By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Organizing and leading a trade show is nothing new for Kevin Seddon, the president of the Tupelo Furniture Market.
He was the former CEO of Oxford Publishing, which produced some of the hospitality industry’s leading trade magazines as well as one of the largest food and beverage trade shows in the world. He also co-founded and was part-owner of the New York Pizza Show, which he managed for its first two years.
So a furniture trade show is right up his alley.
Seddon was named president of the furniture market in late April, and his first fall market is this week.
As the expression goes, Seddon hit the ground running.
“I’ll make the analogy of being a race car and we’re making modifications as we make it down the track,” he said.
Seddon steps into a position that was last held by Bill Cleveland until 2010.
Tupelo Furniture Market Chairman V.M. Cleveland said he was looking for new, creative ways to jump-start the market, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this week. Cleveland was talking with Ed Meek, one of the founders of the market, and Meek mentioned Seddon.
“Ed talked about how proficient he was and what a great job he did with Oxford Publishing and the trade shows,” Cleveland said. “I interviewed Kevin and he liked us and we liked him.”
As president, Seddon oversees sales and marketing for the nearly 2 million-square-foot market complex, which hosts furniture markets twice a year, in addition to other events.
Cleveland said Seddon will be in charge of day-to-day operations of the complex.
“He’s brought energy and effort to the market and just been a breath of fresh air,” Cleveland said.
Seddon downplays his boss’ praise, but it’s clear he’s applying his knowledge and experience with the trade show industry to the furniture market.
“We want to put systems in place for our sales staff – things just don’t happen,” he said. “There’s mailings, materials, e-blasts … many things that weren’t in place. The sales people didn’t have direction.”
Seddon said the biggest transition for him has been the fast-track learning of the market’s operations.
Cleveland said the furniture market complex is a 12-month operation, not only two months of the year.
“We have 34 acres under roof here, but few people realize that,” he said. “Most trade shows are around 100,000 square feet. I feel with Kevin’s energy and effort, it won’t be long before we can grow the market and perhaps expand again.”
Seddon said just because the Tupelo Furniture Market has “furniture” in its name doesn’t mean it is the facility’s sole focus.
TFM also hosts boat shows, RV shows, gun and knife shows, the monthly Tupelo Flea Market and community events such as Celebration Village.
“We want to have events throughout the year,” Seddon said. “We don’t want the furniture market to carry the whole load.”
The biannual furniture markets have been the bread and butter for TFM, providing cash flow to fund other events and activities at the market.
But it’s also those other events that help keep rates low for exhibitors at the market.
In addition to this trade show background, Seddon previously was owner and CEO of Vision Creek Enterprises, a national marketing company. He said the position gives him a marketing perspective that may have been missing from the Tupelo Furniture Market.
He can’t do everything at once, and he’s still learning the ins and outs of the furniture industry.
“Right now, it’s about setting priorities,” he said. “We have to get through the fall market first.
“But it’s important when you get systems in place that everybody knows his or her role and their job. You have to get the core of the business operating first. You do that, then you’re able to execute.”
Seddon sees “a lot of opportunities” for the furniture market.
He said the Tupelo Furniture Market’s central location, convenient access and low cost of doing business make it an ideal venue. It’s a message the market has pushed for years, but Seddon plans to push it harder.
“We’re not a regional market,” he said. “We’re pulling from 40 states for this market. That makes us a national market. We may be a regional show, but we pull from a national audience.”