By Dennis Seid
TUNICA – Attendance was light at the start of inaugural Tunica Furniture Market on Wednesday, but organizers and exhibitors said they expected business to pick up by the time the show wraps up today.
Forty-five companies leased space at the market and were spread over three venues: Harrah’s Convention Center, Harrah’s Event Center and Gold Strike Casino. Together, the exhibitors, made up of a furniture manufacturers, lamp and accessories companies and business service providers – filled up about 50,000 square feet of space.
Traffic was sparse mid-morning Wednesday at the convention center, although organizers said a “steady stream” of visitors had been shuttling between the three market locations.
“What’s really important is that there’s written business, and that’s happening,” said market co-founder Scott Morton.
The premise behind the market is that it’s a short two-day affair strategically placed ahead of the lucractive tax season. Retailers and manufacturers eagerly anticipate customers with their refund checks to be in their stores, ready to spend their money.
For small furniture store owners like Pam Collins, who has Warehouse Furniture in Huntsville, Ala., the Tunica market was timed just right.
“We’ve been in business for 40 years, and we’ve been waiting for years to have a market in early January,” she said. “We can’t get to the show in Tupelo because we’re in our stores selling. I’m all for it.”
Nearly half of the exhibitors were in the Harrah’s Event Center, but visitors first had to walk through a gantlet of slot machines and gaming tables.
“It’s a different way of thinking for some people,” said Larry Lang, owner of Wisconsin-based Lang Furniture. “This is new, so give them awhile. The key is getting the info out to a lot of people about the market.”
Lang said he’s set up at other furniture shows in casinos and they went well.
“We’re always looking for new customers,” he said, explaining why he set up in Tunica. “The furniture business is in a slump. Some people are looking for new and exciting things, and a new market is enough to get some of those people buying.”
A couple of exhibitors said it was too early to tell how successful the Tunica market would be.
“We won’t really know how things go until after today,” one furniture company manager said. “Ask me then.”