"It was wonderful," said Brett Tilley, sales manager for Kith Furniture of Haleyville, Ala. "It was definitely worth it."
It's the third market for Kith, which debuted at last year's fall market. And even though this year's market officially started last Thursday, Tilley said he had a dozen customers come through on Tuesday.
Tilley's experience wasn't the exception. Several exhibitors reported big turnouts and heavy volume, and some even reported their best-ever markets.
Kevin Seddon, the Tupelo Furniture Market's new president, made a concerted effort to get the word out on the market's silver anniversary and its many giveaways. He also wanted to make a strong push for more buyers and exhibitors, and the work seems to have paid off.
"I hadn't spoken to anyone who had a bad market," he said. "Now that's just my experience - other people on our staff may have heard differently. But based on what people told me, some had great markets, some had good markets."
Seddon tweaked the marketing strategy and made several other changes to help bring some excitement back to the market.
"We made the changes we could make and will continue to make more. ... you can always be better."
One of the changes was to make Building I open to the public. It was marketed as "a trade show within a trade show," featuring home furnishings as well as accessories, home decor and gifts.
It brought mixed results.
Some exhibitors who declined to be identified said they were disappointed in what they described as a "glorified flea market."
But Dennis Seid 8/19/12 spelling of his name is cq Groves Shinault said it worked well for his company, Shinault's Country Wood Works of Booneville. He's been making country primitive wood furniture for 30 years and has been a regular Tupelo Flea Market exhibitor. He gave the fall furniture market a shot.
"They've been asking me for four years to do the furniture market, and this was really the first time I've had the chance to do it," he said. "I had hoped for some new customers, some different people to buy from me. I had some good prospects and I also took some orders, so it worked out well."
Another flea market regular, Jamp&L Pear Tree Pottery of Duck Hill, also had a good initial furniture market experience.
Owner Lisa Windham was looking for wholesale customers, and landed some new accounts.
"I'm in retail and wholesale, and I was looking to get wholesale customers. It's been pretty good," she said. "I talked to people as far away as Missouri, Kentucky and Ohio."
TFM owner and CEO V.M. Cleveland said the furniture market will continue to be tweaked for exhibitors and buyers so that they'll keep coming back.
"I've very pleased with the market in every aspect," he said. "It was improved from top to bottom. The attendance was more than double of any market we've had the last five years."
Cleveland plans to hire additional staff and to boost the market's marketing budget by another 25 percent, he said.
"I think we woke the industry up to let them know we're back," he said. "I really think we can grow back into what we were within the next two or three years."