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Cecile Corral

Buyers bear down at winter mini-market

It wasn't the best of times, but it wasn't the worst of times, either, last week at the February winter market here.

With most of the strictly holiday-related marketing already wrapped up two to three months ago, many suppliers turned their attention to previewing and editing lines for upcoming New York Home Textiles Market in March.

And yet, the core purpose of this annual event remained tying up loose ends with major accounts as well as courting new and smaller potential retail partners — the latter being a task that is becoming increasingly important for suppliers as they compete in a narrowing retail landscape that each year is comprises fewer and fewer stores.

Suppliers used styles depicting luxury, comfort and quiet elegance with more embroidery and embellishing techniques. Unchanged retail price points on those holiday offerings also wooed buyers.

The Gold Coast division of Riddle & Company, which launched 18 months ago, offered a line of better quality tapestries with sharper images and colors as part of its first holiday introductions. Adornments included fringe, pom-poms and tassels from a product range that included tree skirts, stockings, decorative pillows, runners and bell pulls.

"We have our own tapestry looms in North Carolina as well as German looms at our facilities in China. We can react quickly using our U.S. looms for sampling. But to meet a price we can manufacture in China," said Art Segal executive vp, general manager.

Faux suede made a strong statement in all categories — from table linens, such as place mats from New York-based Bardwil Linens and Foreston Trends, of Long Beach, CA, to shower curtains from Park B. Smith, New York.

Similarly, faux fur proved a persistent trend even after three-plus years. But for this year's fourth-quarter seasonal lines, the popularity of faux is graduating to accents in faux suede, as in decorative pillows by New York-based Arlee and Sugar Valley, GA-based Mohawk Home, and quilted decorative pillows, like those from Newport, Portland, OR .

"It's about a richer look and feel," said Merle Johnson, vp, marketing, Mohawk Home. "It's about sumptuous products and luxury looks, but with an emphasis on comfort and coziness. People want things that are soft and warm and good to cuddle with — faux furs, berbers, plaids, chenilles."

Indeed, chenilles were probably the most prolific fabrication at winter market for both holiday goods and spring previews. While chenille has long been a popular construction, particularly in decorative pillows, more suppliers in other product categories now seem to be using it to achieve a soft touch and luxurious feel, as well as richer colors like mustards, terra cottas, olives and chocolates.

Terrisol Corp. added 12 new seasonal shades to its Suite collection of bath towels, as well as the new Tresor pattern that features a chenille border.

Calhoun, GA-based Georgia Tufters previewed its newest tufted chenille bedspread design, Patchwork, available in white, natural, butter and powder blue.

Ex-Cell Home Fashions remained firm on its usual $14.99 price point even though it dressed up its tapestry holiday decorative pillow line with chenille accents, corduroy details, appliqués and other embellishments, as did many other of its competitors, such as Griffin, GA-based Fashion Industries and Mohawk Home.

"We looked at adding additional components to give consumers added value without raising our prices," said David North, vp, marketing development.

Park B. Smith made a statement with its new line of richly colored chenille and chenille-blend accent-size rugs, all of which have versatile use for throughout the home, including the bath.

"Chenille has a luxurious look. It's soft and colors translate very beautifully on it," Kat Madcharo-Ridel, manager of product development, said. "It also works well in blends. When you add rayon, for example, you get that sheen and shine as opposed to a flat loop look."

Which brings up another important trend for holiday '03 — glittery, shimmery, shiny and sparkly looks.

Lurex is one construction many suppliers used to make their wares glisten. Bardwil, in fact, doubled its lurex-made table linen offerings with the introduction of prints for a total of four lurex tablecloths - two prints and two woven plaids.

Mohawk Home added lurex to its tapestry decorative pillows "for extra sheen and added value," Johnson said.

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