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BEATING THE TRAFFIC; ATTENDANCE MAY HAVE BEEN DOWN, BUT VENDORS SAID HIGH POINT HAD THE WRITE STUFF.

HIGH POINT, N.C.-Almost everyone agreed that traffic looked thinner than usual for the fall furniture market here, but no one was willing to say that written business had suffered.

Buyers came to town amid reports that retail sales had softened in October after a surprisingly strong September. And, apparently, fewer of them came to High Point. The majors were here, but some independent retailers must have stayed home, some exhibitors said candidly.

For the record, most manufacturers said traffic looked light because buyers were spread over more showroom space, with the 465,000-square-foot Showplace building the most notable addition.

"My impression is that attendance is down, but order-writing is hanging in there," said Don Mitchell, president of LADD Casegoods.

"It's different for each of our companies. Of course, with American Drew, the McClintock collection has done phenomenally well. My general consensus is that business is good. It's softened up a little, but we're still optimistic," Mitchell said.

Ron Wanek, chief executive officer of Ashley Furniture, said traffic through the weekend was up slightly, but added that he'd heard of softer retail sales.

"There's good energy overall, but we're hearing complaints here and there about business, which we haven't heard for a while," Wanek said.

Jerry Ruff, president of The Lane Co., said traffic in his showroom was flat from last October, but he echoed his competitors that written business was up from last fall's market.

"Traffic seems slower this market. We were wondering if maybe it was because of Showplace opening," said Barry Nicholson, vice president of sales at Offi & Co., a home office producer. "We've seen some of the big guys we wanted to see, but we were hoping to see more independents."

Andrew Cohen, chief operating officer of The Powell Co., described traffic in his showroom as "phenomenal."

"We're hearing that [retail] had been tough last 45 days, but everyone's optimistic. They're starting to see a turn," Cohen said.

Keith Feuerhaken, vice president of sales at Flexsteel Industries Inc., said Flexsteel enjoyed record attendance Thursday through Sunday.

"This has been quite an exciting market. When you have record attendance, for four days in a row, the orders that are being placed reflect that, too. Business is good, and people have been excited about this season with Flexsteel," Feuerhaken said.

One exhibitor, who asked not to be named, had this to say about attendance: "If things are so good, where is everyone?"
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Comment:BEATING THE TRAFFIC; ATTENDANCE MAY HAVE BEEN DOWN, BUT VENDORS SAID HIGH POINT HAD THE WRITE STUFF.
Author:Staff, HFN
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Oct 30, 2000
Words:405
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