Gift Fair Exhibitors Hope for Better Order-Writing

Carole Sloan, August 10, 2009

With a mixed bag of results from regional home furnishings shows during the first half of this year, exhibitors heading to the New York International Gift Fair/New York Home Textiles Market anticipate a continuation of lower attendance, but perhaps a slight pickup in order writing.

Based on results at the regional markets in Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta, and the minimal order placement, a number of exhibitors believe that retail inventories are far too low for stores to maintain a semblance of being in business during the peak fall season.

In fact, some suppliers are reporting that orders in the last month have picked up, although there is no clear cut trend. But almost unanimously, suppliers believe the challenge for suppliers and specialty retailers is just to get through the balance of the year with some level of success.

"Business today is a continuing trickle, the signs are promising, but we just have to get through this year," explained Keith Sorgeloos, ceo of Home Source International. The company had been showing during the NYIGF at its showroom at 230 Fifth Avenue, but now will be showing exclusively at Javits in the space of its rep company, One Coast.

"Atlanta and Dallas were break even from January but down about 11% from a year ago. But we were very surprised in Dallas. Despite the low traffic — as we did in Atlanta where we were in a new showroom with One Coast — we broke even."

Going forward, he added, "the real key for us will be the launch of Vera, and I feel New York will be a good market for our organic products."

In contrast, Ann Gish, head of her namesake company, said: "Atlanta was fantastic. It was like the old days — people were writing and writing."

As a result Gish is "looking to a good New York market, but I just don't know," especially since she has a new space. "It's smaller but a better space," she said.

In a major move, Peacock Alley is relocating from its long-time, major space as one of the fashion anchors at Javits to its rep showroom — Mary Harper Group at 7 West 34 Street. "The January market at Javits had so few customers. It was the same during fall 2008," commented Mary Ella Gabler, founder and ceo of Peacock Alley.

As a result, the decision was made to move. "We feel we have good outside coverage, and it's working well now," Gabler added. "We were just covering a fraction of the market there."

While admitting that "it is difficult to get buyers to 7 West, the building traffic is building. I really struggled with this decision," Gabler said. As far as business is concerned, she noted that "Customers are not buying what they did in the past. They're trying to be very cautious." As a result, Peacock Alley "is not planning aggressively for the balance of '09, and not either for early 2010."

Ryan Jones, a partner in Stellar Alliance, which represents Germany-based Ibena in the United States, said that the company is exhibiting at Javits for the first time as an experiment. "We're trying to reach smaller retailers. And Ibena among our other partners has a warehouse in Spartansburg, S.C., where it will house product for home textiles programs.

"It's a one time shot," Jones said. "We're testing the venue as well as checking out different things in terms of sales targets." For specialty retailers Ibena has 39 skus in stock, and retailers have to order only five in a mixed package. "We're trying to sell product but also develop a rep network and figure out how to sell otherwise."

For Anichini, this market period marks an even more dramatic change. The company has closed it long-standing showroom at 230 Fifth Avenue, closed its leased department at ABC Carpet & Home and doubled the size of its designer showroom at the D&D Building here at 979 Third Avenue, said Susan Dollenmaier, ceo.

And while the D&D building is generally closed on weekends, Anichini has arranged for retailers attending the NYIGF to have open access on the weekend.

"I think it will be satisfactory," commented John Rose, co-owner of Textillery about the forthcoming NYIGF. "We heard Atlanta was bad, but there's some business out there. And the independents have to put merchandise on the floor."

"Inventories are too low for retailers to stay stable in the business," said Arthur Viente, vp of Blissliving. Earlier shows this year were mixed. "We got more new traffic in Atlanta since we were new to the show — but that show is too long."

For Cathy Stemmler, national sales manager for SDH, "Orders in the last month are up 8% versus [the previous] month. But customers' businesses are up and down." As for her outlook at Javits, "some customers are calling, and they're saying they're going after earlier saying they were not."

For Traditions by Pamela Kline, "We've had a very good year, as they planned down," said Shari Kline, president.

"The shows are down the same as we are, and the challenge is to reach customers when fewer are coming from shows," she added. "They're selling a lot from pictures rather than coming in to bring in new styles."

Part of the plus for Traditions, she added, "is we're getting a lot of hospitality business from retailers and interior designers. And we're offering more and more services."


New York Summer Markets

New York Home Textiles Market Week

Held concurrently with GLM's New York International Gift Fair. Aug. 14–20 at the New York International Gift Fair (Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and Passenger Ship Terminal Piers, Aug.15–20); at 230 Fifth Avenue (Aug. 15–20); and at 7 W New York (Aug. 14–20).

HTT Market Kick-Off Party

Sunday, Sept. 13 Penthouse, 230 Fifth Ave, 6 p.m to 8 p.m.

New York Home Fashions Market

Monday, Sept. 14 – Friday, Sept. 18 In the showrooms

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