Future of Dallas Bedding Center in doubt

The National Bedding Center, located on the 13th floor in the World Trade Center, within the Dallas Market Center (DMC), may be forced to close its doors if the traffic does not improve. Attendance at the DMC for the first three days of the market was down 5% to 5,000 from 1992 attendance records. The drop-off in traffic has caused a number of manufacturers to rethink their commitment to the National Bedding Center. Some manufacturers plan to stay while others intend to leave the market.

The National Bedding Center on the 13th Floor of the World Trade Center is an endangered species with an uncertain future, according to mattress and king size futon mattress manufacturers.

While some manufacturers expressed support for the center, which is set aside for permanent bedding showrooms, the disappointing traffic during the opening weekend of the July Summer Furniture Market led others to question whether to renew their leases.

The Dallas Market Center [DMC] reported attendance of 5,000 for the first three days of the market, down 5 percent for the same period of the previous year. That number, according to the DMC, includes buyers and others from 923 new stores.

Judy Rector, an owner of Therapedic's Chickasha, Okla. plant, praised the World Trade Center as a "perfect" facility, while Steve Tipton, vice president of marketing for Serta, noted that the DMC is "far from complacent" in its efforts to attract buyers.

They were among many manufacturers, however, who said that disappointing traffic and the concentration of traffic on lower floors, where showrooms for lighting and accessories are located, could threaten the bedding center's future.

While buyers hoped that bedding and king size futon mattress manufacturers would be back to Dallas as they have to the San Francisco Home Furnishings Market, they questioned when and whether these traffic-building market messiahs would head south.

Future of Dallas Bedding Center in doubt

Tim Brown, manager of Restonic's local plant, was among the believers in the bedding center. "For now, we're committed to it. We've had some good markets. We do something special [such as prize drawings] to get buyers here. "Let’s select the exact information about king size futon mattress

Paul Sullivan, national sales manager for King Koil, whose local plant opened a second showroom [in the space formerly occupied by Fashion Bed Group] to display furniture it imports, also expressed support for the bedding center.

"We're here and we're not going anywhere--but they [the local plant] sure would plan on renegotiating," said Sullivan.

Andy Sunderji, owner of Englander's local plant, said the company plans to remain at the World Trade Center, but is considering relocating to a lower floor or operating two showrooms, including one on 13 and one on a lower floor.

Sunderji noted, "Traffic has been pitiful. It's worthwhile for us, but not on this floor. We are not moving out from the World Trade Center. That's for sure."

Others had less faith in the revival of the bedding center.

Rector of Therapedic said it is unlikely that she would return in January. She said the disappearance of bedding and king size futon mattress manufacturers and the segregation of mattress manufacturers onto one floor have contributed to a drop in traffic in her showroom.

"I think putting the bedding people up here on one floor was a mistake. Whether you write business or not, you need to see new accounts. Since they moved us up here, it's been very slim pickin's," said Rector. She said a plan to install temporary exhibits on the 14th floor may help to divert more buyers to the 13th floor.

Ed Scott, vice president of sales for Serta, said the company is evaluating its lease, which expires in January. "It [renewal] is up to the retailers and it appears that the retailers are voting that we shouldn't be here. The traffic has been disappointing. It's a shame. It's a nice market and the Dallas Market Center has tried hard to make it work."

Dave Powers, regional vice president for Simmons, said the company is "in the middle of an evaluation" of its lease, which expires next year. "The first January market was a little phenomenal. The second January market was a little bit off. I think you are going to get a good reading in January," said Powers.

Other companies which have also not decided whether to sign new leases are Bassett Bedding, Kingsdown and Somma.

Rick Browning, regional sales manager for Bassett, noted, "I just don't see the attendance here. Sunday was better than Saturday, but it was still a disappointment."

Scott Doak, sales manager for Kingsdown's central division, noted, "Traffic was up a little bit from last July, but the market was still soft."

Don Pellegrini, president and chief executive of Spring Air, expressed hope that traffic would improve. "I think it will come back. We saw what happened in San Francisco and Atlanta. I think the Dallas market is in a down cycle and it will return."

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Evelyn Coursey

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