TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- Prior to the Tupelo Furniture Market's last event, the number most often associated with the show was 25, as in the market's 25th anniversary, which was celebrated in August in conjunction with the fall furniture market.
This spring, however, the biannual event's ownership has a new number worth bragging about: 145.
That's the current number of exhibiting furniture and accessory companies that have chosen Tupelo as their primary furniture venue.
These companies no longer exhibit at one or both of the other two national furniture trade events.
"Tupelo's reach is national in scope, and many internationals attend this event," said Chris Bray, vice president of sales and marketing for Delta Furniture Manufacturing, a leading provider of upholstered furniture in the United States. "We have found, over many years of participating in these events, that if we show in Tupelo, which is located nearer the center of the United States, we can expect to draw buyers from throughout the country. And we have also determined, as have many other companies that exhibit in Tupelo, that we write a lot of orders during this event. We see just about everyone we need to see here in Tupelo."
Kevin J. Seddon, president of the Tupelo Furniture Market, agreed.
The geographic location of the Tupelo Furniture Market offers a great advantage, he explained. "If you draw a large circle around Tupelo that encompasses 300 or so miles, many would be surprised at the major markets from which retailers can drive in for this event," Seddon said. "It's an advantage for Tupelo's market because, in contrast, our competitors are closer to the east and west coasts. A good proportion of their 'circles' fall in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, so drive-in traffic is probably somewhat limited."
Geographic location plays an even more pivotal role for the Tupelo Furniture Market in that buyers are drawn to Tupelo and Mississippi in general because the state is the leading producer of upholstered furniture in the United States.
In fact, Mississippi ranks either second or third each year in total value of household and institutional furniture shipments overall.
"Some trade event locations are picked because there are extracurricular activities available for attendees," Seddon said. "It may be Disney in Orlando, theatre in New York or gambling in Reno. Our location picked us. Mississippi is home to more than 200 manufacturers that service the furniture industry. Buyers come to Mississippi and the Tupelo Furniture Market because it's a primary hub for furniture business. Our slogan, 'We're All Business,' sort of sums this up. Leisure and sightseeing activities probably won't distract participants attending our event. So they don't lose their focus, and we don't lose ours."
Exhibitors may also choose Tupelo as the primary venue for showing their product because the return-on-investment is inevitable. "In our opinion, there is no other trade event in our industry that costs less and gives back more than Tupelo," said Dean Baker, vice president and general manager for Mayberry Rug. "The exhibit space is better priced than other shows. They don't charge for pallet delivery. Their pricing for all of our company's other needs while on-site is less than comparable events. And, of course, we do a lot of business in Tupelo."
Tupelo's market has experienced a substantial uptick in number of exhibitors overall, with more than 110 new companies contracting for exhibit space in the last six months alone and more than 20 of their existing companies expanding.
These new companies—and those that exhibit exclusively in Tupelo—are also drawing many major new buyers to Tupelo.
According to Candace Hall, director of buyer recruitment for the Tupelo Market, many of the leading buyers in the U.S. and the world will be on hand at the spring show. "Leading retailers such as Art Van Furniture Co., Rooms To Go, Ivan Smith Furniture and Gardner White traditionally participate in both our events each year," Hall said. "However, we have placed a major focus on making certain we bring many new faces to Tupelo. American Factory Direct Furniture Outlets, Garden City Furniture, Barrow Fine Furniture and Raymour & Flanigan, as well as FL Davis Home Center, Carl's Furniture City and Bob's Discount Furniture, are just a few retailers that are attending for the first time this spring or have not recently been in attendance but will be returning."
According to Hall, Tupelo's Buyer Recruitment Department has identified and targeted the leading buyers in every state in the country and has developed new, incentive-based programs that have substantially increased registrations for the spring event.
Pre-registrations for the event at this point are up more than 53%, with more than 30% of those registering doing so for the first time.
According to Hall, the numbers are the result of increased focus and new programs in the Tupelo Market's recruiting effort throughout the last year.
However, she also explained that, overall, the market is getting better. "The housing market, job growth, GDP and consumer confidence have all been trending upwards for the last few years," Hall said. "This is good for all industry but especially for the furniture industry."
According to Seddon, who took over as president of the Tupelo Market in May of 2012, "We may be along for the ride, but we're making the most of it!"