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Is it or isn't it?: A mini 'mini-market'

Lane Harvey Brown, BCST Staff -- Home Textiles Today, August 9, 2004

Some insist it is the second mini-market of the year, while others don't acknowledge its existence.

But for suppliers who rely heavily on imports, a week of August meetings with retailers is becoming institutionalized here in the home textiles district.

"Since October/fourth quarter is way too late for import shipments in for this year, and we're already in the post-quota stage, a lot of buyers are coming into town now to preview new products, shop and ask questions," said Dan Harris, vice president of marketing and product development with Niles, Ill.-based Revere Mills.

The bath and beach towel and kitchen textiles supplier had several appointments with some key accounts last week at its seventh-floor showroom here at 295 Fifth Ave.

"Buyers want to see how the marketplace will be affected post-quota," Harris continued. "They are asking how taking away the quota will affect pricing, production and deliveries. Imports are becoming more and more dominant in our marketplace after quota, and buyers must now work closer to the vest with their inventories and, at the same time, plan further out because of importing."

While some companies did take part in this unofficial event, the level of participation didn't appear overwhelming. The lobby in 295 Fifth Ave. wasn't crowded, there was no wait to ride the elevators, and many showrooms were dark last week.

Some suppliers who didn't open their showroom doors said they'd already taken care of previews this summer at retailer headquarters.

Still, a number of major retailers were in town and making the rounds. Among them: Federated Department Stores, May Co., Bed Bath & Beyond, Linens 'n Things, Stein Mart, Ross, Home Goods, T.J. Maxx, Dillard's, Proffitt's and Carson Pirie Scott.

"It seems the last couple of years it's a very unofficial type of occurrence that we set up appointments with specialty and department stores in New York. But it's making sense more and more because you need the extra time to plan with imports," said Gary Shafran, sales and marketing manager for the accent rug division of Saddle Brook, N.J.-based Nourison.

The company, too, had several appointments with major retail partners last week at its 14th floor showroom at 295 Fifth Ave. "There is such a long period between the April and October markets that with all of the new product, you don't have to wait as long now. We are able to show our new lines to the retailers earlier and they can select what they want in advance and get them on their shelves Jan. 1, not February or March. Also, it helps us forecast what they want to bring in for early spring shipments."

For New York-based Croscill Home Fashions, president and CEO David Kahn described last week's event as "the first really important mini-market for us that I can remember."

Similarly, for San Francisco-based American Pacific, which said it is always working closely with retailers throughout the year, the August mini-market "is becoming more and more important to us. We certainly had a fantastic week and (were) extremely busy … . Mini-market is a really key time for us to help with getting the shipments in for spring," said Kaela Forker, vice president of sales.

"It's a great time to preview what you plan on showing in fall market and to decide which patterns are going to make it or not," explained Dale Talbert, Veratex vice president. He added that it is better for business to highlight patterns in a showroom setting rather than shipping them back and forth piecemeal. "Most of the retailers that drive the business are at mini-market to see the new lines," said Talbert.

Sheridan president Bob Gehm added, "Mini-market is important to us because the big store groups all come in early to make their decisions. Plus it gives you a better indication of how your patterns will be received."

Said Glenda Heffer, design director with Boca Raton, Fla.-based Hollander Home Fashions, the August mini-market serves as "an editing session with vendors and it helps us get to market."

The company, she explained, is now "developing more partnerships with vendors, more hands-on working sessions that lead to what we show at market."

But for some suppliers, even August is too late for spring '05 previews.

"We had our first preview at the beginning of June (with a major discount retailer)," said Robert Panko, vice president of product development with New York-based Arlee Home Fashions. "We're previewing earlier and earlier because of overseas imports and unforeseen problems, like in China with the power outages and factory shutdowns this summer. We really needed more lead time to get things done."

Elrene Home Fashions' president and CEO, Mark Siegel, described last week's event as a "mini mini-market."

Siegel said his company wrapped up its October market previews "back in May. We're already at the point that we are doing product development for fall 2005. We're done with Easter, St. Patrick's Day and other seasonal 2005. All of our customers have seen these goods and are committing."

The three customers that did come into the company's showroom at 261 Fifth Ave., he said, "just wanted to visit and review their orders."

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