Business Steady as High Point Traffic Dips

Many Exhibitors Hit Goals Despite Decreased Attendance

Karyn Peterson, Carole Sloan, April 9, 2007

With business expectations at a lower level than in previous markets, many home textiles exhibitors at the High Point Market hit or even exceeded those goals.

Attendance across the market, from furniture — the core product category — to home textiles, accessories and lamps was down from the previous market as much as 20% by some estimates. There was a universal consensus that it was down due to a number of key factors: general poor business conditions, spring break from school, the plethora of markets in the first quarter of this year, and the closeness of the markets because of date changes.

The segment of the retail community missed most by many home textiles exhibitors was the smaller retail store. These retailers either went to other venues or bypassed this round of markets because of business conditions, and are waiting until the summer market cycle or sales rep in-store visits to make new selections.

"We're a destination line because of our location; we had a good show, but little foot traffic," said Jesse Ghalili, vp, sales for Hallmart. Much of the company's business is with furniture stores, and while it is growing, he said, "Top of bed is still an impulse purchase at a furniture store."

Similarly, Richard Downing, president of Leggett & Platt's Southern Textiles home textiles business remarked, "It went pretty well but traffic was off — maybe 20%." To improve this market, he said, "It has to be spread apart more [from Las Vegas], which was only seven weeks, and not be held during spring break. It was a perfect storm."

Downing added, "This community has to respond regarding the timing, raising prices for market times — and a need to adapt the market to new market conditions. It needs to be compelling."

"We sensed a loss of energy," was the opinion of Linda Bentson, president of Thief River Linen. "Overall we had a fine market, and we're thrilled with the change in our marketing strategy from individual orders to sourcing fabrics and finished products." Yet she added, "It's hard to see really empty hallways. There were few times when throngs were visible as in the past."

For Chelsea Frank, which made its debut in a new showroom in the Market Squares Suites, "It was really gratifying. It's hard to know when you are targeting interior designers. We didn't expect to write much at market," said Peter Gallagher, senior vp. But at the same time, he noted, "We got some small shops in as well."

For HomeSource International, which shows in the multi-line long-time showroom of its southeast rep Lynn Courtade, "It seemed very slow, but the people in Lynn's showroom seemed positive," said Craig Benepe, HomeSource president.

Courtade noted, "We had lots of professional designers within on big projects. The quality of customer was better, and HomeSource has the tools for designers." Overall, Courtade noted, "High Point works for us for the foreseeable future."

"It turned out to be one of the better High Point markets in the last five years," remarked John Bradshaw, vp, national sales manager for cmi. "It exceeded our expectations; half of the traffic was appointments, half walk-ins — and we were very pleased with the response to our bamboo and wool products."

While nobody was complaining about business, "We certainly were missing the smaller stores, and traffic was certainly down," said Pamela Kline, ceo of Traditions by Pamela Kline. But, she added, "The bigger stores are going forward with special projects."

"We missed the volume of people more than anything," said Judith Rose, principal of Textillery. "We had a great Thursday and it just died from Friday. Traffic was off, but we got our fair share of what came."

While Textillery saw most of their California customers and many from the Northwest, "We should have done better, considering this was the first market since Churchill Weavers closed."

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