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Quaker chief sees global opportunity

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, July 29, 2002

American textile fabric companies have an enormous opportunity to sell globally.

This is the contention of Larry Liebenow, president and ceo of Quaker Fabric, who points out that 96 percent of the world's population exists beyond these shores.

Liebenow, a long-time proponent of global commerce despite the vagaries of currency changes, regional economies and low-cost competition, discussed the opportunities of marketing in a global economy at a presentation during Showtime in High Point earlier this month.

As a case in point, Liebenow pointed to the fact that 15 percent to 20 percent of Quaker's revenues are generated outside the United States. And what made his point even stronger was the subsequent first-half sales report for the company that reported export sales up 10.5 percent for the period.

For Quaker, he explained, "It begins with the belief that we are in businesses that are driven by fashion — for any item in the home. As a result, he related, "We all have to think carefully about what it really means to be in a fashion business — and what does it take to win.

As Liebenow pointed out in his presentation, the critical issue is product. "In a fashion business, product is a threshold issue. So start with the best design team you can build — and get out of their way."

While he did not mention it in the presentation, Quaker practices what it preaches. Its vp, design and styling is the second highest paid executive in the company after Liebenow.

The next step, he said, is to back them up with all the technological support that can be made available, state-of-the-art production equipment and delivery that "is second to none" as well as sales and marketing support. "It's in these areas that we must excel … and when we do we can compete anywhere," he said.

Along with numerous pointers on doing business globally, Larry cited the Italian fabric community — the second largest exporter of textiles and apparel — which he said "understands their product, their business and the global market." He pointed out how they have adapted to global issues — and the power of the electronic age when it comes to connecting people around the world.

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