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Larry Thomas

Market attendance expected to run even with last October

HIGH POINT — Market attendance was flat to slightly higher, but ridership on the market's shuttle system continued to show significant increases, Market Authority board members were told Wednesday.

Market Authority President Tom Conley said buyer registrations were about 2.5% ahead of the October 2012 event. However, once final numbers are calculated and duplicate entries are eliminated, he believes registrations and attendance will be essentially even with a year ago.

"The early registration figures weren't as strong as they had been in the past, but people are deciding to attend later in the registration cycle," Conley told board members.

Board Chairman Doug Bassett said even a slight uptick is a positive sign for the market, noting that the October show historically has been weaker than the April market.

"The quality of the buyers who were here was outstanding, and if we're showing increases with a slightly shrinking pie (of retailers), that says good things about our market share," said Bassett.

Tammy Nagem, vice president of operations, told board members that hotel shuttles, as well as shuttles to the Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C. airports, were especially busy. She also said final ridership counts are likely to show notable increases over last October's market.

She told board members extra vans and buses were needed for eight of the 22 hotel shuttle routes at some point during market because of heavy demand. She added that an application allowing market-goers to track movements of downtown shuttles in real time proved to be extremely popular.

In a related matter, Bassett told board members he believes state funding for the Market Authority will remain steady at about $1.8 million for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2014.

"I believe we're in a much more stable position than we've been in years past," he said, noting that the state provides about one-third of the Market Authority's budget. The state funds are used for marketing and promotion, and to operate the transportation system.

Earlier this year, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory proposed phasing out all state funding for the market, but it was quickly added back into this year's budget amid protests from furniture industry executives and community leaders.

In other business, the board welcomed a new member, Universal Furniture President and CEO Jeff Scheffer, and approved his appointment to the executive committee. Scheffer is replacing longtime board member former chairman John Bray, who is president of Vanguard Furniture.

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