DENNIS SEID: Furniture market should be golden

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

This year, the Tupelo Furniture Market celebrates its 25th birthday – its silver anniversary.
It’s a significant milestone that this furniture trade show that started in a hotel meeting room has grown into of the furniture industry’s most important markets.
Yet it’s a market that has seen better days.
Full disclosure: I was at the spring market for only part of two days, so I can’t give you a complete picture of how the market did or didn’t do. But some people called and told me they weren’t quite as thrilled about their market experience as others said they were. No surprise.
Not every exhibitor at the market will have success. Some will have great markets, while some will have the worst they ever had.
The standard response goes something like this: “Traffic wasn’t as good as we hoped, but the ones who came in were buying.”
The truth is, few exhibitors will go on the record to say they had a bad market. Competitors will seize on that perceived weakness and run with it.
And if you’re running a market – any market – you’re certainly not going to say anything remotely negative.
Having covered the TFM for eight years, and having been to markets in High Point, Las Vegas and Shanghai, I’ve seen the good, bad, ugly, strange and questionable. And I also know better than to try to run somebody’s business.
But I’ll offer these talking points from personal experience, as well as from feedback from market attendees:
• There’s no reason why hotel prices in Tupelo for the market should be close to $200 a night. When rooms in Vegas can be found for half the price of Tupelo hotel prices, something is out of whack.
• The state needs to restore its $200,000 marketing budget to the market. North Carolina and Nevada offer seven-figure help to High Point and Vegas.
• The market’s website looks better, but the content hasn’t changed much. There’s still too much outdated – and incorrect – information.
• The buyers’ guides/directories also have outdated and incorrect information. Hotels and restaurants that no longer exist are listed. And new ones aren’t. Little details make a world of difference. Perception is everything.
The biggest – and likely the most controversial – suggestion: Change the market dates.
Clearly, not everyone will be happy if they’re changed. And I’ve lost track how many times they’ve changed. But I heard more unhappy people decrying this year’s spring market dates because they fell in the middle of the all-important President’s Day weekend.
The smaller retailers have a much tougher time than the big boys leaving their stores, especially in the middle of tax season and with the big holiday.
The concern has always been with Vegas’ dates, which usually fall around the end of January. Getting ahead of Vegas is problematic because many exhibitors aren’t going to roll out new products in Tupelo before Vegas. But has having the Tupelo market a couple weeks after Vegas worked any better? Pick your poison.
But why not take the first or second week of January, ahead of the tax season? Buying patterns have changed from 25 years ago.
The Tupelo Furniture Market has been a great asset for the furniture industry and for Northeast Mississippi.
So while it celebrates its silver anniversary, it also should take advantage of golden opportunities to make itself even better.
Dennis Seid is the business editor at the Daily Journal. Reach him at dennis.seid@journalinc.com or (662) 678-1578.