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Jennifer Marks

No Shine from Waxing Nostalgic

Well, 2009 certainly was … interesting. What now?

A lot of home textiles executives are saying there will be more of the same for months to come.

While they're braced for that scenario, it's not how they're strategizing.

Indeed, even in the teeth of the recession —when hope of anything beyond a margin-cracking promotional order was folly — suppliers were developing new technologies, securing proprietary fibers, and seeking out new brands and licensing deals.

They were doing that before, too.

Reality check there, folks.

So, for a company concentrating on the U.S. market, how much has the game changed?

Before the Great Collapse of the Economy, there were only a handful of major accounts. And everyone was trying to find an undiscovered niche and/or alternative market from which to mine some add-on sales.

After the Great Collapse of the Economy, there were only a handful of major accounts — minus one. And everyone was trying to find an undiscovered niche and/or alternative market to from which to mine some add-on sales.

Hearing from companies that will be exhibiting at Heimtextil, however, is a reminder that it's a big world out there. Yes, exhibitors wish more U.S. accounts would walk the aisles, but they're going to find their business with buyers from the countries who make the effort to find them. In fact, for many exhibitors, the show is all about opportunities in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Russia, Australia and South America.

True, most countries lack the tidy uniformity of the U.S. market with its vast, national chains and sleek operating systems. Once upon a time, so did the U.S. market. It required regional sales forces with face-to-face relationships and an understanding of local tastes. Markets were more fragmented, messy. Yet business got done.

I was living in Louisiana in the 1980s when the price of oil collapsed and the regional economy went into a tailspin. A popular bumper sticker of the time read: “Please God, Just One More Oil Boom — And This Time I Promise Not to Piss It All Away.”

I sometimes think of that bumper sticker when I hear people waxing nostalgic about the good old days of textiles.

We are in the times that we are in. It's a new year. Let's make it a good one.

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