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Philly show buzzes with higher turnout

The third annual Philadelphia Invitational Furniture Show, held March 27-29 at the Philadelphia Cruise Ship Terminal, experienced a higher turnout compared to previous years, despite the slumping economy.

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“Everyone — exhibitors and show organizers alike — went into this show with a great amount of trepidation owing to the state of the economy. However, attendance (2,200) was up 10 percent from last year and good sales were happening all over the floor,” says show director Josh Markel, who added that one exhibitor even sold a $45,000 kitchen island.

In part, Markel attributes the show’s success to having done more advertising than ever, getting some effective editorial coverage, and developing a strong e-mail list.

This year’s show focused on the unique contribution of the Philadelphia area to the post-World War II furniture renaissance. At the opening-night gala, Mark Sfirri gave a talk on the contributions of area pioneers such as Wharton Esherick, George Nakashima, Dan Jackson, David Lloyd Powell and Michael Hurwitz. There was also a special exhibit of their work.

About 80 percent of the 58 exhibitors came mainly from the mid-Atlantic region, while the show continues to be a strong draw for Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and New York area buyers, according to Markel.

As an invitational, exhibitors in any of the last three shows qualify for the 2010 show. New exhibitors can either get three current exhibitors to sponsor their application or have images of their work judged by the show’s acceptance committee.

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“The invitational structure creates the opportunity for both consistency and the infusion of new blood,” says Markel.

Markel hopes to attract about 15 more exhibitors to ensure the show’s financial health. He believes he will reach that number, as almost three-quarters of this year’s exhibitors have indicated they plan on returning. Registration for the 2010 show will begin in September.

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