A Refreshing Focus on Product

Carole Sloan, June 2, 2008

Talk about uplifting experiences!

Anyone wanting an upper moment in the home furnishings business, and in any part of the home textiles world in particular, should have been walking the aisles of the HD Expo last month in Las Vegas.

Now these eyes were those of a first-timer at the HD Expo, and while all shows cannot be evaluated with the same scale, if there are enough years walking show aisles, one can get a fairly accurate read.

From all the conversations that I had with those exhibiting, and those just walking the aisles — and there were almost as many could-be exhibitors doing that as there were exhibitors in the decorative fabrics and manufactured home textiles products arena — this segment of the home furnishings community is truly exciting.

Part of the excitement was because the product shown was developed more for need and fashion and functionality, rather than price point — a major differentiation point from the product shown in textile shows in New York, High Point, Las Vegas and even at Heimtextil in Frankfurt. And the excitement extends to the plethora of fabric suppliers exhibiting. The interesting thing about the fabric guys is that many are from the upper stratosphere of the business; few low-end fabric companies were present.

Interestingly, the same mood prevailed at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) at the Javits Convention Center here in New York. Billed as an international furniture show, its wings have spread to include more and more related products like rugs — a big segment this year; more textiles and accessories and lighting.

But again the mood at Javits was not one of gloom, doom and ever declining price points as is the case in conventional retail-driven market events. If anything, both the Vegas milieu and the New York event focused on product quality rather than price or how many containers were required for an order.

The product introductions at this year's ICFF were more about real products than fanciful dreams, but still many of the intros represented new ideas, new uses of materials — and above all, a creative approach to developing ingredients, products and designs that are eco-friendly.

It would be great if some of these elements could be translated to the mainstream home textiles world.

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