Fabric Exporters Choose Targets at Decosit

Carole Sloan, Staff Staff, September 3, 2007

Brussels, Belgium — The enhanced value of the U.S. dollar and the expansion of the international hospitality market are expected to help American decorative fabrics suppliers at Decosit here this week. As U.S. decorative fabrics companies have moved their sourcing in great measure to China, a number are developing strategies to help them expand their sales activities globally, as well as within the burgeoning Chinese economy.

But overall, the American suppliers are aiming tightly in their export activity. As Roger Berkley, president of Weave explained, "We are fairly narrowly focused — largely with our silk products — in our export efforts. We're surprisingly selling our more expensive goods in places like the United Kingdom."

For Decosit, Weave is featuring "Earth-friendly" fabrics using bamboo, soy, cotton, linen, hemp, silk, and post-consumer polyester under its Greenweave label.

"We're still dedicated to export," reported Stewart Jervis, vp of P/Kaufmann, but he noted the origin of the cloth sometimes makes it difficult to sell into certain countries. An exception is the company's strong range of prints which are printed in the United States, even if the greige goods are imported, Jervis explained, noting, "We are trying to find our niche."

Jervis identified Asia and South Africa as "okay" markets and Europe "soft but okay."

Export is strong for Rockland Mills, said Stanley Fradin, president, with printed blackout fabrics especially good, particularly in polyester construction.

Of Decosit, Fradin wondered if the closing of Textiles d'Interieur Premiere (TIP) will eliminate some of the traffic that normally flowed between the two concurrent exhibitions. But he added, "It will eliminate some of the lesser-quality traffic that moved from TIP to Decosit." He wondered if the near-simultaneous schedule of Maison&Objet in Paris will have an impact on traffic here.

"We see a tremendous opportunity for us in export for providing high value products around the world," stated Mike Shelton, president of Valdese. "I expect that this will be the best Decosit we have ever had."

The key, he said, "is bringing all our brands together under Cynthia Parrish [director, int'l sales] for export sales. We are projecting our image out, with product for each of the niches we are in." Export business, Shelton related, "is good, not great," and consistent in terms of the currency fluctuations. Excluding North American exports, off-shore business represents about 5% of the company's revenues.

Valdese also is showcasing its new acquisition — Circa 1801/Doblin — in its Decosit space.

For Fabricut, this will be the first Decosit that the company is showing in the main Decosit area rather than DecoContract, said David Klaristenfeld, vp. "We continue to grow in export — it's about 6% or 7% of our sales, and has the potential to grow to 10% as the company grows overall."

Fabricut has expanded in the Middle East, "but while it is still growing, cheap goods are moving in and we're taking a different approach in merchandising and packaging," Klaristenfeld related. Now the company sees "major growth opportunities in North America and Russia and new opportunities in Kuwait, Qatar, and Lebanon as well as the Far East, China, and India where there are high end cities and significant growth in the middle class."

"I think Decosit will be good," said Robert Lachow, vp, J.B. Martin. "We're exporting more especially from our Mexican facility — especially to Europe." He added, "We're benefiting from the world-wide contraction of velvet producers, though we're beginning to see some Asian competition begin."

Rocco Simone, svp, Sunbury, said, "We're picking our spots in export. And the dollar's value is helping us a lot." Key in export sales "are performance fabrics like Sunbrella and Crypton," Simone explained, as well as post-consumer recycled polyester. "The diversity of product especially in contract is important — as well as service, delivery, and quality."

"We're excited by our opportunities in Decosit with our expanded presence," said Dan Bonini, president of P/Kaufmann Lifestyles and the Waverly decorative fabric brand. "Combining export sales with the P/Kaufmann organization will give us a more streamlined approach.".

China has great potential, Bonini explained, with traditional Waverly shop-in-shops in 40 stores. "The brand represents the United States, and there are definitely growth opportunities in Australia and Europe."

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