2010 headed in right direction

I don’t want to jinx things, but I’m seeing a number of signs that suggest that 2010 is headed in the right direction.

For openers, a number of retailers active in home furnishings are enjoying sales spikes. Pier 1 Imports, for example, announced that same-store sales for the five-week period ending Jan. 2 grew 8.5%, while Costco reported a rise in December same-store sales of 9%.

But there is another yardstick that I’ve used over the years to help me gauge how well the industry will fare. I listen to front-line reports from retailers and exhibitors who have attended the first two industry shows of the year — the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market and the Canadian Home Furnishings Market.

The good news: Based on everything I’ve heard, each of these shows knocked the ball out of the park.

Take the Atlanta show. A cold front that left much of the South shivering was unable to turn down the heat on the excitement in the aisles at AmericasMart as retailers aggressively shopped the Atlanta show.

Tom Russell, our case goods editor, was impressed by the volume of new product that vendors such as Four Hands, Palecek, Halo and Bailey Street introduced. Russell, who noted a big push in the area of sustainability, also saw a growing number of vendors offering custom options.

Of all that he shared, I was most optimistic about his sense of dealers breaking the tradition of shopping for best sellers in favor of gambling on more design-driven items as a means of livening up sales floors.

For its part, AmericasMart reported some of the busiest days in the history of the venue.

“The 2010 edition of (our) home, gift and rug shows was a great example of how important and transformational it is to work with exhibitors to promote and aggressively pursue buyers from all across the United States and all over the world. We are flattered and honored that so many retailers chose AmericasMart to spend their open-to-buy,” said Jeffrey Portman Sr., president and COO of AmericasMart.

The reports from the Toronto market were equally upbeat. Retailers used words like “busy, exciting and worthwhile” to describe the event.

And if there’s truth in the cliché about the third time being a charm, then Tupelo, set to welcome 40 new exhibitors, may be well on the way to helping make my perception a reality.

Ray Allegrezza, Editor in Chief — Furniture Today

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