Big Lots wins buyer award at Tupelo Furniture Market

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – One of the reasons for buyers to go to the Tupelo Furniture Market is the ability to tour the plants where the pieces are made, said the recipient of one of the market’s most prestigious awards.
Fortune 500 retailer Big Lots on Friday took home the National Buyer Appreciation Award. Robert Strenski, vice president and divisional merchandising manager of furniture, and Cindy Hughes, Big Lot’s senior buyer for upholstery, made the trip from Columbus, Ohio, to accept the award.
The award is one of two given at each market and is chosen by a committee. It was initiated by the Tupelo Furniture Marketing Association as a way to recognize furniture industry retailers that have consistently supported the state’s furniture industry and TFM.
Tupelo Furniture Market Chairman V.M. Cleveland, a member of the selection committee, said many names came up during the process but the group decided it was Big Lots’ turn for several reasons.
“They are a huge company and they come here every year,” said Cleveland, adding that Big Lots still is growing.
Strenski said he first came to the Tupelo market in the 90s while employed with a Midwest retailer. Hughes has been shopping the Tupelo market for five years.
“I love it here,” she said. “It’s very laid-back. You actually get to spend time with people. It’s not all the hustle and bustle of High Point or Vegas.”
She and Strenski said they like to spend the time in Tupelo building relationships with their vendors. They also like to tour the factories.
“Sometimes it’s hard to visualize when you are buying all those sofas and recliners how they get manufactured,” Hughes said. “It’s very interesting to see it in progress … The manufacturers have tremendous pride in their facilities.”
Strenski said the market also is a good time to see industry trends and look for closeouts, which are sold throughout the company’s 1,400 stores in 47 states.
That’s good news for the Tupelo Furniture Market as it continues to attract buyers and vendors. It’s a point that didn’t go unnoticed by state Sen. Alan Nunnelee during his introduction of Strenski.
“We know you had a choice,” Nunnelee said. “You could go to any market in the world and you came to Tupelo. We don’t take you for granted.”

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.