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High Point Market is Over but the Work has Just Begun

BURKE COUNTY, N.C. (October 31, 2012) – October is usually one of the busiest months of the year for many of Burke County’s furniture companies as they showcase their products to buyers from around the world at High Point Market. This year was no exception. Local furniture manufacturers like EJ Victor, Shenandoah Furniture and Kellex Seating have made it through October – but now they’re busier than ever.

EJ Victor, Jack Fhillips collection

“When people come to market they come to buy,” said Vice Chairman of EJ Victor Edward Phifer. “Orders were good. We ran up some orders for present customers, opened some new accounts and had some old accounts – that had been dormant – come back and are being revitalized.” For Burke County’s Shenandoah Furniture, market is a place for customers to review new fabric and product introductions. Following market, there is always a tremendous amount of follow up based upon customer’s interests. “We had a fantastic response to our new introductions; several items were inspired from a visit to Milan, Italy,” said Shenandoah Furniture President Candace Payne. “We are now heavily involved with follow up with our customers. We’re producing additional samples, costing out product based on fabric selections and sending out sales materials.” The overall theme and focus at market this year was on fashion. The Fashion Focus campaign was designed to highlight the relationship between fashion design and home design and showcase the way that home décor finds inspiration on the runways. For EJ Victor that was a perfect fit.

EJ Victor, Allison Paladino collection

“The focus was on fashion inspired furniture and for us that was really good,” explained Phifer. “We have lines that are very fashion inspired. We feel that brands are very important; people are familiar with the names. The brand recognition that Ralph Lauren has brought to EJ Victor is tremendous.” EJ Victor announced at market that they have partnered with another iconic brand. In April 2013 they will launch the AERIN collection, which is founded by Aerin Lauder, granddaughter of the legendary Estee Lauder. “This is big news for us,” added Phifer. “We hope we can continue to keep hiring. Our goal is to keep local people employed and to do as much manufacturing here in Morganton as we can possibly do.” Edward Phifer isn’t alone in that sentiment. Charlie Rice, Owner at Kellex Seating, echoed his opinion, “We’re bullish on opportunities for Burke County and for this area,” Rice said. For leaders at Kellex, High Point market and the month of October is a pivot point. They use input from what they learn at market, tie that to how the business has performed and then look at any kind of external factors to develop a plan for growth and development in the next year. “We were pleased overall given where the economy is,” said Rice. “Our business continues to improve. We did have the opportunity to meet with new customers; ones that we think will become part of our program in 2013.” Rice explained that one of the biggest, positive trends he picked up on at this year’s market was a renewed interest in American-made furniture. According to Rice he sees a lot of opportunity with companies that want a position here in the United States for getting closer to customers. “Thankfully we’re here and we never left,” said Rice. “This country has always been known to make a good product and I think companies have stopped chasing the cheapest thing. The idea that making a product in the U.S. was important to our customers has stayed a big part of who we are, and we’ll be stronger for it in the coming years.” Candace Payne says that Shenandoah has a strong backlog of orders following market and the response from High Point was very upbeat for their retailers. Like Charlie Rice, she noticed the desire and appreciation for American-made products. “We have some of the best customers in the furniture industry, and they are having success with our upholstered products,” Payne continued. “The feedback we receive is our customers value the design of our products and they appreciate the quality of what we build. They particularly value that our products are handcrafted in the USA. Shenandoah Furniture continues to grow and hire, and we are optimistic about the next twelve to eighteen months.” “We’ve been fortunate over the last few years to have experienced growth within our business,” she added. “We know we have to stay sharp and continue to work very closely with our customers so we can react quickly to their feedback and needs. Our employees are highly skilled and take pride in the products they build, and our customers really appreciate their attention to detail.” Charlie Rice admits, like many manufacturing industries in our region, there has been a negative connotation for the furniture industry due to large facility closures in recent decades. However, he feels that the outlook for furniture in our area is promising. “The reality is that a lot of families grew up in furniture and people tell their kids to run as fast as they can from it,” he said. “But the industry is growing and has an opportunity to once again become a multi-generational player. We have a need for employees, and there is an opportunity for people to come back to furniture and enjoy the rebirth of an industry that never really left but is ready to get strong again.” About Burke Development, Inc. Burke Development, Inc. (BDI) is a nonprofit organization supported by private and public funding that is charged with accelerating economic growth in Burke County. BDI works with industry leaders, site selection consultants, government agencies and other entities to facilitate expansion strategies for existing businesses and recruit target industries to Burke County. For more information about BDI visit www.BurkeDevInc.com.


Sara Chester Burke Development, Inc. 828.674.3141

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