Showtime Exhibitors Report Optimistic Event

Carole Sloan, June 22, 2009

Better than expected. But mostly because expectations were probably at the lowest point in the nearly two decades Showtime has been holding its decorative fabrics trade show.

Exhibitors reported that appointments scheduled went off mostly as planned, but for many, there were fewer scheduled at Showtime, which took place earlier this month. Walk-ins were not prevalent, many exhibitors reported, and there were significant absences among the retail fabric community and decorative jobbers.

For exhibitors, lines were streamlined, as much to reflect the broader economic situation as to acknowledge the need for tighter focus on product introductions. There was less waste in “throwing stuff against the wall” rather than having a true meaning for presentation.

“The market was excellent for us,” said Rocco Simone, senior vp, Sunbury, who added that the reason probably “was we were really more specific on what we do in terms of price, color and design, with more dedication to those factors. The line is about 10% less than in the past; we’re more focused on winners.”

For Jack Cobb, president of American Decorative Fabrics, “It was pretty good in terms of expected traffic, but everyone’s business is pretty tough. Retail store traffic was off, and there were few jobbers, and they’re looking for the mills to take a more aggressive position regarding inventories.”

“It was OK. Sunday was pretty slow. Monday and Tuesday were fairly busy,” commented John Ringer, vp, sales for Richloom. “There were more gaps than usual in appointments. I don’t know where this show is going. There were some jobbers and retail fabric stores and some furniture suppliers. Everyone’s buying less than normal — it keeps us focused.”

American Silk Mills “got a lot of compliments on our line. And some furniture manufacturers even started putting programs together,” said Robin Slough, president — even though Showtime is basically a sample ordering time.

Under new ownership as Craftex by Victor, “we got Victor customer cross-over in our new space” at the Victor showroom. “The change of venue worked,” said Jack Eger, vp, Craftex. The Craftex line went back to its traditions with a high-end tapestry theme and very identifiable Craftex looks, he added.

Noting that Showtime had become less relevant for the company, Tom Hilb, president, of Heritage House, said: “We went back to our original smaller third floor space and we will continue to do Showtime in a minor way. The show continues to get smaller but it still is an opportunity to see blocks of customers at one time.”

“There were a lot of companies missing, especially in furniture,” said Tom Bruno, vp, sales, Covington.

But he added, “The mood was kind of optimistic, as though the end of this year was going to be the bottom of this.”

“I was pleasantly surprised with traffic — there are heartbeats out there,” commented Tom Notaro, vp, Wearbest Sil-Tex. “Response was good from our main customer base here — the furniture manufacturers.”

“It was incredible for us. Monday and Tuesday were the best days we ever had,” remarked Mike Shelton, president Valdese. He attributed some of this strength to the new presentation format that showed the line in design themes. “We had five theme rooms.”

As for business, “ours picked up a bit; inventory depletion has run its course for some.”

“It was a little more positive than I expected, so I’m pretty happy with the response,” said Jason Carr, president, Softline. Overall, he said, there was a little more optimism about a market turnaround. “But it definitely will be a down year for us and ’10 will be difficult but better.”

For Richard Hanfling, president of Swavelle/Mill Creek, “the attitude of customers was we’re here to do business — and they rolled up their sleeves.” He also noted there were few customers from the West Coast and Canada.

This season marked the first time that Michael Day, vp for design at the company’s TFA division, also created the upholstery line for Swavelle, which he said “was met with enthusiasm by the sales force — it went over well.”

“We went in with low expectations and came out happy,” said Robert Lachow, sales manager for J.B. Martin. For the company, jobbers expressed “an intent to purchase where in the recent past there had been no interest.”

Overall, he added, orders are “a bit better. Small orders are accelerating; there are few big orders. Special things created excitement, and there’s no question there’s demand for entry level pricing as well as fashion.”

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