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Heimtextil Exhibitors Predict Lower Attendance

Still Hopeful for Int’l Opportunities

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, January 11, 2010

Exhibitors at Heimtex this week are concerned about both the shrinking of the exhibitor base as well as the anticipated decline in buyer traffic for the giant home textiles fair.

While attendance by visitors was officially acknowledged as down in 2009, current exhibitors also expect that visitor attendance will be down again this year.

For Brandon Palmer, co-president of United Feather & Down, “We anticipate the exhibitor base to be down, and we also feel that overall buyer attendance will be down.”

United Feather, officially not an exhibitor, but a partner with Italian basic bedding supplier Molina, still will share space in the smaller Molina stand.

As for the visitor makeup, Palmer has a very conservative outlook. “Asian visitors will be down, and business in England is tougher than in the United States.” Looking back, Palmer said “I’m happy that 2009 is behind us, but I have a very conservative outlook.”

As for Heimtex, “It is still a good show but you won’t see a million new ideas or breakthroughs.”

Sleep Studios, a U.S.-based company, is showing at Heimtex for the first time. “We had humongous growth with our ViscoFresh memory pillow and that led to conversations with retailers outside the United States,” explained Chris Ann Ernst, vp. “We have appointments set up and are looking forward to walk-in traffic.”

Another American exhibitor, EA International also expects a decline in exhibitor as well as visitor attendance. “The show is still very viable and people are going to be there in force,” commented Dale Brown, vp, sales. The company, he added, expected more non-European exhibitors and visitors.

“We’re hoping for a good show, we’re the No. 1 packaging house,” he said. Noting the 2009 attendance was down, “we hope this year will be better.”

For Ryan Jones, a partner in Stellar Alliance, which is related to Dormisette, Wulfing and Ibena, “It’s still a big show, and we think there will be more American buyers, but I’m more interested in the vendor turnout. Hall 11 and its impact of people’s shopping patterns also will be a key issue.”

Josef Kolker, co-managing director of Wulfing, said “There are two ways to look at expectations. European retailing, especially in Germany has had a reasonable year — the exception was Spain. The question is will 2010 be bigger?’

Additionally, Kolker said: “Markets like the United States and the United Kingdom might hopefully stay as they were in ’09 rather than decline, and the rest of Europe should stay stable.”

As for Heimtex, “We don’t know how the new reorganization for Hall 11 will affect us in Hall 8 and the other halls. We understand that most of Hall 9 now is in Hall 11. It’s ironic since retailers wanted similar product stands closer, not farther apart,” he said.

For Stan Fradin of Roc-Lon, “Our international business has really picked up. As for Heimtex, I have a better take than most regarding attendance. We see more from the Middle East since they didn’t go to Mood in Brussels in September because of Ramadan, and we’ve contacted Asians, Mexicans and South Americans who are coming back this year.”

Welspun will return to Heimtextil for the first time since 2004 — though not in the same way. The company will target European business through a universal presentation by Welspun’s European division alongside Christy of the UK and Sorema of Portugal, both of which the Indian giant has acquired since its last showing in Frankfurt.

“We’re bringing our customers under the Weslpun umbrella,” said Anurag Shama, president, Welspun India. “And we’re seriously looking at launching brands in Europe.”

WestPoint is exhibiting as an international business with manufacturing facilities in Bahrain and Lahore — and an American home office, according to Alan Kennedy, vp.

As for the international business, Kennedy said, “We see it as a solid plus and are hiring a sales group this year. We picked up good business in 2009 and even oversold in the two plants.”

As for the sparse American exhibitor contingent, Kennedy commented: “The U.S. companies have a reputation — when they need business they look to export; when business at home is good, they forget about it.”

“Now our business is tremendous, orders are coming in strong and fast,” said Jesse Curlee, president of Supima. “We are looking at Heimtex to find out how our major customers in China, India and Pakistan see the year ahead.”

Supima, Curlee added “will be a very scarce commodity this year because there will be a smaller crop in the United States since the price was so low in recent years.” Now he explained California farmers are coming back to pima cotton with the higher price ranges — $1.30 to $1.40 a pound. The only problem with that is the availability of water in California. Other than that, our licensing program is really strong.”

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