By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – Among the hundreds of furniture showrooms and spaces at the Winter Tupelo Furniture Market are several sellers of hand-made gift items like candles, jewelry, key chains, apparel and purses. Sellers of decorative pillows and monogrammed items also are in the mix.
They aren’t in the wrong place.
Rather, they’re part of the Tupelo Gift and Accessories Market, which runs concurrently this week with the furniture trade show.
These exhibitors, numbering about 70, occupy mainly Building II and part of Building III. Market officials would like to see twice that number in the future.
“We’ve always had accessories in Tupelo, but we’ve picked up more than 30 gift companies,” said Kevin Seddon, TFM President. “Tupelo hasn’t been known as a market that has product for what I call the female retailer – the furniture and accessories and gift retailer. It’s a more of a marketing thing to show that we’re more than just furniture.”
Furniture retailers have evolved over the years, going from a furniture-and-appliances business model to one that sells items for every room in the home. That cross-selling helps bring business to retailers and exhibitors alike.
While the furniture and mattresses are the bread-and-butter of furniture retailers, many have expanded their offerings to include rugs, framed art, lamps and other accessories.
The Tupelo Furniture Market has long included those type of exhibitors, but is now making a strong push for the gift segment.
“A lot of people just haven’t looked at Tupelo as a gift market – they’ve gone to Atlanta, Dallas and High Point,” Seddon said. “Now, by focusing in that area, we’ve gotten a lot of companies that haven’t been here before … One of the biggest reasons we did this was because of the diversification of these furniture retailers. You can’t just sell upholstery now – you have to sell it all.”
The market hired Jamie Jones of Corinth strictly to recruit gift retailers to the market. Jones owns her own gift company, Southern Serendipity, and has been an exhibitor at TFM for a few years.
“I’ve been doing this for about eight years, developing product for the gift industry,” she said. “We have a wholesale line and ship all across the U.S. We’re used to doing large markets like Atlanta and Dallas, but the clientele has dropped. They need a smaller market to go to and shop.”
Jones said she saw a need in Mississippi – and Tupelo, in particular – for a bigger gift show.
“My company has 300 to 400 customers in Mississippi alone,” she said.
Jones had bumped into Seddon at the Mississippi Market in Jackson last year and asked him if the Tupelo market would be interested in a gift market of its own.
“Gift people are a little different from furniture people,” she said. “We go into trends more quickly. I told Kevin I know the connections, the backgrounds, what the vendors need and expect and I know how to make it work.”
Jones took the best ideas from other markets she’s attended and tried to incorporate them in Tupelo.
“We have a lot of hand-made products, not just in Mississippi, but elsewhere,” she said. “Jewelry, frames, art, some furniture, shirts and apparel, home accessories pillows … It’s more specialty marketing and not mass-produced.”
A strictly gifts-oriented market would attract some 150-200 vendors, and Jones would like to see Tupelo grow that big one day.
“We only had about four months to prepare for this one, but in June I’d like to get close to that number,” she said. “I think this being the first gift market, some are leery of the unknown. Plus, we’re right on top of Atlanta’s market. But I think we’ve got a positive response and I think we can grow it.”
The Tupelo Gift & Accessories Market follows the Tupelo Furniture Market hours of Thursday-Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Gift and accessories retail store owners, designers and interior decorators can shop in all six buildings of the market and have credentials to go back and forth. Building I offers similar exhibitors and is open to the public.