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Mixed results at Providence furniture show

Optimistic exhibitors showed off their handcrafted furniture and other wares Oct. 21-23 at the 17th annual Fine Furnishings and Fine Crafts Show at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence. Show director Karla Little says that while attendance was down from previous years, the show had the same number of exhibitors — about 100 — as in 2010.

Exhbitor Geoffrey Warner at his booth at the Fine Furnishings & Fine Crafts Show in Providence, R.I.

Exhibitors had mixed reactions, but the general consensus was that while sales and attendee interest seemed low, the quality of the show was high and it was worth attending. Little, who manages two other annual furniture shows in Baltimore and Milwaukee, emphasized how important it is for artisans to remain in the public eye.

“You never know when someone is going to be in the buying process. They might be researching something that’s two years down the road. It means a lot to meet potential customers in person and let them touch and feel the furniture,” says Little.

“The attendees were enthusiastic and the quality of the show was still very high, despite the economy, says Jeff Lind, a furniture maker from Stonington, Maine, who was exhibiting at his 16th Providence show. “I have done better and worse in the past. I have loyal clients and they came to the show. And I had follow-ups the week afterwards. I’ll be going back next year.”

Ed Barkey of Navarre, Ohio, is a regular exhibitor at all three Fine Furnishings shows and says he’s had a good run.

“There seemed like there were plenty of motivated buyers and our sales were good. We saw a lot of cash and carry, which is always a good sign. Providence is a fun place and we met some really nice people as well as some really high-quality craftspeople. “Baltimore was our best show by far, but we were happy with our results in Milwaukee as well as Providence. We already had a client base in the D.C. area, which was a boost for Baltimore. We did take a few smaller, lower priced items in case the economy worries slowed things down but, as it turned out, those were not our sales. It seems people are still willing to pay for quality, although they have to think it over more.”

Bill Doub of Deerfield, N.H., didn’t sell much, but he was glad to be an exhibitor.

“The show was very well-orchestrated by Karla Little and her crew, but the sales seemed to be few and far between. I met many interesting folks, a few of whom may end up being customers in the future. So as far as networking goes, it was a success for us. One of the major reasons for my being here was to promote the North Bennett Street School, and from that standpoint the show was a great success.”

Contact: KL Communications Inc., P.O. Box 11, Tiverton, RI 02878. Tel: 401-816-0963.

This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue.

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