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Going for Gold in Las Vegas Heat

LAS VEGAS - Three days after the countries of the world descend upon London to compete for gold and glory in the 2012 Olympics, exhibitors from the home textiles industry will similarly gather at the World Market Center in Las Vegas to highlight some of the very best their companies have to offer.

Bellino’s Violetta/RavelloBellino’s Violetta/Ravello bedding is printed on 200-count Egyptian cotton percale woven and manufactured exclusively in Italy.

     Expectations for this year's event, which runs from July 30 through Aug. 3, are generally positive. Rizzy Home expects Vegas, "to be a good market. It gets better and better every market and we do very well there," said vp of sales Mark Ferullo.
     The growing nature of the biannual trade show is also shared by Shaw Living's Jim Curtin, vp, sales who told HTT, "Every Vegas market is better than the one before for us. Traffic goes up in our showroom with every market, and I don't see that changing. A lot of people do go to Vegas."
     As far as business opportunities go, many of this year's participants report an increase in scheduled meetings and many are also looking forward to more floor activity, including C & F vp sales Nelson Chow, "The appointments in the Las Vegas Market look promising. With the new expansion of our showroom, we will more than double our space; hence, we expect much more walk-in traffic than previous shows."
     The outlook for the Las Vegas Market is optimistic, but enthusiasm for expected second half sales may be even stronger. Bedford Cottage/Kennebunkport Home president Richard Sherman is seeing upside potential. "I am very optimistic about the second half of the year for throws and gifts in general. I understand business is still challenging for all of us, but there are some positive signs starting to emerge," he said. The company maintains a focus on products Made in the U.S.A. and uses the summer shows to introduce new styles and colors within existing programs. In Las Vegas, it will roll out Rockaway, Contempo, Marakesh as well as Winslow, which is a new stripe design. There will also be new colors added to top-sellers Camelot, Canyon and Campbell.
     Director of sales for Chili Technology David Dowdy is looking forward to hot sales of his cool technology. The company will be introducing several new sleep accessories that offer a cooler sleep experience by utilizing and/or integrating coconut foam and/or gel products into the sleep surface, the pillow and pillow surfaces.
Chili Technology’s Chili PadChili Technology’s Chili Pad
     "I believe the outlook is quite strong. We continue to experience tremendous growth as more and more focus is on quality of sleep and in particular, sleeping cooler. This creates a great position for Chili Technology," he said.
     Dowdy's not the only one feeling the heat. At Surya Inc., Seth King, vp, sales and marketing reported, "We just finished our first quarter and we were up 41%, so we are expecting huge gains by yearend." King added, "For us, flatweave rugs are driving rug sales. Over the past six months, we've grown the assortment from 30 to 300 and added new trendy looks, like ikats, lattices and chevrons because we want to be the flatweave kings."
     Fabrictech International, a provider of health and wellness products to retailers and consumers, is also expecting a strong finish to the year, "We are incredibly excited about Fabrictech's growth in the second half of 2012," said senior art director and marketing manager Sarah Budensiek.
     Given the travails of business over the last few years, some, like Kimlor's Jeff Svicarovich, vp sales, are more cautious. He described business as good, "assuming the economy doesn't fall off a cliff."
     Kimlor will be presenting several new designs at market, including: All Purpose Lavender, from Bill Jordan's Realtree collection; Browning Burgundy Buckmark; and Bone Collector Black from Michael Waddell's collection.
     Other exhibitors such as Raja Lath, vp, Catania Silk are a bit gloomier. "We expect the markets to be sluggish in the second quarter as they have been for some time."
     At this year's show, Catania will be introducing Silk Satins as well as new fabrics and patterns in linen.
     Overall, however, the mood of exhibitors seems to be upbeat despite a challenging environment, and Aaron Gray, director of marketing, Oriental Weavers USA, perhaps summed it up best: "Traffic at Vegas for us has been good, and we think that will continue. The first half has been great for us and we've seen nice increases in our business over the last year."
     Gray said Oriental's indoor/outdoor category "is by far our hottest right now. In part it's the price. With the state of the economy, people are turning their outdoor areas into living rooms rather than making additions to their homes. And to meet that need, we continue to add more fashion to these offerings."
     As always, no matter the business environment, pricing remains a concern up and down the market. C & F's
Bedding from Etoffe MakaraBedding from Etoffe Makara
Chow said the company is offering "on trend designs with high-end looks at middle America prices. With a challenging economy, our customers are looking for value for their customers and merchandise that is functional with style."
     With many retailers and consumers looking for eco-friendly products these days, Margalit Grunberger, co-owner of Gotcha Covered, describes how her company stays green as well as red, white and blue at the same time. She described the company's U.S.-made Pure Organic Collection as "our fastest growing collection since launched in late 2008."
     Pure Organic offers 300-thread sateen sheet sets for conventional mattresses, dual systems, and sofa sleepers. Grunberger continued, "We get new customers daily that are looking for organic and sustainable products. To add to our story, our Pure Collection products are packaged in DF Film and hemp biodegradable bags."
    Other companies are taking advantage of the made in America trend and looking forward to this year's market, "Vegas is a good market for us. We are going into our fourth year there. And we like it in that we can focus on and target specialty and furniture retail customers there in the West Coast." said Jim Thompson, vp, sales Central Oriental/Natco.
     Thompson reported that fourth-quarter expectations are up and explained how products made in the United States give customers the flexibility to try new approaches and find out what works, because nearby sourcing allows them to buy less than a container-load of merchandise.
     Then there's Laurent Boilly, principal, Etoffe Makara who isn't exactly sold on the branding advantages, but appreciates the logistical leg up, "All of our product are made in USA. I do not believe the made in USA label is really an advantage but more the quality offered and the advantages of being in the USA, (speed of delivery, ease of customization) help us compete and gain market share."
     The company will introduce six new bedding collections and approximately 20 new pillow designs at the 2012 market.
     While most exhibitors come to Las Vegas to roll out new products and reinforce proven brands, at least one is using the market to showcase a reinvigorated line. Spring Air Sommex acquired Natura World's Canadian
Browning collectionKimlor ‘s Browning Burgundy Buckmark from the Browning collection
operations this past April. Chief marketing officer Valerie Stranix said the reintroduction is "very exciting" and that it's like a "re-birth" for the brand.
     Since the acquisition Spring Air Sommex has focused on restoring customer confidence in service levels, and is pleased with the business it's been getting to date, according to Stranix. It's signed a multi-year lease for the Las Vegas Market and will be presenting a full line of bedding that includes organic products and washable wool as well as some new items.
     Like all great competitors, exhibitors at Las Vegas Market bring their "A" game to every event. Curtin of Shaw Living explains the company's pragmatic philosophy in what may be a tumultuous second half.
     "The fourth quarter is going to be a crap-shoot, to be honest, because of the election," he said. "We are concerned the consumer will sit it out a bit. But we are pushing forward and taking an aggressive stance to the business, which is why we come to the markets prepared with the right products."

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