the logistical problems on a number of fronts.  However, he added, “there seem’s to be now a little bit more acceptance of, I’m going to have to wait a  bit.”  Customers are recognizing they need to build some leeway into their timelines.

Gail asked Neil how Universal works with designers.  “We want to be your home away from home,” he replied.  “We want to be your base camp at Market, a kind of staging ground for your visit.”  Also, he said, we try to be easy to transact business with, to be approachable and accessible, and to be a good partner and support the business in whatever ways we can.”

Neil mentioned that currently Universal has licensed collections with model and businesswoman Miranda Kerr and Coastal Living magazine.  Erin and Gail wanted to know, if a designer wanted to develop a line of product with Universal, how they would go about that.  The main thing they need to ask themselves, said Neil, is, “What can I bring that the manufacturer doesn’t already have in the way of product and an audience?”  The product should fill a hole for the manufacturer, and the designer should have an established voice in the marketplace, preferably with an audience that is not yet familiar with the manufacturer but would be a good fit.

Looking ahead, Neil is optimistic that the current high demand for interior design services and products will continue for at least the next year or two.  “People have a new appreciation for how they want their home to work for them,” he said, and many have built up resources that they can spend on renovating their homes.  Harkening back to the earlier discussion about shortages and delays, the bigger question for him, he noted, is, “If this keeps happening, how do we keep up?”

Neil had lots more to share about what Universal has planned for Spring Market 2021, which takes place June 5 – 9, and how it will be “a bit more normal” than Fall Market 2020.  Listen to the entire podcast for more details.

Mentioned in This Podcast

You can get more information about Universal Furniture, including its collections and other products, its special order upholstery program, and its To the Trade program at

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