New furnishings based on Natchez antiques expected to make comeback in near future

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; A positive air pervades the spring furniture market, Ron Miller of Natchez said as the big event began this week in High Point, N.C.

Fewer buyers are in evidence, but those who are attending the market are &uot;solid dealers who come here to buy,&uot; said Miller, executive director of the Historic Natchez Foundation, who spoke by phone from the vast complex where furniture manufacturers are showing off their newest lines through the weekend.

Miller is there to represent the Historic Natchez Collection, furnishings fashioned after Natchez items and licensed by the foundation through the dozen manufacturers now under contract.

Email newsletter signup

The Natchez collection, like many of its type, has suffered with a downturn in the economy and in the home furnishings market in general, Miller said.

Henredon is the Natchez collection’s major licensee. Sales of the Henredon pieces had slumped, giving Miller reason for concern.

&uot;I came to market expecting that the Natchez collection would have fallen to a dangerous level. Our royalty income had fallen 40 percent,&uot; he said. &uot;But I found to my delight that the Natchez collection is still one of the top three Henredon collections.&uot;

The big manufacturer’s sales had fallen company wide. Still, Henredon executives as well as most others at the market are optimistic about the future.

&uot;They all say that the economy and market are cyclical. The market goes down. It will come back up.&uot;

The smaller dealers did not show up at market, Miller said. &uot;It’s down to the core dealers, the core market. It’s quieter, but there’s a steady flow of buyers.&uot;

At Henredon’s opening dinner and reception Thursday, the crowd was bigger than expected, Miller said. &uot;They had to expand into another room because of the crowd.&uot;

One of the bright new spots in the Historic Natchez Collection is the Ficks Reed wicker and rattan collection. &uot;This is one of the most inventive and exciting lines I’ve seen,&uot; Miller said of the company’s Natchez pieces. &uot;They’ve taken the classical forms of Natchez furniture from wood to wicker and rattan.&uot;

The Natchez collection, introduced in 1989, has been a major source of income for Historic Natchez Foundation.

&uot;It will continue to be major, but we’re all tightening our belts and cutting expenses to make up,&uot; Miller said. &uot;Royalties from the collection have been about 85 percent of our income.&uot;