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Britex differentiates with service, selection

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, March 5, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO -Although she says it's definitely more difficult for a single-store retailer to grow a business, Lucy Spector, owner of Britex, a must-shop fabric store just off Union Square here, is not complaining.

Operating under her philosophy of expansive service plus an ever broadening assortment of fabrics that seems to burst the seams of the store, Spector said "people come from all over. Many come for the day just to spec projects."

Britex, in business for 50 years, prides itself on its knowledgeable staff and a well-rounded collection of fabrics for home and apparel. It recently expanded its trimmings offering with trims, tassels and ribbons that are in stock. "It's been very successful."

And while buttons and other trims are primarily for the customer doing apparel, Spector noted that the buttons are especially important to home decor customers.

The 10,000-square-foot store is bursting with fabrics shelved high to the ceiling and down aisles that make most any day a crowded trip-but a fruitful one. Fabrics specifically for furniture covers account for some 25 percent of the company's total revenues. But Spector explained that the home furnishings total was probably close to 35 percent when multi-purpose fabrics and novelty fabrics that could be either home or apparel driven are included. Today, she remarked, fabrics that were typically apparel directed are being used for window coverings, decorative pillows, table linens and other non-heavy performance fabrics.

"There's more interest today in home furnishings fabrics."

Part of the appeal of the store is the evident enthusiasm of the owner, who said, "I enjoy buying and selling." And she obviously enjoys and prospers by shopping the European shows and specific suppliers.

She goes every second year to Decosit in Belgium, and "to familiarize myself with our primary suppliers in Spain and Italy as well as English suppliers who are good and well priced."

Overall, Spector related, "I shop Europe once a year for both home furnishings and apparel fabrics. The drawback for imports is that it takes a long time to be produced and is costly regarding duty."

Once difference between home furnishings fabrics and apparel fabrics, she explained, "is that it is important to have continuity."

As part of her home fabrics operating philosophy, Spector emphasized, "I don't take special orders on cut-order fabrics and I don't use suppliers' sample books. There's too much of a difference in dye lots and other quality things.

Spector's two daughters are involved in the business, with Beverly the more active of the siblings.

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