Tupelo — While the short-term hustle and bustle of Tupelo’s February Furniture Market (TFM) is now several weeks past, TFM president Bill Cleveland hasn’t had time to slow down, as market competition from High Point, N.C., and Las Vegas is never too far from his mind.
“We are committed to continuous improvement in all parts of our business,” Cleveland said. “We listen to the feedback that we receive, and our focus is on being the best Tupelo Furniture Market that we can be rather than trying to copy another market.”
While Tupelo’s February market experienced some changes in format — for example, the long-time Thursday to Sunday schedule was modified to Wednesday to Saturday — Cleveland and his team are weighing other considerations, given broader economic and marketing trends, as well as input from manufacturers and buyers. February market attendance decreased this year, and while some exhibitors stated it was slower-paced, others asserted that order writing was strong, particularly earlier in the week.
“We received positive feedback on the Wednesday to Saturday format from exhibitors and retailers,” Cleveland said. “It’s hard to make everyone happy all the time, but we are always looking at ways to make the market better.”
Some furniture industry executives have indicated that a Tuesday to mid-Friday schedule may be even more attractive, as many tend to prefer to do their buying earlier in the week anyway. However, no decisions have been determined. Another suggestion that is drawing consideration is a potential change in Tupelo Furniture Market dates. Some would like to move the February market to mid-January in an effort to give buyers enough time to stock up their stores before tax-refund time, which has been identified as a busy time of year.
“Tax-return selling season is important, and many have indicated that they would like to place their orders earlier and have their merchandise available,” Cleveland said.
Still others have suggested moving the August market to July.
From a marketing standpoint, the Tupelo-Only Special — a promotion that began last year that is exclusive to the Tupelo Furniture Market — has been and continues to be well received, according to Cleveland. From a hospitality standpoint, he said that progress is being made on the availability and pricing of hotel rooms, and that he believes that the community will continue to play a large role in the market’s long-term success. “People like to come to Tupelo because of its friendly, hospitable environment in which to do business,” Cleveland said. “It’s easy to get around the city, and many buyers like the fact that many of the manufacturers are nearby.”
Linda Johnson, executive director of the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau, agreed that community support has played a big role in the market’s success to date, and noted that the bureau assists the market with funds to support shuttle service transportation for market attendees.
“We’ve been doing this for several years now, and we value the economic impact that the market has on our community,” Johnson noted. “Visitors sleep in our hotel rooms and eat in our restaurants, but they also do some shopping here. We want the convenience and hospitality associated with doing business here to speak for itself.”
While much has been made of the presence of Las Vegas on the furniture marketing scene, Cleveland and others stressed that Tupelo needs to continue to enhance its specific market niche. Traditionally, Tupelo has drawn promotional and mid-priced furniture manufactures and retailers. While some claim that Vegas represents a different type of client base, others state that its importance should not be overlooked.
While an understanding of new competition is a given in the industry, executives such as Jimmy Green, chairman and president of Nettleton-based PeopLoungers Inc. said that Tupelo should focus on its strengths and modify logistical issues rather than trying to reinvent itself into the mold of another market.
“I think some of the suggestions that have been made, such as earlier market dates, as well as a Tuesday start would be a step in the right direction,” Green said.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at email@example.com.