Vendors Extend Hospitality

Carole Sloan, Staff Staff, May 5, 2008

There will be a major move toward enhancing products with eco-friendly, sustainable and recyclable materials among the decorative fabrics and home textiles exhibitors participating in the HD Expo and Conference here from May 15 to 17.

What began as a mere blip on the radar screen earlier this decade with developments like corn being used to produce fiber, bamboo cultivated for similar purposes and the embryonic emergence of systems to recycle these products has turned into a major force in the business of decorating hotels, inns, motels and other commercial hospitality installations.

But, exhibitors at HD Expo here emphasize that no matter how much effort the marketplace puts into these environmental efforts, it is the design and construction quality that ultimately determines the fabric or product usage.

And this year more suppliers, even those that are fabric specialists, are moving into the product arena offering bedding, window coverings, and textiles accessories in an effort to provide one-stop shopping for hospitality specifiers.

As the production of decorative fabrics and textile furnishings moved off-shore in this decade, increasing numbers of suppliers are featuring U.S. warehouse programs for fabrics as well as select manufactured products — part of increased services offered by each company.

The macro-economy is also a factor in analyzing the strength of the hospitality business. While the U.S. market has remained strong, with pipelines still full, the macro-conditions are seen as potentially impacting this area. But the global market is robust, most said.

From a business perspective, the entire contract segment of the home furnishings business, and hospitality in particular, is one of the few bright lights for suppliers. "The hospitality business continues to be extra strong and very vibrant," Harvey Nudelman, president of Fabricut said. "Whether the macro-economic conditions will create a tipping point in hotels remains to be seen. A ripple effect could happen."

For Fabricut, the green movement is one of the big things, and "the white bed trend represents a non-green product." In response to the green movement, Fabricut is introducing green bedding "using Milliken recycled polyester greige goods that are transfer printed in this country," he related.

Performance qualities are critical to the hospitality business at Silver State, a distributor that features Sunbrella fabrics "that are coming inside from their original outdoor use – and growing fastest," explained Manoli Sargetakas, a company principal. Hospitality is the company's fastest growing segment. "It's a healthy one but like everything else, is getting hit."

Relating to the green movement, Sargetakas said, "Green has the most interest and conversation but is the smallest part of the sale. It has a definite cost question." Overall, he noted, "Hospitality is more sophisticated than ever about what is expected in performance fabrics with Crypton coming up and fabrics like vinyls and polyurethanes featuring soft hand, malleability and creative designs as well as performance."

A dramatically expanded product mix will be the focus of Samelson/Chatelane with a three-part launch, according to Mark Teppel, president/principal. Climate Control uses 100% recycled polyester with FR attributes in a woven program; Green Dreams is a print collection using recycled polyester; and Wall to Wall is an inherently FR polyester group. Along with new product, Teppel said, "A big change is our custom department."

P/Kaufmann debuts a corporate brand program called P/Kaufmann Conserves with fabrics that are biodegradable, sustainable or recycled, said Curtis Breedlove, president, P/Kaufmann Contract. For the contract segment of the business, "This is quite important, but it is one of the biggest challenges vis a vis the economy and credibility of product."

At Richloom, the past five years have seen significant growth in its hospitality business, according to Tony Riggio, director of contract. And the growth has come in good measure because of "our emphasis on design and sourcing from upholstery fabrics to finished products like duvets," added Andrew Riesel, evp, noting, "Contract is one of the few areas where the pie has grown."

Overall, Riesel noted, "The outlook for the year is good. Overseas is growing double digit, and our inventory/quick ship program on duvets and accessories is important."

For Rocland Mills, a major player in the hospitality business, "The business is holding strong and the global business is reflecting an explosion of the economies with hotels in India and China even more than elsewhere," explained Stan Fradin, president. "And Abu Dabi will be a second Dubai."

As for domestic hospitality, "There's lots happening in the top tier, second tier and emerging boutique hotels."

A relative newcomer to the hospitality world, Alberto Mascioni, president of Mascioni, noted, "We're very pleased and getting recognition for the brand. Our niche is the high end and we're developing prints for this business. The collection of 180 SKU is one sheeting with dyes that can withstand the washing necessary, he explained.

