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No short supply

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, January 1, 2001

As we move into what could well be one of the most tumultuous years in retailing and home furnishings in memory, it's clear that country of origin for product is one of the critical issues.

And nowhere is this more evident than in the fabric and home textiles sectors of the business.

The Bradlees' liquidation announcement last month is considered by many to be just the tip of the iceberg that will pit retailer against retailer more intensely than ever, and supply source will be one of the key issues.

Looking ahead to next week's Showtime in High Point and Heimtextil in Frankfurt, one only has to look at the exhibitor base and how it is changing.

We've just been through a spate of announcements about outsourcing, and an on-going-and painful-series of announcements about domestic plant closings.

The domestic fabric mills are faced with the challenge of confronting an ever-growing market share of leather in the upholstered furniture business at the same time that low-priced imports are increasing month by month.

As a result, many of these mills are looking to the home textiles manufacturing community as growth opportunities, even as these potential customers are looking off-shore to develop their product lines.

Then there is the whole new challenge from off-shore suppliers coming in with fabrics that offer new options to the textiles manufacturing community in this country.

It was just a little less than a year ago when I predicted that "tomorrow is here" as related to the strength of emerging countries in the home furnishings fabric and home textiles business. They were out in force at Heimtextil 2000, and their numbers for this year's Heimtextil have increased dramatically.

Increasingly there are off-shore mills and converters showing at High Point whose company names are the umbrella for a number of off-shore companies.

It's definitely not the time for domestic fabric companies to take the low road in terms of price vs. creativity, innovation, design, quality and short runs.

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