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Multi-billion dollar NC furniture market reports attendance drop after HB2

Multi-billion dollar NC furniture market reports attendance drop after HB2
In this April 16, 2016 photo, a statue draped in a rainbow flag showing support against HB2, North Carolina's law on LGBT rights, is displayed at Whitehall Antiques showroom located in the Suites at Market Square, in High Point, N.C. Photo: (Jessica Nuzzo/The Enterprise via AP)

HIGH POINT, N.C. (AP) — Fewer people are attending a world-renowned furniture market in North Carolina, where state law defines which bathrooms people can use and limits legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Attendance at the High Point Market’s fall event dropped 2.4 percent compared to October 2015. The spring event also drew about 1,000 fewer registered attendees than in April 2015.

High Point Market Authority CEO Tom Conley didn’t respond Monday when asked how much calls to boycott events in North Carolina over House Bill 2 are to blame.

The taxpayer-supported authority was one of the first North Carolina business groups to warn the law could hurt commerce. The twice-a-year markets together generate about $5 billion in statewide economic activity.

The 2015 fall market for wholesale furniture buyers and sellers had been the best in five years, so October’s registered attendance of 77,036 is still strong, Conley said in a news release last week. It’s nearly 1 percent higher than in 2014, he said.

The spring market held in April was marked by a social-media campaign urging a boycott after North Carolina lawmakers in March voided a Charlotte anti-discrimination ordinance and imposed the new rules statewide. Some of the roughly 20,000 retail and interior-design companies that usually attend the five-day event stayed away.

Buyers for Williams-Sonoma Inc. retail outlets, including Pottery Barn and West Elm, were among those boycotting in April; company spokeswomen did not respond to messages asking whether buyers attended last month’s market.

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