Market business better
Larry Thomas -- Furniture Today, May 6, 2013
HIGH POINT - Exhibitors and buyers left High Point in an upbeat mood as they wrapped up a successful market amid signs of a modest improvement in business conditions.
Showroom traffic was especially brisk through the first four days of the six-day event, and many exhibitors reported solid increases in order-writing - historically an uncommon occurrence here.
Exhibitors said buyers craved fresh products and innovative designs, and seemed eager to get new items on their floors quickly.
"Market week was significantly better than the same market week in the spring of 2012," said Alex Shuford, president of Century Furniture. "We were up over 10% in written business."
Victor Sawan, CEO of metal bed producer Wesley Allen, said showroom traffic was up 35% from October, making it company's best-attended market in 15 years.
"They were coming in and looking at new product and buying new product," Sawan said. "They not only accepted the product, they gave me written orders."
Randy Spak, a longtime sales and marketing executive who joined promotional upholstery producer American Furniture last fall, said it was the best market he has seen in 37 years attending High Point markets - due largely to American's new management team and an overhaul of its product line.
"We had tremendous acceptance of our stationary product, which is our core business, as well as our new recliners," Spak said. "A lot of business came from existing customers, but we opened a ton of new accounts as well."
Ray Steele, co-founder of accent furniture importer Gail's Accents, said showroom traffic was down about 6% but order volume rose 12%. He said buyers generally were optimistic, but still cautious because unemployment remains high even though the housing market is improving.
"Today, they're buying inventory based on what they can sell today, not what they're hoping to sell," Steele said.
Retailer Mike Huber, CEO of Dulles, Va.-based Belfort Furniture and a member of the Market Authority board of directors, described the spring show as "the best market ever" for his company, praising the product his buying team found in showrooms, as well as the market's transportation system.
At a board meeting during market, Huber and other board members voted to award a $50,000 contract to Duke University to study the economic impact of the market and measure it against other domestic and international furniture shows.
The new study, which will update a similar effort completed in 2007, will provide data to help the group in its quest for additional money from various government entities.
Board Chairman Doug Bassett said the new study should be finished in September or October.