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Suppliers: Second-half outlook is hopeful, but hazy

New York — Having officially entered into the second half of the calendar year and with the bellwether Back-to-School season just around the corner, the home textiles industry is hopeful that the next six months will bring a sustained recovery.

Several suppliers contacted by HTT confirmed that bookings for last year are ahead of last year, although that's hardly a surprise considering that the pipeline was already closing by mid-2001 while economists debated whether the country was truly in a recession.

"The overall domestics business is very good, since so much capacity has been taken out of the industry," said Jeff Stewart, high-yield textiles industry analyst at Wachovia Securities, Charlotte, NC. "The housing business continues to be good, and that helps to drive home furnishings sales. So between that and the capacity reduction, the industry looks to be in pretty good shape."

While suppliers overall sounded a generally optimistic note, their remarks were often tempered by caution about the pace of the economic recovery, the health of the retail industry and the potential threat of terrorist activities.

Many suppliers had a fair first half, and some had a record-breaking one as retailers moved to quench parched inventories. The question now, as Wachovia's Stewart noted, is, "Does it have legs?"

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