Times are-a-changin' at Showtime

Attendance for event down, but spirits remain up

Carole Sloan, January 12, 2004

HIGHPOINT , N.C. — With a recent spurt in business across many distribution channels, decorative fabrics suppliers at Showtime were enthusiastic about their showings, as well as being buoyed by some unexpected order writing.

But almost universally, exhibitors noted last week that there was both a drop in attendance, as well as a significant change in the makeup of attendees.

There was a definite skew away from the large furniture manufacturers, many of whom conducted extensive mill previews during December. Their ranks were partially filled by a growing number of fabric retailers, home textiles suppliers and other manufacturers.

"It was really, really good and prints look like they're back," said Catherine Shearson, president of Kingsway Fabrics. "We were constantly busy."

Mike Shelton, president of Valdese, used the word "fabulous" to describe the week. "It was a great show for us — across all distribution channels."

Showtime offers Valdese several opportunities, he explained. "We like to make a great statement to our customers to help them start their buying processes. For some, Showtime is a beginning. For others, it is a followup. But either way, we help them make a fashion statement."

As a result, Shelton noted, "We see the beginning of another really good season" following a strong increase in '03.

For Craftex, "This was a strong event," said Jack Eger, vice president, who noted that customers were looking to better price points this time.

Larry Liebenow, president of Quaker, said, "Most customers seem really optimistic about business," adding, "the outlook even among retailers is strong." As for Quaker, "business is good," he said.

At Culp, "Business in December was tough, but everyone this week seems pretty optimistic. I think we'll have a good run for January through April (typically a good quarter), but beyond?" said Rob Culp, CEO of Culp. He added "fall wasn't a blowout."

As for Showtime, "There are less and less of the big (furniture) people coming. I think they'll be less next time. Several big customers prefer to work elsewhere — at our plant or their factories."

But Culp emphasized, "We're High Point based, so we'll always be here at Showtime. But this is our last market in this space."

Bob Woodcock, vice president of Heritage House, said, "Everyone we saw was very upbeat. The fourth quarter was good for them, so there's a lot more confidence."

As for Heritage House, "We more than doubled our revenues —'03 versus '02," he added.

Jill Liebson, president of QF Industries, said, "It was good, really good. We saw only non-furniture customers, and they all were appointments, no walk-ins."

Gary Stein, vice president of American Decorative Fabrics, said, "We're excited by the customers' responses to the new things. Traffic definitely was less, but the mood was pretty upbeat and we were extremely busy."

ADF embarked on an upgrading move and winners in that arena were embroidered, embossed and embellished faux suedes "which we will expand even further next market," Stein said. As for the rest of the introductions, "We were very pleased with the way the new line played off the last."

At Chris Stone, Mark Aizawa, president, said, "While the response to the entire line was strong, the reaction to the retro moderns was huge. We're very happy, even though traffic was obviously down."

And Aizawa added, "Showtime is still a viable event, though January has more scheduling conflicts than July."

The timing of the January event typically conflicts with holidays and other major trade events, more so than the July Showtime, which only has to work around the Fourth of July weekend.

This year's winter Showtime began on the long New Year's weekend, overlapped with the Atlanta gift show and preceded Heimtextil.

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