"We're launching our high profile designer – Barbara Barry – into the hospitality market, with a full range of product done to scale for this segment," said Scott Kravet, principal of Kravet. "Hospitality is very strong for us, especially at the better end."

"We've created a much higher focus on hospitality as well as finished product, and hospitality is on an upswing for us," remarked Andy Pacuk, senior vp, strategic development for the Robert Allen Group.

"We see this segment looking for a reinvention of the white bed which is still strong, but there's more color and embroidery, more luxury to dress the room," Pacuk explained. To enhance its top-of-bed program, the company is working on a program of in-stock reorders for specific customer programs.

In its debut at HD as part of the giant Indian company Himatsingka Linens, Bellora Hospitality will feature products from the three brands — Bellora, Barbara Barry and Calvin Klein — as well as product from DWI Holdings . While DWI Holdings had previously served the hospitality business, "The brand strategy has changed; Bellora is the brand umbrella for hospitality with the DWI brands, said Michael Bernstein, president.

"We're working very hard to keep up with the demand, and we still think things are very buoyant in hospitality," said Diana Dobin, vp. But she added, "We are cautious; we see some projects on hold." The company is launching its FRESH Bedding "that really feels like cotton, but it uses yarn that inherently needs less energy and water for maintenance."

Although showing, Wearbest Sil-tex Mills is not selling at HD, said Irwin Gasner, president and principal. "Instead, we have invested heavily in marketing our Bella-Dura product and will be present to showcase our customers' products. We're not going direct at all," he emphasized.

The company will showcase its debut collection of Bella-Dura fabrics and all fabrics will be under the brand name, rather than the company name, he emphasized. "Our customers all have booths and are marketing the product under this name," he added.

For Swavelle/Mill Creek, "One of our competitive assets is our six- to eight-week inventory that we have in the U.S.," said Richard Hanfling, president. "Increasingly, companies in hospitality can buy from suppliers with domestic warehouses."

The company also is seeing an increase "in the amount of special designs that are needed in this business," Hanfling related. "Styling is everything and about 25% of our business is specials."

As a relative newcomer to the hospitality market, Eastern Accents noted that, "Whatever business we have is from being at the show," according to Ridvan Tatargil, president.

For Faribault, "Hospitality is our biggest growth area with the world market going gangbusters," said Mike Harris, president. Relatively new to the segment, he added, "We are put to the test — in design, quality and functionality — like you wouldn't believe."

Focusing strictly on the high end of the business, SDH is emphasizing its inherently green programs, said Cathy Stemmler, national sales manager. The Purist program is chemical-free in hospitality quality, and the Legna line uses yarn made from wood pulp.

For Textillery Weavers, "We're sort of on a roll in this market," said John Rose, president and principal. The company does a lot of specification work via the internet, he said, and, "We're looking forward to meeting many of them face to face."

"We're a full service supplier to three, four and five star hotels," explained Adam Pinkow, northeast sales manager for Baltic Linen. The hospitality market is the company's second largest business segment, "and is growing especially as hotels become more design oriented and more specialized."

A veteran in the hospitality business, Pacific Coast Feather sees opportunities in leveraging its strengths in both natural and synthetic fills, said Fritz Kruger, senior vp, marketing. And the green movement has opened areas of question. "We're now seeing things claiming to be green. There are no real standards and people are spinning different stories." But overall, he noted, hotels are more environmentally friendly."

A big change, and one that will continue to impact suppliers, is the way hotels are changing their laundering techniques, said Steve Palmer, co-president of United Feather & Down. This and a trend toward elements like anti-microbial and anti-bacterial features already is creating another level of product development, he noted.

For Louisville Bedding, the hospitality market "has been very strong for the last few years, but in the last few months, there's been some concern," noted Tom Healy, director of sales and market, hospitality.

Overall, Healy noted, "A lot of the branded [hotel] people have traded up and are moving to green products." As part of this movement, Louisville is emphasizing "a wide range of pillows, pads and comforters with a variety of eco-friendly elements."

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