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Observations Around the Agora

Carole Sloan, Maria Weiskott -- Home Textiles Today, August 13, 2007

As markets go, the one that just concluded in New York was uneventful — which is good. No one is saying business is great, but there were no visible signs of retailers or suppliers tearing hankies to shreds.

And for those who say that no one comes to market anymore, there were some really high-level executives from the Bentonville powerhouse walking the market, as well as high-level folks from a number of the majors — as well as the worker bees who do the daily stuff that makes the business tick.

Again, there was the question of whether, in this day and age, the new market dates are appropriate or whether showrooms should revert to the former dates or something else. No one seems to be saying eliminate markets, using as Wal-Mart's presence as a case in point.

And on the subject of markets, there was definitely an 800-pound gorilla lurking in the background — that of Las Vegas, which is putting on a full-court press to acquire the home textiles industry's presence in its growing home furnishings market arena.

The Las Vegas Market sponsors hosted a contingent of home textiles execs during the late July furniture market to entice them with the plans for the new buildings, facilities, etc. — and, as a result, obviously there will be consideration of the venue as a primary or alternative site.

Where people do business on a year-round basis has as much to do with where a market is held as the facilities themselves. The proximity to key retailers, suppliers, and support systems all have to be factored into the equation.

From a business perspective, almost everyone on the supplier side is expecting price increases based on multiple factors — not even including the U.S. dollar's value in the world market.

And as would be fully expected, the retailing community will squawk, scream and threaten dire things. But since many are also the direct importers, they too will not be exempt from whatever happens along the price road.

Sneaking back into the vernacular of the home textiles world is the phrase "can you ship it next month?" A number of suppliers, especially in specialty rather than basic products, related stories of retailers looking for a quick hit for September, October and/or November.

It seems that long lead times and major minimum requirements are having an impact on a growing number of retailers' opportunities to move quickly into a fashion or product statement.

Looking at this situation, it is the consumer who suffers. It's the challenge that the industry faces as all sorts of stuff entrance him and her away from the humdrum of home textiles.

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