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High Point exhibitors hopeful

High Point, N.C. - Despite a business climate that was noted for its lack of consistency, home textiles suppliers showing at the High Point Market here this week are hopeful that the year end will improve.

Low and stale retail inventories, a better-than-expected retail back-to-school sales effort and just a general expectation for a better business environment are combining to spur their efforts.

In addition, a number of suppliers have created major new product introductions - either with new licenses for nameplate brands or via internal new product development to entice buyers.

The market here typically is a diverse one for home textiles suppliers, attracting a broad range of customers from exclusive interior designers working on specific projects to specialty home textiles retailers, department stores and furniture stores - with each segment posing different challenges.

At Traditions by Pamela Kline, "We did something very different this market," said Shari Kline, president. Typically, company executives and reps call existing customers to set appointments. "This market we did something really different. We went back and called customers we haven't seen for as long as six years, and the response was great. We have appointments with a lot of customers we haven't seen for long."

Kline noted that based on the New York International Gift Fair in August, "there was a good buzz and attendance was good. They wrote orders but they weren't large - and the looks were more basic and safe rather than elaborate."

At Aico, "We always add new bedding to our collections including the "Michael Amini & Jane Seymour: A Design Collaboration" program, said Laurie Phillips, vice president of soft lines. In the newly expanded showroom, "we will have a specific area for all our decorative bedding with space to showcase packaging, shelving and focus on the product. We also will expand our programs to make special things for individual customers."

"It's most frustrating," commented John Rose, principal at Textillery. "Product seems to be selling, but retailers didn't order in July and August - but the New York gift people were really cautious. I'm concerned about orders for Christmas. There are supply chain issues, and hospitality has really picked up and we have committed production time."

Overall, Rose added, "There are fewer customers and more shows - and customers cutting back on where they are going."

Hallmark Collectibles will showcase its recently signed license for decorative and basic bedding, with Trump Home, joining the brand's other home licenses. A long-time licensee for Kathy Ireland, Jesse Galili, vp, sees the Trump Home brand as being significantly different. Kathy Ireland is focused on busy mothers, while Trump Home reflects the Trump suites' and properties' aesthetics, he pointed out. "It's affordable luxury."

The Trump Home program will launch five top of bed collections plus a sheet program as well as basic bedding with 300-count single ply cotton as the base cloth. There will be embroideries and embellishments - "and we will stay away from the hotel cliché in design."

Overall business seems to be steady. "The first quarter was good, then it went down and now it's back up." Looking to this week, Galili remarked, "There seems to be a positive attitude. We're coming to the table with expanded programs, new price points and configurations." As an example he cited he shift from a nine-piece bedding set to a seven-piece and a price drop to $199 versus $299.

For Ann Gish, head of her namesake bedding and accessory company, "this market is a major concern to me because of the change in my exhibitor neighbor," which represent a major shift. The company moved to its current space last market with different neighbors and the lineup has changed dramatically, she remarked. "I hope I'll be okay."

A broad new product offering will be featured by Company C, said Kristin Lefrevre, marketing manager. Among the newsmakers, she noted, "is our first indoor/outdoor rugs of polyester in vibrant colors."

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