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Thomas Russell

Atlanta market starts slow, but exhibitors still optimistic

ATLANTA — For some exhibitors, the summer Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market got off to a slower start than they anticipated, dashing hopes for a boost in midsummer sales activity. But those exhibitors were optimistic that traffic and written business would pick up early this week as the show continues.

"We have had traffic, but it was light traffic on our floors," Mike Howarth, president of case goods manufacturer Englishman's Fine Furnishings, said on Saturday morning. "We expected to see a lot more. The designer traffic has started to come back, but it's definitely slower."

Exhibitors like Englishman's that have permanent spaces here in Atlanta rely on the show largely to see designers. Howarth said his company had written some orders since the show opened on Wednesday, July 11, but he was hoping for more.

Officials at case goods manufacturer Halo also noticed traffic was lighter than usual for a July show. They attributed a decline in designer traffic to the still-tepid greater Atlanta housing market.

Sam Pasha, of upholstery resource Pasha Home Fashions, said traffic through Saturday morning was slower than in a typical July. Particularly noticeable, he said, was the lack of buyers from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Panama and even Canada.

Others, however, said early traffic was at least steady.

"We are outpacing last July, which is a relief because last July was nothing to write home about," said Michael Ricks, president of case goods importer Furniture Classics. "I am pleased. If we can continue at this pace, I will be very happy when I leave on Monday."

Officials with first-time exhibitor French Heritage said they were pleased with the first half of the show and saw many designers that they don't normally see in High Point.

"Here I am meeting tons of people who love our line, but who don't know us," said Henessy Wayser, vice president of the upper end case goods and upholstery resource. She said the company also wrote some orders.

"People are excited to see us and that is what is invigorating," she added. "They are excited to have found us and can't wait to start working with us."

A number of rug exhibitors also reported slow traffic at the Atlanta International Area Rug Market, which runs in conjunction with the Gift & Home Furnishings Market. Most rug exhibitors said the July market is slower than the January edition and more appointment-driven.

Allen Robertson, vice president of sales with Capel, said the company's appointment-setting customers have recently changed buying habits. "We're finding that approximately 20% of appointment accounts are making orders opposed to 50% in recent years," he said.

Ricks of Furniture Classics, and others who saw slower traffic earlier in the show, said that they have written some business up to this point. However, they are hoping for more traffic and orders by the time the show officially ends this Wednesday, July 18.

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