Decosit: Fabric Trade Holds Steady

U.S. Vendors React to Faster Market Conditions

Carole Sloan, September 4, 2006

Brussels, Belgium — Although there have been a few American dropouts from Decosit, those remaining American fabric companies see their presence at the show, that begins here Saturday, as continued reinforcement of their commitment to export.

Business conditions for decorative fabrics around the world have changed radically in the last few years, the company executives report. The growing problem of knockoffs appearing on the market very quickly after the originals is one issue. And this has spurred a trend toward a quickening pace of product introductions and a concurrent shortening of lifespan for existing styles.

In addition, macro conditions — especially the economies in various countries — have impacted the buying plans for many customers. And some exhibitors see the downward trend in attendance here, as well as at most fabric exhibitions around the world, as one that will continue.

Overall, the mood is challenging but fairly positive, the Americans related.

“The European market is a very mixed picture — on the down side mostly,” said Roger Berkley, president of Weave. But the company's export business, while soft, is being helped “by the addition of more customers, especially in Russia.”

Weave will be showing “lots of silks, including a new range with Swarovski crystals at prices from $90 to $100 a meter,” and the company's outdoor/indoor fabric, Weatherwize.

“I think attendance will be down again,” stated Jack Eger, vp, Craftex. A positive for the company, he said, is its new position in a better traffic position, albeit the same size. “The critical key is how strong the agents are. And with our new space, I hope to be more in the center of things.”

“It's difficult, but basically the same,” explained Mike Shelton, president of Valdese. The company recently changed its sales approach “and change takes time to become effective. Our aim for this business for the long term is to be consistent.”

Export business for Valdese “is steady. In the English speaking world we're doing fine; in the other areas, it is difficult.”

For Fabricut, the only American exhibitor in the former contract segment of Decosit — Deco Contract — which has now been merged into the single-format exhibition, “We're gaining new accounts all the time; our export business is growing,” related David Finer, president.

For Fabricut, Decosit here and Heimtextil in Frankfurt “are our most important off-shore venues.” Key programs, he added, are sample book programs and showroom samples.

“Export is a little tough,” said Tom Leahy, vp, Waverly, “and I'm disappointed with our progress.” A key reason, he believes, “is that overall the international fabric business is just changing so fast, and there is so much product available.” Also, he added, “Customers now are buying and selling and moving on to new things. The result is that they have access to so much new product.”

“I think our product will be desirable in terms of design and dollar value,” said Irwin Gasner, president of Wearbest Sil-Tex Mills. “Although we don't do good global marketing, our repeat customers are doing good business with us. We're very focused on Australia and New Zealand, Germany and Austria, as well as our new Chinese licensee for Asia.”

Decosit is Wearbest's main venue for export, he added.

Missing this year from the American ranks at Decosit are American Silk Mills, Culp and Richloom. For American Silk, the issue was knockoffs and the ability of anyone to walk into their stand and take notes on details and construction, explained John Sullivan, chairman and ceo. For Richloom, which now has been approved by the Chinese government to become a Chinese trading company, “We are showing in Shanghai, so we can't show at Decosit. We can't be in two places at once,” said Jim Richman, ceo. As for export, he added, “It hasn't moved much in the last few years.”

Looking at the business outlook for all the Decosit exhibitors, Patrick Geysels, managing director, said, “Europe is not doing badly, and the first part of the year overall was rather good. But the U.S. is slowing a bit. Overall, we have confidence in the outcome.”

Key for the European and American exhibitors, he noted, “is to emphasize creativity in new designs and technology. It's the only way to fight lower prices from other areas.”

Andy Green, managing director for Textiles d'Interieur Premiere (TIP), which is in a new venue at “Tour & Taxis” in the town center, pointed out that the show has 129 exhibitors in both fabrics and ready-made home textiles products. “We recognize the growth in the manufacturing markets of India, China, and Turkey who are now producing dynamic and exciting ranges for the export market. The depth of range, keen pricing and good quality reinforce why we run TIP.”

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