FURNITURE MARKET GROWS AGAIN
By Stephen Singer
The trend of a steadily growing Tupelo Furniture Market continued last week as more exhibitors and buyers attended than at previous trade shows.
Nearly 850 exhibitors participated, an increase from between 700 and 750 at the August 1995 market, said Jala Caldwell, marketing director for the furniture market.
Attendance among buyers was up by 17 percent from August, though Caldwell said market officials do not disclose the number of buyers. Recent trade shows have drawn more than 20,000 retailers.
"We've been growing since we started the market" in 1987, said V.M. Cleveland, chairman and president of the Furniture Marketing Association.
The increase in visitors to the four-day biannual trade show was a boon for some area restaurants. "There was an incredible increase in business," said Mike Kemmesat, owner of Woody's Restaurant in Tupelo. The restaurant's lounge, the Captain's Den, "did exceptional, too," he said.
"It was super. It was great. The week was great," said Guy Jenkins, owner and manager of Gloster 205 Restaurant in Tupelo. The start of the market coincided with Valentine's Day, giving the business an even stronger boost, he said.
Success at the market varied among exhibitors. To Richard Harrison, owner and sales manager of Baldwin Dinettes in Loxley, Ala., the market was "very mediocre."
Harrison said he has attended all the Tupelo markets and "this was close to the bottom." The market has gotten too big, he said. "That's the whole problem ... Bigness has hurt us rather than helped us."
With completion of building IV following last February's trade show, the market added 250,000 square feet to the 1 million square feet already available.
Despite his grumbling, Harrison said he will likely return. "I love the Tupelo market. I'm not discouraged. I will probably keep going back."
The policy of market officials is not to have bigger trade shows, Caldwell said. "We're trying to reach a point where we offer all goods retailers want," she said.
The High Point, N.C., furniture market has 7 million square feet of display space, Cleveland said. "We're a long way from being too big. We're a long way from topping out," he said.
In addition, the use of van shuttles between the market on Coley Road and the Tupelo Municipal Airport and downtown areas demonstrates that market officials have come up with a "system to handle a bigger show," Cleveland said.
More from exhibitors
For Steve Widner, sales manager of Oakwood Furniture Mfg. Inc. in New Tazewell, Tenn., the market was excellent. "I'd say it was fantastic," he said. Widner, who said he has been to all the Tupelo markets, said sales orders increased from last year and business was better than at any previous market. "Everything was real good."
"If someone tells you he made money, he's lying," said Bobby Pannell, owner of Clay Brook Furniture Mfg. Inc. in Ecru.
Pannell said he sold the equivalent of about a half-week's work. "We didn't make enough business to write anything about. The way I look at it, the furniture industry is in a slump," he said. "We could have gone home Saturday at noon and had the same market."
Clay Brook's 200 employees have been on the job for four-day work weeks since about early February, Pannell said.
Still, he said he believes he will make some money from the market. "In 45 days, I can be telling you more about it."
Pannell said he doesn't believe the Tupelo market has gotten too large. "The bigger it gets, the more people we'll have to participate in it," he said.