Heimtextil Attracts Avid U.S. Vendors

International Accounts, Partners Remain Key

Carole Sloan, Becky Smith, January 14, 2009

American exhibitors at Heimtextil here this week have a plethora of reasons for exhibiting — from new exposure opportunities to potential gains in business, and from product innovation to major changes in their companies.

The American presence is definitely smaller, as it has been trending for the past several years, with only one decorative fabric company represented, and the ranks of the home textiles products suppliers down dramatically. For these few American companies, the expectations are that attendance will be down — both on a global level and from the American customer perspective.

Two decorative fabrics companies present here last year now are showing at Maison + Objet in Paris later this month, after each tested being present both here and in Paris last year.

Fabricut has moved out completely, while Duralee will be present at the stand of its German distributor, Emil Rotter, said Lee Silberman, svp. "Maison is more important for us, but I will be in Frankfurt for a few days to see customers coming to Rotter," he explained.

Roc-Lon will be the only American fabric company showing and will be in the U.S. Department of Commerce space in Hall 4.1. "We did a survey and found that most of our international customers are coming," commented Stan Fradin, Roc-Lon president. "I have a comfortable feeling about the attendance and international business is OK."

Contract, a big piece of Roc-Lon's business, domestically and internationally, "is still at a reasonable incoming order level," Fradin said. "It's so large and there are so many renovations booked. But there's some hold on new projects."

As for residential business, Fradin remarked, "It fell off like a rock."

Back at Heimtextil after an absence of four or five years, Lonnie Scheps, svp, Hudson Inds. commented, "With the dollar weaker earlier in the year it was definitely more attractive; we're taking a particularly aggressive stand in Europe."

But despite the stronger dollar of late, the company is looking for rising sales this year, with even greater sales in export. Hudson's export business is up 30% and "our product is still rather new over here. We still have things they don't have and the technology, foam quality and innovation they don't have."

Commenting that there "will be fewer American retailers here for sure," Ryan Jones, partner in Stellar Alliance said, "People are very concerned about this year, especially with the dollar now weakening again."

As a result, he said, "In the American market there will be more customer visits" to compensate the drop in attendance here. Some retailers, he noted, have eliminated travel totally.

Stellar Alliance, which represents Feiler, Wulfing and Ibena in the United States, also is introducing its Protect & Care waterproof bed pad here.

For WestPoint Home, returning to Heimtextil after many years offers an opportunity to showcase the major changes that have taken place within the company in recent years, said Scott Maddalene, svp.

"We've gone through a major relocation of our manufacturing [to off-shore locations] as well as major marketing changes to talk about. We're showcasing our manufacturing capabilities as well as our proprietary brands. In the world market you have to have a different and unique posture in manufacturing and brands."

WestPoint will feature the black-and-white bedding and pillow cases as it did during market in New York to show "our unique sewing capabilities," as well as its Stay Bright, Martex, EcoPure and Grand Patrician towels "to demonstrate the breadth of pricing, quality and manufacturing." The company also will feature brands — Martex, Utica and Vellux — as opportunities for international licensing, Maddalene said.

Forecasting a decline in both visitor attendance and exhibitor presence, Brandon Palmer, co-president, United Feather & Down commented, "There is a general mood of concern." But he noted, "Basics are holding better than fashion, and we're taking a conservative approach."

The company is focusing on finding products that speak to specific needs as well as "getting a bigger piece of a smaller pie."

As for this year, Palmer said "It will be tough. Hospitality is maintaining itself but new programs are fewer."

For Faribault, "Business is good but tough, it's flat out tough and you have to play banker," said Mike Harris, president. Despite this, Heimtextil offers the company "an international marketplace for American goods. You can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket. Heimtex is the one place to see the entire breadth of textile products."

Both Cotton Inc. and Supima will be part of the overall exhibition by Cotton Council International, although neither organization will have a full time presence at the stand. "We will have very minimal participation — our merged home and fashion color cards as well as other brochures," said Dean Turner, vp. But Janet Reed, Cotton's associate director of agricultural research, will conduct a seminar on sustainability and cotton, Turner noted.

Jesse Curlee, president of Supima, "won't spend much time at the stand. I'll be visiting with our customers from China, India, Pakistan and Portugal to get their outlook on this year. We're going to test the waters." Most important, he added, "is how they see premium product and talk about programs — not trying to sell a sheet."

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