Suppliers see struggle ahead

Carole Sloan, June 18, 2001

While fabric jobbers seem to be holding their own more than furniture manufacturers and fabric retailers, the fabric supplier base sees the year continuing to be a struggle although higher-end fabrics seem to be ahead of the rest of the mix.

Adding to the dilemma is that the "China factor" is now impacting the upper end of the quality and pricing segment.

"While our placements are good — even the best ever — our reorders are just okay, not horrible," said Michael Koch, executive vp of Wearbest Siltex Mills. Jobbers, he related, are more focused than ever in terms of picking up new goods. "We're covered in this category, and not offering new is the way they're reacting," he added.

For Quaker, business is very difficult, said Larry Liebenow, president and ceo. "People have said they see a bit of improvement, but it is very scattered. We're continuing to grow by increasing market share."

In contrast, Craftex sees its jobber placements "going great," said Jack Eger, vp. "The top jobbers are in a real buying mode."

But he tempered his own positive attitude, adding: "We are now seeing the impact of Chinese goods in our price range. It's the first time we've been impacted."

Roger Burnim, vp at Concord Fabrics, said "business is very soft; it's a struggle. And there's a lot of conservatism." While jobber business is better than other segments, "it's just fair, and I don't see them reacting as quickly or with as many books. As for reorders, they're coming in but at a conservative pace," he said.

"We've had pretty decent jobber placement this year, but it's in two directions: back to basics; and fresh and cutting-edge," said Reuben Lentz, executive vp of Weathervane Hill/Roth Fabrics. "We had some major placements last year, and there's a lot of annuity business in the reorders."

"Embroidery is hot in all forms and across all types of fabrics. Crewels, stitchery, handcrafted looks and very refined techniques are important," Lentz added.

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