Strong sales reported at Philadelphia show

Regular exhibitor Peter Handler, a furniture maker in Philadelphia, said the March show was the best it’s been in years, an observation he attributes to increased attendance and overall quality.

Scott Grove's booth at the Philadelphia Invitational Furniture Show, held at the Pennsylvania Cruise Ship Terminal in March. “I think people were selling … not everybody, but people were selling,” says Handler. “It looks like I’m going to get at least four commissions out of the show. It’s good enough to say, ‘Yes, this is worth doing again.’ ”

Held at the Pennsylvania Cruise Ship Terminal in Philadelphia, this was the second year at the new venue for a show downsized in 2007. The show was formerly known as the Philadelphia Furniture and Furnishings Show and was held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Ironically, while only 65 exhibitors filled booth space — about a dozen fewer than last year — attendance doubled to roughly 2,000 visitors. In fact, attendance went up more than 15 percent since the opening of the first show 13 years ago, according to Markel. About half of the exhibitors were returnees, and some were from as far away as Maine and Colorado. Markel attributes part of the success of the show to free parking and passes for guests of the exhibitors.

“You have to set the whole scene, which was that last year was a complete re-gearing of the show — we decided to scale down and move to a new locale. Now the exhibitors play a much bigger role in vetting new applicants, the recruitment of attendees and exhibitors and also in decision making about the show.”

Markel said this year’s solid sales have put the show back on the map. “I was surprised to find it as strong as it was given the economic turmoil the country’s in. You wouldn’t have known it from our show. I personally had a good year; I sold a bunch of furniture,” says Markel, who also owns a custom woodworking business.

Exhibitor Scott Grove, owner of Concept Grove in Rochester, N.Y., said attendees were in a buying mood, but on their terms. “Certainly, people seem to want a deal,” he says. “They would spend around $15,000 to $20,000, but as long as they felt they got a few thousand dollars off or free shipping … I had more of that than usual.”

Markel said the exhibitor advisory group will meet in the coming months to assess any improvements that need to be made for next year’s show.

“The key to the future is going to be getting the public to know where and when the show is happening. It is still a viable option in my marketing plan for next year,” adds exhibitor Gary Keener, owner of G. Kenner & Co. in New Carlise, Ohio.