Retail uptick benefits Tupelo
Larry Thomas -- Furniture Today, March 11, 2013
TUPELO, Miss. - With the tax refund season in full swing, upholstery producers exhibiting at the recent Tupelo Furniture Market were optimistic as a recent uptick in business has kept factories humming.
Manufacturers said business has been particularly strong since mid-February, when the first refunds began landing in consumers' bank accounts, but many said they have seen business improve since the conclusion of the last year's election campaigns.
"It was a tough third and fourth quarter, but this year has started strong," said Jim Sneed, president of Affordable Furniture. "We were up nicely in January and we've seen another bump in the last week or so."
In most cases, that translated into steady showroom traffic and brisk order writing.
"This should wind up being the best order-writing market we've ever had in Tupelo," said Anthony Teague, senior vice president of sales and merchandising at Jackson Furniture. "We stayed very busy."
Jackson and many other exhibitors reported good showroom traffic the day before the official Feb. 28 opening, and said that pattern continued through the first two "official" days of the market.
Rob Brisley, director of merchandising for Leather Italia, said the company mistakenly scheduled its sales meeting for the afternoon prior to the official opening. The influx of dealers in the company's temporary exhibit space made it difficult to finish the meeting, but Brisley stressed he was not unhappy about the situation.
"Next time, we'll move up our sales meeting to the morning," he quipped. "It's important for us to be here because we see dealers that we don't see in Las Vegas or High Point."
Randy Spak, vice president of sales at American Furniture, agreed, noting that many of the early shoppers came from New York, New Jersey and elsewhere in the Northeast.
"It was not just regional attendance from the Southeast," Spak said. "We were very busy."
Like most of the market's upholstery exhibitors, he said promotional goods drew the most attention from buyers.
He said American did especially well with stationary sofas at $399 and $499 and motion sofas at $699 and $799, while Teague said Jackson had success with a new recliner that retails for $499 to $599 in a padded bonded leather cover.
At HomeStretch, meanwhile, a power rocker/recliner - the company's first such product - was a hit with dealers at $599.
And like virtually all of the HomeStretch line, it will be available on a quick-ship basis from its northeast Mississippi factory, said Vice President Gentry Long.
"That gives our retailers the ability to sell the line without carrying a lot of inventory," Long said.
At Brooks Furniture, a new lineup of contemporary massage chairs with matching ottomans was a hit with buyers, while juvenile furniture producer Kidz World had a winner with the latest expansion of its licensed Disney collection of juvenile-sized recliners.
Don Hunter, a sales executive with Kidz World and its sister company, lift chair producer Med-Lift, said the newest kids recliners retail for $149 and have the images of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Hunter said the new recliners were popular with retailers who have enjoyed success with Kidz World products featuring other characters such as Buzz Lightyear and Cinderella.
"We will begin shipping Mickey and Minnie in April and will be in stock by the April market in High Point," he said.
Ashley Furniture said its promotional upholstery sold well at market, but officials also reported strong interest in a new line of leather motion seating groups that feature sofa price points of $999 to $1,299.
"The consumers who are in the market want better goods," said Kerry Lebensburger, president of sales at Ashley. "They're driven into the store with values, but once in the store, they will step up."