Furniture market will mark special anniversary

Next year, the Tupelo Furniture Market celebrates an important milestone: 25 years of selling some of the world’s finest furniture to some of the world’s finest retailers.
Having wrapped up the fall market, it’s time for TFM officials to see what they can do to keep the biannual event going strong. Polling its exhibitors and attendees is critical, as is listening to their advice, comments and concerns.
And the fact is, the market’s not going to make everybody happy. No business can do that.
The past 25 years have been eventful, and the next 25 years could be just as interesting. But the good old days are just that – good, old and gone.
But where does the Tupelo Furniture Market go from here to remain a viable and important part of the furniture industry?
In its heyday, the market attracted tens of thousands of buyers. One could hardly get around town, much less the market. The showrooms and exhibition halls were teeming with people.
Tupelo introduced something new and exciting to the furniture industry: A place where the bulk of Northeast Mississippi’s upholstery furniture manufacturers could show their wares in one setting. Promotional furniture had never seen anything of this scale, and the market took off.
When the economy was humming along and the housing industry was thriving, things couldn’t get much better at the market, where exhibitors were on waiting lists.
But then the economy hit the brakes, not once, but twice since 2000. The housing bubble didn’t pop during the Great Recession – it exploded. And let’s not forget China and its impact on the furniture industry since the turn of the century.
Furniture was knocked back on its heels when the economy hit a wall three years ago, and has struggled since. Furniture stores across the country have shuttered and/or filed for bankruptcy protection. Fewer stores mean fewer buyers.
Tupelo wasn’t helped with the opening of Las Vegas’ showy market in 2005, either. Vegas and High Point battled for supremacy, while Tupelo got sandwiched in the middle as everyone jockeyed for position to find the “right” dates.
As the years passed, the pie got smaller, but there were more pieces, too. Tupelo has consolidated its market into one complex – making it more convenient than ever. But there are fewer exhibitors and fewer buyers, too.
What the Tupelo Furniture Market needs is a spark – either internal, external or both – to get some of the excitement back. Having Vegas go away would be nice, but that’s not going to happen. The date of its winter show is where Tupelo needs to be, but that’s not happening either.
TFM Chairman and CEO V.M. Cleveland is an astute businessman, and he doesn’t need advice from me. But here’s hoping the market’s silver anniversary also marks a new golden era.
It’s not just the market, but the region’s furniture industry, that wants and needs a thriving Tupelo Furniture Market.
Contact Daily Journal Business Editor Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@journalinc.com.

Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal