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IWF's success - a harbinger of better things to come?

For those who measure success by the numbers, the International Woodworking Machinery & Furniture Supply Fair held Aug. 21-24 in Atlanta was a winner.

By the end of day two, show management reported that the number of visitors passing through the Georgia World Congress Center had nearly equalled 1990's four-day attendance. By the close of IWF 92, the total preliminary count of visitors - including furniture, cabinet and millwork manufacturers - had swelled to 23,422, 11.3 percent greater than that of 1990.

Exhibitor personnel registration was said to be down 12.2 percent, from 13,105 in 1990 to 11,492 this year. Nevertheless, total IWF 92 attendance was up 2.2 percent based on the preliminary figures.

Other show records were destined to be broken even before the show began. Timely completion of a 312,000-square-foot addition to the convention center's west hall allowed IWF 92 to pack in more woodworking equipment and supplies than ever before. Whereas IWF 90 had 907 exhibit booths spread over 498,000 net square feet, IWF 92 had 978 exhibitors occupying 583,000 square feet.

No false hopes

IWF 92 was a hit on a subjective level as well. The overwhelming majority of machinery and furniture supply exhibitors WOOD & WOOD PRODUCTS editors talked with during the show qualified IWF 92 as a success. Most of them said their companies had either written up a record number of orders or, at the very least, were enthused by the level of interest from potential buyers of their products.

Whether or not exhibitors are able to convert their promising leads into actual sales will have the most long-lasting impact on their opinion of IWF 92.

Two years ago in this space, I wrote that most exhibitors found IWF 90 to be "better than expected." Many of them looked to the high level of interest in their products at the show as a sign of better things to come. Less than three months later, Operation Desert Storm was in full swing, sluggish construction contracting grew even more tiresome and sales of everything from cars to furniture lagged further still.

1992, while no economic boom year, has seen a reversal in many areas including housing starts and cabinet sales. At an IWF press breakfast, John Boardman, president of Sam Moore Furniture Ind. and the American Furniture Manufacturers Assn.'s representative to the IWF executive committee, said he thinks the furniture industry is on the threshold of the "best 10 years in its history." He added that the AFMA projects a 12 percent growth rate for furniture sales in 1993.

Boardman cited pent up demand for new homes, low mortgage rates and stabilized inflation as some of the reasons for his optimism. He added, "The most significant reason for good business ahead is based upon demographics. The peak furniture buying ages are between 45 and 54. The baby boom started in 1947. Add 45 and you have 1992!"

All of us who make our living from the woodworking trade have good reason to hope that Boardman is right. But based on other recent uplifting predictions that never came to pass, we'll keep our seat belts fastened. There's bound to be some bumps in the road ahead.
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Title Annotation:1992 International Woodworking and Machinery and Furniture Supply Fair
Author:Christianson, Rich
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Words:536
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