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  • Jerry Epperson

Market feels stronger, so recession may be past

Jerry EppersonJerry Epperson - An Insider’s View
The experts are saying that traffic at last month's High Point Market was flat to up slightly. That may be accurate, but it does not describe the market. Attendance numbers do not reflect how long people stayed at market nor their attitudes and buying intentions.
     Yes, it always varies around the market, but I can state without hesitation that the elevators were packed in the Commerce wing of the International Home Furnishings Center (the best elevators as we all know) Saturday through Monday. Since my electric scooter and I take the space of about five normal humans, it was difficult for me to move floor to floor.
      Was I unhappy? No. I take great delight in seeing crowds. Besides, if I am in a hurry, I can get a running start and the crowds in the elevator almost always get out of my way. Almost always.
     Conversations with retailers from nearly everywhere were more upbeat than I have seen since 2005, and the consensus outlook for 2014 was optimistic.
     My hotel room overlooked the Showplace parking lot and there was a steady flow of people most days, but less on the one rainy day.
     By the way, thanks to Surya, the Beach Boys played hit after hit, which I could hear very clearly in my room. One hour and 45 minutes of music and I could name every song. Of course, my wife and I heard them in concert at the University of Virginia in 1968, so this was fun, fun, fun for us, just like then.
     The high-end folks north of the IHFC did not fare well Saturday or Sunday, but Monday was much better.
     A longtime La-Z-Boy dealer said its showroom was its best ever, AICO got all the wows this market with its new showroom, the mattress guys had lots of new "cool" stuff and it seems like almost every piece of furniture now has an electric cord.
     I am almost scared to say it, but the recession may finally be in the past.
     Dealers I visited with were staying longer and looking to really update their assortments after allowing their floors to go stale.
     Rolling around Inter hall, I saw several major retailers. Since Inter hall houses mostly smaller companies' offerings, I was surprised, but all were looking for new ideas.
     For the first market since 2006, I saw more smiles than pouts and more young people, hopefully getting into our industry.
     As an industry economist, better times lift a great weight off my shoulders. Now, if I could get rid of weight elsewhere, that would be great.

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