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  • Larry Thomas

Tupelo anticipates strong event

Duck Commander CollectionThis seating group with coordinating occasional tables is the latest addition to the popular Duck Commander collection at Prime Designs.
Tupelo, Miss. - Hoping to build on the momentum from a round of successful January furniture shows, organizers and exhibitors at this week's Tupelo Furniture Market are anticipating a strong event that will attract buyers from the Southeastern U.S. and many other regions.
     Organizers say pre-registrations are running well ahead of the February 2013 market, and include more than 500 buyers from large retailers and another 2,500 from mid-size stores.
     "We are extremely satisfied with the results of our marketing efforts thus far," said market President Kevin Seddon, who noted the show's 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space is nearly sold out.
     The show officially opens Thursday, but most showrooms will be open for business on Wednesday, which has become an unofficial opening day in recent years.
     The sizeable pre-registration figures are welcome news for exhibitors, most of whom are confident that actual market attendance will be strong, as well.
     "We're expecting to have good attendance," said Dwight Hardison, vice president of merchandising at leather upholstery resource Simon Li. "We usually see quite a few dealers from the Midwest and the West. It's not just people from the Southeast."
     Jim Sneed, president of promotional upholstery producer Affordable Furniture, said he believes the market's new dates in early February will help attract a larger number of smaller retailers who see a spike in business once tax refund checks start being issued.
     "Refund checks won't start going out until mid-February, so the mom-and-pop stores may feel more comfortable about coming," said Sneed. "When the show is in late February, the timing can be a problem for them."
     In recent years, the February market had been in the latter half of the month, but the dates were moved up for 2014 in hopes of boosting attendance from smaller retailers, in particular.
    "We're anticipating a good market," said Jerry Marlin, vice president of merchandising at upholstery producer Prime Designs and a longtime advocate of the early February show dates.
     Marlin, Sneed and Hardison all said business has been brisk in recent months - except for a late January blip blamed on harsh winter weather in the Midwest and portions of the South.
     "We've added two production lines since early January," said Sneed. "And we've been working just about every Saturday since Thanksgiving."
Burke SofaThe Burke sofa, which features traditional design and an all-leather cover, is one of the first offerings from Simon Li’s new U.S. factory.

      Hardison said Simon Li's motion business has been especially strong, and he believes buyers at Tupelo also will be interested in the company's first two U.S.-made seating groups.
     "We'll be showing a lot of goods from our warehouse program," he said. "Even though we're not really a promotional house, we have a lot of people shop us in Tupelo to round out their assortment."
     The star performer in recent months at Prime Designs has been the licensed Duck Commander collection, which was unveiled at the October High Point Market and will have several new additions this week in Tupelo.
     Marlin said new products will include occasional tables and entertainment consoles that coordinate with the line's featured upholstery pieces.
     Duck Commander will compete for buyers' attention with the Duck Dynasty collection in the Jackson Furniture showroom.
     Jackson, who also debuted its new collection in October, has a licensing agreement with A&E Network, which airs the popular "Duck Dynasty" television series, while Prime Designs has an agreement with Duck Commander, the company owned by the family that stars in the TV show.
     In addition to shopping for product, buyers have the opportunity to attend several "Lunch and Learn" seminars the first three days of market.
     The seminars, conducted by consultants John Egger and John McCloskey of the Profitability Consulting Group, take place in Building 2, seminar room 2016.
     On Thursday, Feb. 6 and Saturday, Feb. 8, seminars titled "Sales and Profitability" will take place each day from 11 a.m. to 12 noon, while "Operations and Profitability" will run from 12:30-1:30 p.m.
     On Friday, Feb. 7, a seminar on delivery will take place from 11 a.m. to 12 noon, while a seminar titled "How to Get, Sell and Keep Customers in a Tough Economy" is scheduled from 12:30-1:30 p.m.
     Other services available to attendees include free shuttles to Tupelo-area restaurants, hotels and private homes, free breakfasts and dinners in Building 6, and discounts at a nearby golf course and skeet shooting range.
    Seddon said more than 100 exhibitors are expected to offer "Tupelo only specials" for buyers who write orders on-site.

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