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Showtime sets stage for 2000

HIGH POINT, NC — The shadow of retail failures, a seismic change in the home textiles manufacturing systems and the conflict of timing with Heimtextil in Germany impacted the mood of the market at Showtime here last week.

Despite these challenges, the fabric community seemed positive about business for this year. Almost universally, they agreed that the first half would be the biggest challenge and that business should show an uptick for the second half.

The high end of the fabric market reported continuing strong business and strong reactions from home textiles manufacturers and retailers attending the show.

Voicing the common concern was Rob Culp, ceo of Culp, who said, "Everyone is real concerned with the retail failures. The structure of the business really will be changed as we emerge from these."

At the same time, Culp sees "great opportunities to pick up market share on the basis of product, not price. This is a product/value-driven business."

Michael Kay, principal in Textile Fabric Associates, said that "our engineered designs went really well as did our woven Alcantara and leather/chenille combinations."

But, he noted wistfully, "so many more people went to Heimtex," and this had an impact on his traffic even though he called the flow "great." Kay issued one caveat about newcomers to the import game: "They don't know how complex it is."

For Jill Liebson, president of Q.F. Industries, attendance is a critical issue in January. "We can't continue to beat our heads against Heimtex. Certain large players are going to Heimtex. We should have one Showtime if we can't change the January date," she said.

Although the company closed 2000 with a more than 20 percent increase, Mike Rice, executive vp of Barrow Inds., sees "more price sensitivity than in the past in top of the bed and elsewhere. But the mood of the market is still pretty good."

Looking at Showtime overall, Tom Bruno, vp of Spectrum, observed, "It's still pretty optimistic despite some caution. But the decorative side is much more upbeat than home textiles and furniture."

"We see a hard January through March, with a comeback in the summer" said Ray King, president of Mastercraft. "This year is the year that 'relationships' are going to be tested."

According to Jack Eger, vp, Craftex, "Jobbers have never stopped shopping and buying. The higher end is still holding up. Our jobber business is flying and the top of the bed is beginning to open up."

"We had a great reception to our Japanese collection and Pamela Ferrari's collection," said Roger Burnim, vp, Concord Home.

At the same time, he said, "we're not hearing great optimism about business. But we also haven't seen the price sensitivity we anticipated."

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