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Larry Thomas

Tupelo Furniture Market opens with good order writing

TUPELO, Miss. — Despite modest showroom traffic and sluggish retail business conditions, most exhibitors were pleased with the level of order writing as the Tupelo Furniture Market opened its semiannual show here Thursday.

 Tupelo Furniture Market, Arkansas Home Furnishings Assn.Although he was only a few miles from the birthplace of Elvis, entertainer Jason D. Williams played the piano in the spirit of Jerry Lee Lewis Thursday night at a dinner sponsored by the Arkansas Home Furnishings Assn. during the Tupelo Furniture Market.

Exhibitors said buyers representing several Top 100 retailers were among the earliest shoppers - a few showed up as early as Tuesday - but numerous buyers from small and mid-sized stores in the Southeast and Midwest also were among the opening day visitors.

Much of the order-writing action was centered on promotional upholstery, long the core constituency of the market here.

"It's off to a great start," said Ron Teeter, vice president of marketing at promotional upholstery specialist Affordable Furniture. "Our attendance is up, and the quality of buyers is good."

Jerry Marlin, vice president of merchandising at Prime Designs, echoed those thoughts, noting that the company's sales representatives had low expectations in the weeks leading up to market.

"We are thrilled with the response to our new products at this market," he said. "We have had really good traffic."

Jeff Wallner, vice president of sales at World Imports, said that although overall attendance seemed somewhat lighter than usual, his company was pleased to see buyers from eight Top 100 retailers on opening day.

"It was a pleasant surprise to be that busy, that early with these major retailers," Wellner said.

Dale Ward, president of dining room resource Bernards, said that business has been a little better recently, but retailers are still battling a weak economy. But that didn't seem to slow the pace of orders.

"I would say 90% or more of the people who walk in at this show write us an order," Ward said. "We've always been very happy with the markets here."

Bernards and other exhibitors reported success with Tupelo Only Specials, items available for a discounted price if orders are placed during market.

Craig Smith, president of newly formed bedroom producer Kith Furniture, said his company's first market got off to a fast start.

"We had our sales meeting on Tuesday morning, and began seeing customers as soon as the meeting was over," he said. "And we've been busy ever since."

The market runs through Sunday.

Editor-in-chief Ray Allegrezza and Staff Writer Heath E. Combs contributed to this story.

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