Global Fabric

Carole Sloan, January 10, 2005

Talking with fabric folks leading up to this week's almost simultaneous Showtime and Heimtextil events, the world of fabrics will be faced with a broad array of challenges and opportunities for the new year.

And, in contrast to years past, most of the changes will be globally driven.

As Heimtextil morphs more and more into a sourcing show, the American participation has reached an all-time low in terms of exhibitor activity —a strange turn of events considering the value of American fabrics in dollar terms versus other currencies. It's a currency situation that many believe will continue to be part of the global scene for some time.

For Americans who use both Showtime and Heimtextil as venues for shopping, each event also will be different from years gone by. For those involved with the high-end, high-quality European mills, the challenge will be two-fold — rationalizing the pricing in the euro versus the dollar scenario, as well as evaluating the relative quality available from European fabric suppliers and suppliers from other countries.

The latter, according to a number of American customers, are catching up both in quality and design, while some European mills are moving offshore in joint ventures or simple business arrangements with mills in Turkey, India, Pakistan and China, among others.

Then there is the situation here at home with fabric suppliers still digesting the impact and ramifications of the closing of Hoffman Mills, and what this portends for the American home furnishings fabrics business. It's a challenge that no one has the answer to —and it appears there is no single response to fit all situations.

Add to that the potential for chaos as shipments of goods no longer on quota are detained because they were shipped prior to the Jan. 1 quota lifting, as well as an unclear picture as to the status of goods now eligible to be shipped from here to countries formerly under quota allotments.

Then there's the whole ever-changing drama emerging in the flammability arena with the Consumer Products Safety Commission now apparently taking on not just fabrics but also bed coverings including sheets and blankets and filled products like comforters, pillows and the like. Should be interesting.

Stay tuned.

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