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Larry Thomas

Tupelo busy despite weather

TUPELO, Miss. - Even though they heard a lot of grumbling about severe weather and its impact on retail business, most upholstery producers recorded a successful Tupelo Furniture Market here as they were shopped by buyers from a variety of small and large retailers.
     Many exhibitors were hit with several last-minute cancellations from sales representatives and buyers - especially those trying to travel from the snow-covered Midwest - but still had decent showroom traffic.
     "It was fairly steady for us ... and we did open some new accounts," said Gentry Long, vice president of motion furniture producer Homestretch. "We still see a lot of accounts who don't come to High Point."
     Long and most other executives said showrooms were busiest on the official opening day of the four-day market and the day before the official opening.
     "There were some good retailers at the show," added Ron Teeter, vice president of marketing at promotional upholstery specialist Affordable Furniture. "We're pleased with our business."
     Teeter and Long agreed that recent winter weather has disrupted retail business in many areas of the country, but said they haven't seen a significant drop in incoming orders.
     Both Mississippi-based companies, in fact, have added production lines and scheduled several Saturday overtime shifts in recent weeks.
     "Despite hearing from a lot of retailers that their January business was off substantially, our business has been great," said Teeter.

Fusion Furniture combined bright colors and neutrals for this sharp-looking modern sofa that was a hit at the Tupelo Furniture Market.
Fusion Furniture
Leather ItaliaLeather Italia had success with an occasional chair program featuring bright leather covers.
This eye-popping occasional chair was a market winner for domestic producer J. Henry.
J. Henry
Brooks FurnitureGlider rocker resource Brooks Furniture scored a hit with its new Legacy Oak wood glider.
This two-seat stationary sofa design was popular with buyers in the Jackson Furniture showroom.
Jackson Furniture

     At market, exhibitors said they had especially favorable responses to frames covered in fashion-forward colors, florals and geometric designs, as well seating groups that included throw pillows. Stationary upholstery producer J.
Henry, for example, had particular success with a five-piece fabric sectional with a choice of arm styles that retails for about $2,199, as well as a sofa covered in a leather-like material called Neopello Leather.
     "People like our color choices and the fact that it's all made in America," said company President Virgil Henry. "We even do all of the cutting and sewing of the covers in our (Mississippi) factory."
     The made-in-America story was a popular one in most showrooms, and it even resonated at leather upholstery resource Simon Li, an importer that opened a factory in Tennessee last fall.
     Dwight Hardison, vice president of marketing, said the company is making two seating groups domestically now but plans to expand quickly if demand for domestic goods continues to grow.
     "I hope to be making six groups there by the end of the year, including some with two leather cover options," said Hardison. "There should be a lot of pent-up demand out there."
     Multiple cover choices was also a prime topic in the Jackson Furniture showroom, where the company continued to promote its Custom Creations program, which includes more than two dozen frames that are available with three cover choices at the same price.
     Anthony Teague, senior vice president of sales and merchandising, said stationary upholstery frames in the program, which carry the Jackson brand name, will begin shipping in late February, while its Catnapper motion frames will begin shipping in late March.
     "We're working to show the consumer (cover) options not only with color, but with texture," said Teague.
     The company also is targeting late February for the initial shipments of its licensed Duck Dynasty collection, which also was popular with buyers in Tupelo, he said.
     Competitor Prime Designs also enjoyed success at market with its licensed Duck Commander collection, which is named after the company that is owned by the family who stars in the "Duck Dynasty" television show.
     Jerry Marlin, vice president of merchandising at Prime Designs, said buyers were especially receptive to new sofa fabrics that didn't incorporate a camouflage design, as well as the addition of domestically made, solid wood occasional tables to several seating groups.
     "Not everyone likes camouflage, and we have the ability to offer several cover combinations that aren't camo, but include the Duck Commander logo," Marlin said.
     He said the additions to the collection were "more than well-received" and will begin shipping to retailers in about 60 days.

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