‘Lots of positives’ from winter market

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Winter Tupelo Furniture Market wrapped up Sunday, with market officials and attendees giving the event high marks for the most part.
Attendance was difficult to gauge, however. Some exhibitors said traffic was down, while others said the amount of orders they wrote made up for any drop-off. Others said they saw more traffic than the fall market in August.
Southern Motion had no complaints. The Pontotoc-based company is building on momentum it’s had since the fall. The company has added 150 employees since October.
“We’ve had a lot to be thankful for,” said G Lipscomb, vice president of sales. He said the company has been working on Saturdays to keep up with demand. And the orders from the market should keep them busy.
“We’ve had great traffic,” he said.
Tina Wilburn of Tupelo-based Country Road said overall attendance was a little slower than expected, but she said Saturday was the company’s busiest day.
“We were so busy we turned away some people,” she said. “But the other days were kind of slow. Although, we have seen some new customers. About 75 percent of our orders have been new customers, and that’s a wonderful thing.”
Wilburn also said one large order “made our market.”
For startup company HomeStretch, the Winter Market was its first big introduction.
“So far so good,” said company vice president Gentry Long.
HomeStretch president Skipper Holliman said the dealers who were expected to attend the market did show, and additional buyers also visited the HomeStretch showroom.
“Now we head to Las Vegas and we see where we stand after that,” he said.
The Las Vegas Winter Market is Feb. 1-5.
Louis and Kathy Torrans, owners of Torrans Manufacturing in Jefferson, Texas, had hoped for higher attendance at the market, which they’ve attended for seven years.
The Torrans make 1950s-style metal lawn furniture, and they normally write more orders during the January market as retailers prepare for the spring and summer.
“But the economy is still tough for a lot of retailers,” Kathy Torrans said. “We showed in Chicago, and it was the same way.”
Erick McDowell of upholstery maker Jamco Manufacturing in Belmont said he was pleased to get major accounts to drop by his showroom but was surprised to see smaller independent retailers than usual.
Despite the mixed results, TFM chairman and CEO V.M. Cleveland gave the Winter Market two thumbs up.
“We saw lots of positives,” he said. “It was better than the last market, we had more buyers, and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from both exhibitors and buyers. They’re looking ahead at 2010. We certainly hope we’ve hit bottom after last year.”
Cleveland said many exhibitors told him they had a good market.
“But there’s nobody who doesn’t want more buyers,” he said with a laugh.
The Lane Home Furnishings showroom saw its share of buyers, said company president Greg Roy.
“It’s been good,” he said. “We had a lot of success with our limited quality items and we were able to move our cut-and-sew sets and other rolled inventory that we otherwise might have had to write off.”
In addition to the closeouts, Lane also offered new inventory to customers, giving them a blend of products from which to choose, Roy said.
It was the second showing for Lane at the Tupelo Furniture Market. Previously, the company had buyers visit its facility off McCullough Boulevard.
“We get more walk-by traffic here at the market and it gives us more visibility,” Roy said. “It’s good for us and it’s good for the market.”
Like Roy, Country Road’s Wilburn said Tupelo has its advantages. And she’s going to focus on the good news she got from the Winter Market and moving ahead.
“Obviously we’d like to see more customers, but we are medium to high-end and we have a niche line,” she said. “But we’re staying positive. We’re not going to do Las Vegas or Denver. We’re going to keep our showroom open all year and bring customers in. We’re going to let the dust settle and we’re going to make it good. 2010 is a new year, a fresh start. Tough times don’t last.”