TUPELO FURNITURE MARKET: Show opens Friday, activity already under way

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Fusion Furniture made its debut at last year’s Fall Tupelo Furniture Market, hoping to make an impression. It did.
“It’s been a big year,” said company co-founder Bo Robbins. “We’ve been really blessed.”
The Ecru-based upholstered furniture company wowed buyers with its splashy look and enticing “where style meets value” catch-phrase.
Having grown to 60 employees, Fusion celebrates its second year at this week’s Fall Market, ready to build on the past year’s success.
“There were a few months when it slowed down a bit and we had to work some short work weeks,” Robbins said. “But this whole summer we’ve been working 44-hour weeks, and even some 48-hour weeks.”
Robbins hopes to keep that run going with a good week at the market. Early signs are encouraging.
On Wednesday, at least a half-dozen buyers visited Fusion before lunch. And this year’s fall market doesn’t officially begin until Friday.
“I really didn’t expect anyone until later today or tomorrow,” Robbins said. “I didn’t even have a sales meeting planned until Wednesday afternoon.”
Fusion wasn’t the only furniture showroom open and ready for business. Ashley, United, Lane and Affordable were among several exhibitors already attracting visitors to the market, two days before its official start.
For newcomer Global Furniture USA, the Fall Market is its first opportunity to show its sleek contemporary designs in Tupelo.
“It’s hard to know how we’ll do with the other shows being down due to the economy,” said Global’s Lee Berman. “But we wanted to see how we might do here. The style alone is different from anything else; it’s very contemporary and stands out a little. Of course we’re hoping for the best. But even if we just get people talking about us, maybe that will get them to buy from us later. It’s about getting our name out there.”
With plenty of name recognition, the nearby Ashley showroom was teeming with furniture dealers.
Ashley Vice President Michael Pittman said the company had put a special emphasis on working with dealers to help them market and sell Ashley.

Marketing the market
From traditional marketing and advertising to social media marketing, Pittman said Ashley was making a concerted effort nationwide to work closer with its retail partners.
“The product is available; the key is to get the consumer in your stores and help them live better,” he said. “You want them to be happy and tell other people they went to Ashley and got what they wanted.”
After another successful run at the summer Las Vegas Market, Ashley, like other exhibitors, had to quickly turn around to get its showrooms ready for Tupelo.
The short spacing between shows has been an aggravation for some, but Ashley will go where its customers are, Pittman said.
“Tupelo is important to us and we want to be here,” he said. “We look at this as a special market and we’ll have good attendance. And the dealers who come, we usually do write orders.”
In Building VI, Janet Harris, the director of customer relations for Steinworld, was busy with her team setting up its space with accent pieces, lighting and occasional furniture.
“Tupelo’s always been good for us and we’re looking forward to the market,” she said.
While the economy has yet to turn around, Harris said she’s noticed consumers seem to be changing their spending habits – a little.
“We’re seeing sales go up some,” she said. “People were a lot more reluctant in the past year, but now people are starting to pick up a few more pieces.”
Other exhibitors also were getting their showrooms and spaces ready for the fall market, with scores of workers unloading boxes, assembling furniture and making last-minute finishing touches.
Even more buyers are expected today, the unofficial start to the market.
V.M. Cleveland, the Tupelo Furniture Market owner and CEO, takes it all in stride.
“We know that many of the bigger buyers like coming in early and getting their business done before the weekend,” he said. “Believe me, we’re not about to lock the doors on anybody.”
And for all buyers, the market is probably more convenient than ever. It was once spread across two major complexes – the Mississippi Complex and the main six-building Tupelo Furniture Market campus.
But most Mississippi Complex exhibitors have migrated to the Tupelo complex in the past two years through attrition.
Two months ago, Caye Home Furnishings in New Albany announced it was shuttering operations, and it was the last major exhibitor in the Mississippi Complex. So, buyers at this and future furniture markets in Tupelo will be able to do all their shopping under one roof.

Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.

Fall Tupelo Furniture Market
• Friday through Sunday
• Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Open to registered retail buyers and dealers only
• For more information, call (662) 842-4442 or visit tupelofurnituremarket.com.