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Home Textiles Broaden Profile at High Point

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, October 16, 2006

High Point, N.C. — The change in timing for the furniture market that begins here today poses a major challenge for non-furniture suppliers, especially home textiles exhibitors.

The new Monday-through-Sunday schedule, with strong support for a universal opening day, plus the proliferation of markets across the country and globally, are causes for concern, as is a business climate that is less than robust, a number of suppliers noted.

For the home textiles segment of the market, said Jan Dutton, owner of Paper White, “It will be very interesting to see what the change in timing does in terms of when the upper echelon of retailers shop.”

“There's a need to consolidate the market both in time and space — it's too big — to make it better for people to shop” added Dutton. From her particular perspective, 70% of the business is designer-driven “and more and more is project-oriented.”

For Richard Downing, president of Leggett & Platt's top of bed division, this will be a major product introduction period with 21 new beds featured — 18 in the Elite premium segment, and three in the Paramount opening price point division.

L&P also is expanding in the sheet business with a 750 count cotton that features colored piping on sheets and cases. Other new items include a lightweight down blanket and a micro-velour ultra soft mattress protector. The division is targeting major furniture retailers with price points for seven-piece comforter sets at $209.50 and a range of make-ups from four pieces to nine pieces.

Business, Downing reported, “has been quite good since Labor Day,” an uptick following a poor summer.

Different retail channels are key to the various markets that Company C participates in, according to Jane Wright, national sales and marketing manager. “We work with the bigger home furnishings stores in High Point, and smaller gift and home furnishings retailers in New York and Atlanta,” she explained.

“We're very excited about this week's market here. We received unprecedented response to our new catalog — including orders. And the product is available now.”

New for this market is the company's licensed collection with the Museum of National Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Both rugs and textiles including quilts and pillows from the museum's collection are being featured.

Also new for Company C is a range of longer runners — 10 feet and 12 feet — created because of customer requests, Wright said.

Kilims, round rugs and modern tufted constructions that look like woodgrains round out the introductions, she noted.

“People are coming in earlier — Monday through Thursday,” said Pamela Kline, principal of Traditions by Pamela Kline, referring to both larger and smaller accounts, and those doing private label as well as open line merchandise.

“Although business overall is up but not by much, there are strong and weak pockets,” Kline remarked. Strong areas are the New York area, the South, the West and beach areas, she said.

“We have a pretty aggressive market sales plan,” observed Mike Kehnast, director of sales for Hallmart. “We reformulated our sales rep business plan to focus on furniture stores, and business is ramping nicely,” he explained. “It will be a very good year for us.” Retailers like Rooms to Go, City Furniture, Art Van, and El Dorado are participating, he said.

A major effort will be the new Kathy Ireland licensed bedding for adult and youth. Some 25 new beds are being introduced this week in addition to the 20 that were launched at the debut of the collection in Las Vegas in July. In addition there are nearly 10 new Alexander Julian beds as well as some non-designer brand beds, Kehnast reported.

“The new timing should help us,” John Rose, co-principal of Textillery said emphatically. “We think we will pick up another day or two in their schedules in the Main Building, and our customers are very loyal. We feel most retailers will be here Monday through Friday.”

Overall, Rose said, “We've been busy, solid and steady. But I'm not convinced that January through March will be as good as it is now.” Nonetheless, he added, “We had solid bookings in August at the New York Gift Show, and we've had reorders since. So I see potential for this market.”

While a lot of Textillery's business strength has come from the hospitality market, Rose also emphasized, “The specialty stores' efforts to differentiate themselves from the big boxes and department stores is starting to pay off for them.”

Two major new bedding programs are the mainstays in “lots of new product” being introduced this week at Eastern Accents, according to Louise Trafficanti, design director. In the Eastern Accents division, the main focus is Serico, a seven color palette mix-and-match silk story. Eathersound, its other division, will show Melange, a “more complex program” based on a stripe and colors pulled out from the stripe for other pieces that feature a 300 count cotton quilt, a nubby texture, and coverlets rather than comforters.

In addition, Trafficanti noted 12 new beds with “a global fusion feeling and Asian influences.”

Legacy Linens is making a major statement with decorative pillows, in a collection called RyanStudio, said Jim Vivasqua, director of marketing. “We're dedicating a portion of the showroom to the new pillows. We've always had them but they've been hard to show, and we're moving the styling out of the bedroom, through the whole house.”

The pillow collection “is clean lines, graphic and simple in styling. We see sofas getting more solid color, so we're designing to that look,” he explained.

In bedding, “We are adding two new damask programs and Modern Retreat, a fresh woven stripe in whimsical colors that will work with our Jefferson Linens solid that comes in 18 colors.”

Business, Vivasqua noted, “has been strong, solid. We've concentrated in building a strong rep force.”

“I'm optimistic,” said Linda Bentsen, co-principal of Thief River Linens. “Last market I wasn't, but it turned out to be a good market. We got some new customers, and we're continuing to work with designers.”

This market, Thief River Linens is featuring 24-inch-wide window panels in multi-layered effects as well as shower curtains, fabrics, top of bed, and throws, Bentsen said.

Liora Manne, designer and head of Lamontage, said, “I don't know what to expect between all the markets around the country.” For High Point, she expects to see her regular catalog customers “but less of the small stores. They're going to different markets” besides High Point and can't afford to go to many, she believes.

New for this market is a collection of flowers fashioned into rugs and inspired by close-up photography. The rugs have a definite dimensional feel.

Noting that “our designer business is really strong,” Lynn Courtade, who heads her own rep organization, said, “I have no anticipation about how this market will be. I think Las Vegas can't replace High Point.” Courtade also shows at the New York Gift Show for her accounts that include textiles suppliers Home Source International, White Loft, T. Lockman, and Patricia Spratt.

For White Linen, High Point offers the opportunity to see existing customers and for “expanding our very classic looks,” said owner Alena Gerli. “We stick with what we're known for.” New for this market in this context are high count Italian cotton matelasses and new laces for windows and bedding.

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