Furniture Manufacturing Expo gauges industry demand for equipment, supplies

Event featured 90 exhibitors of products ranging from sewing machines and large-scale fabric-cutting machines to decorative hardware and packaging materials

HICKORY, N.C. — Despite an ongoing slowdown in the furniture industry at retail, most suppliers showing at the Furniture Manufacturing Expo here were upbeat as the event offered opportunities to engage existing customers and new prospects with some of their latest materials, equipment and technologies.

And based on early response, the interest appeared strong right from the start of the two-day event.

Held at the Hickory Metro Convention Center July 19-20, the event featured some 90 exhibitors, an additional 18 over last year’s event, according to show organizers. The companies showcased everything from the latest in sewing and fabric-cutting machines to bar code scanners for distribution facilities and CNC equipment that sews embossed patterns on leather and vinyl.

Atlanta Attachment Co. representatives showcase the company’s latest sewing machine equipment.

The show’s timing coincides with a several-month slowdown at retail as the industry deals with still-high inventories and lackluster store traffic as consumers spend higher amounts on other areas including vacations and dining out. But while some suppliers acknowledged their business has also slowed, they saw the show as a chance to be in front of customers and prepare for when things turn around.

“It’s off just like for everybody else,” said Eric Iverson, division sales manager at sewing machine resource Atlanta Attachment Co., of the current business environment. “Customers still have a decent amount of inventory so it’s kind of slow for all of us.”

Still, the show was a way to get in front of customers looking to update or replace older equipment in their lines. A division of Hickory Springs, Atlanta Attachment demonstrated some of its latest sewing machines.

“We supply the whole gamut, anybody that is cutting and sewing,” Iverson noted. “We are a one-stop shop for those customers.”

Hickory Springs showed some of its latest products including springs, pillows, cushions and other components.

At Hickory Springs, which shared a booth with Atlanta Attachment and fellow subsidiary Morgan Tecnica, the show was a good way to be in front of customers despite the slowdown it has seen of late, which it and others are contrasting with the dizzying heights of demand that continued into 2022.

“Compared to last year, we have seen a slowdown,” said Jason Porter, vice president of sales for the furniture segment, noting that a slowdown that began on the bedding side of its business carried over to the furniture side by around March. “It had to come down at some point,” he added of the breakneck pace of demand.

However, he said the company also is well diversified into other areas of the business such as hospitality, which helps cushion any continued softness on the residential side.

“That is a key for us, being able to adjust on the fly.”

He added that this week’s Expo got off to a good start with customers from North Carolina, Florida and Mississippi, to name a few.

“The show has gotten better every year,” he said.

Zund demonstrated its leather and fabric cutting equipment at the show.

Hickory Springs showcased a mix of its products such as foam, springs and other upholstery components. Sister companies Atlanta Attachment demonstrated some of its sewing machines, while another division, Morgan Tecnica, demonstrated larger-scale fabric- and leather-cutting machinery. Other companies showing larger fabric- and leather-cutting machines included Zund, Kuris and Eastman.

Another highlight of the show was a micro plant that used materials and components from several exhibitors to produce a leather chair on-site. The process began just around the time the show started at 10 a.m. and continued on and off into mid-afternoon as the chair neared completion.

To learn more about that process, click on the video interview below with HNN’s Tom Russell and Zund’s Vice President, Sales Bill Richards.

For most of the exhibitors, many of which serve other industries ranging from aerospace and automotive to the boating sectors, the show is a way to further expend their presence in furniture. ABM International of Montgomery, Texas, had a booth that displayed a CNC quilting machine that produces raised patterns on materials including fabric and vinyl for seating as well as fabrics for mattresses. Furniture is an emerging area for a company that produces quilting equipment used in the automotive, marine, aircraft and even golf cart segments.

Ryan Israel, senior sales manager at ABM International, demonstrates the company’s CNC quilting equipment for use on leather, vinyl and other materials.

“We’ve had some good leads so far,” said Ryan Israel, senior sales manager, of conversations he had with prospects by around noon on Wednesday’s opening day. It was the company’s second appearance at the show since 2019, and one of its big selling points was not only the fact that the equipment is made in the U.S. but that parts are also stocked in the Houston area. The line is also serviced domestically, which allows the company to address customers’ needs quickly.

Morrissette Packaging showcased its Shrink Smart packaging equipment that shrink wraps pieces such as sofas and chairs based on their size, thus eliminating wasted materials in the process. It also has a diversified business, providing a range of services from industrial packaging to packaging of consumer goods with materials such as corrugated cartons and plastic shrink wrap, for example.

Today, furniture represents about 10% of its business, an area it sees as a major growth segment.

“Furniture is growing consistent with the rest of the business,” said Harrison Hood, packaging specialist, noting that its overall business was up 8% at its recently ended fiscal year in June. He and fellow company packaging specialist Anthony Lockhart said the benefit for new and existing customers is the sustainable and cost-cutting nature of the way its equipment produces packaging tailored to the size of the unit.

Line Activators of Brazil showed at the expo for the first time with its line of wood and metal frames.

Showing here for the first time was Line Activators, a Brazilian company that produces motorized wood and metal frames for motion seating. It decided to show here as part of its desire to learn more about the market and the needs of the market, said Decongir Goncalves, a consultant that is helping the company break into the U.S.

“It is not only to export but to have a local presence here, so we can work more closely together,” he said of the company’s desire to better serve its upholstery manufacturing partners here. “Reshoring is very important. We want to see if Brazil can do something here.”

Eastman returned to the show again this year to showcase some of its latest fabric- and leather-cutting equipment that is used in a host of industries ranging from aerospace and sporting goods to furniture and bedding.

The show offered the company a chance to meet existing customers and pick up new ones as well. And despite the up-and-down nature of the furniture business, the show was generating some good traffic on the first day of the event, which ran through Thursday.  

“Companies are sending groups (of buyers) at a time, and they are good leads,” said Amy Denning, vice president of North American sales. “They are looking for equipment. The quality is there.”

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at and at 336-508-4616.

View all posts by Thomas Russell →

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