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  • Larry Thomas

Tupelo opens with a chill, but traffic steady

Tupelo, Miss. - Lingering concerns that severe winter weather would cause buyers to cancel travel plans left many exhibitors a bit nervous as the Tupelo Furniture Market began its semiannual run last week.
     Although daytime temperatures here stayed below freezing - well below normal for northern Mississippi - the local weather wasn't the main cause for concern. Instead, it was the ice and snow that had plagued the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast the past two weeks and disrupted flights throughout the country.
     "It can be a killer," Ashley's president of sales, Kerry Lebensburger, said of the harsh weather.
     However, many exhibitors said traffic on Wednesday - an unofficial opening day that one observer described as "Tupelo's premarket" - was on par with past markets and said they were trying to stay optimistic about overall attendance. The official opening day was Thursday.
     "This has always been a good show for us," said Glenn Wakefield, president of case goods and upholstery resource Largo International. "We have a good core of customers who only come here to shop our line. They don't go to High Point."
      Wakefield and others said buyers from Top 100 stores and other large retailers appeared to be out in force on Wednesday, which was a positive sign because many of those same buyers also were at last week's Las Vegas Market.
     "Our people have been writing orders. We're happy with it," said Lee Scott, vice president of sales for the Midwest at Powell. He said he was seeing a cross-section of customers from places as far away as Texas, Nebraska and Michigan, in addition to states closer to Tupelo.
     Don Hunter, national sales coordinator for lift chair manufacturer Med-Lift, said several of his company's sales representatives from states such as Illinois, Missouri and Texas came to Tupelo because retailers from their territories told them they would be attending.
     "That bodes well for the market," Hunter said.
     John Beard, Southeast sales manager at case goods resource Standard Furniture, said about 40 dealers had visited his showroom by mid afternoon Wednesday - a number that had officials there breathing a slight sigh of relief, given their weather concerns.
     "We've actually had a steady flow of customers. It's decent," Beard said.
     For complete coverage of the Tupelo Furniture Market, see the Feb. 17 issue of Furniture/Today.

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