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Jennifer Marks

Just pickin' up good vibrations

All in all, there were good vibrations emanating from the New York Home Textiles Market this time around.

"Upbeat" was the word used most often by suppliers to describe the retail contingent's attitude over the course of market. Retailers, on the other hand, when asked directly, expressed optimism for the fourth quarter but wariness about what may lie beyond it.

On both sides of the aisle, executives said they are concerned about the deepening jobless rate and its potential to keep the brakes on consumer demand.

That may explain why so many suppliers focused on merchandising and/or solution selling presentations. With many retailers still in the replace-and-replenish mode — as opposed to program expansion — many suppliers built this season's pitch around ways to drive add-on sales.

In fashion, color was very strong this market, with brights and spice pallets leading the way. Silky and satiny looks are still with us, but this market saw the emergence of constructions with a drier hand, particularly linen. Ribbon embroideries seem to be giving way to puckering, ruching and pleating. Skip-stitching and stripes were everywhere.

Elsewhere, "organic" patterns shoved aside botanicals. Clean, modern looks also made a good showing as a classy alternative to the fussiness often associated with "upscale" looks in mainstream retailing.

In general terms, there was a sameness to much of the design. Maybe it's because so many product teams are now pulling materials from the same overseas sources.

In some quarters, it's also the result of a growing mistrust among suppliers about what retail buying teams are really up to when they work the showrooms. Some of the best stuff is being kept in the backroom and shown only to select accounts.

Now that Heimtextil has become largely a sourcing show, product developers and designers said they see the Atlanta Gift Show and Maison et Objet as the places to go for forward-looking trends. Maison's scheduling change to late January, however, means that not nearly as many will attend as would like to.

Note to Maison organizers: If you want to boost your ratio of U.S. visitors, restore the event's original timing, which overlapped the final two days of Heimtextil.

A number of suppliers described the recent industry conclave in New York as their best market ever. Then again, as one sales rep noted, market is almost always huggy-kissy time — "the crying starts the week after."

Here's hoping the tears will be minimal and the orders maximum. After all, the next full New York Home Textiles Market is only 26 weeks away.

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