EDITORIAL: Market optimism

By NEMS Daily Journal

The Tupelo Furniture Market 2010 fall session officially opens today at the market complex on Coley Road, and if reports of encouraging pre-market sales activity continue many of the manufacturers and suppliers in Northeast Mississippi will be happier business people by the close of the weekend.
Buyers and buyers’ representatives and out of state sellers began arriving last weekend for pre-market set-up, networking and other preparations, but the crush of business is expected today and Saturday.
While the industry regionwide has suffered some loss in numbers during the past year, new firms, major expansions and strength in long-term companies have offered encouragement that a strengthening economy will grow sales and sustain or increase employment.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s monthly sales report shows retail furniture and home furnishings sales nationwide ahead of the pace for 2009, another encouraging marker.
The leading industry trade publication, Furniture Today, reported Monday that some manufacturers have been running slower production in recent months, and others have run overtime.
Ken Pruett, president of the Mississippi Furniture Association, said the situation is “feast or famine” in the Furniture Today report.
Tupelo, known as the “Upholstered Furniture Capital of the World,” is the center of a region producing huge volumes of what’s known as promotional furniture, which has a wide and popular consumer market, but it is sensitive to economic cycles.
It’s also been reported that American furniture makers, hard hit by movement to cheaper labor markets like China, stand to recapture some traction because transoceanic shipping costs and cargo capacities have become at times problematic.
The larger picture still produces clear facts that furniture is one of Mississippi’s largest economic assets.
A study by the Franklin Furniture Institute at Mississippi State University, using 2006 numbers, placed the total employee compensation impact at $1.7 billion and the overall industry impact at $3.5 billion.
The report said the impact is felt across other industries, too: wholesale and retail trade, transportation, communication services, foam products, and solid wood products.
While the state’s furniture manufacturing is based in Northeast Mississippi, the health of that sector should be of concern to all Mississippians.
More recent reports in the journal, AllBusiness, place the impact, despite a decline in compensation to about $1.4 billion, at nearly $5.5 billion. Employment stands at approximately 20,000.
The Tupelo Furniture Market is the marquee event for the industry in Mississippi. It’s good for the furniture makers, good for the region, and when the market prospers consumer confidence strengthens.