• Andrea Lillo

Gift show draws well

NEW YORK -The blanket of snow that covered the area last Sunday didn't deter people from attending the New York Gift Market held here, Jan. 20 to 25.

In fact, Sunday, the first day of the show, saw tremendous activity, according to several luxury linen manufacturers on Monday.

"We were pretty apprehensive because we just came from the Atlanta Gift Show, and it was slow," said Tammy McNamara, sales manager, Area, based here. But the New York show's heavy traffic disproved that theory.

Bellino Fine Linens, Ridgefield, NJ, saw old accounts and new ones. Because of the show's obvious gift bent, "people don't expect to see us here," said Herb Gershkowitz, managing director. "We're one of the few linen resources at the show."

Retailers have told Jane Krolik, owner/designer, Chateau X, a high-end tabletop manufacturer based here, that they are sick of silver and black. "They've appreciated seeing a lot of color," she said. "They're being very adventurous about it."

Joy Edwards, sales manager, Southeast region, Anichini, Tunbridge, VT, agreed. "People visit luxury linen stores to see cutting-edge items. They can get white and ivory in the department stores."

Martha Dollenmaier, national sales manager, Anichini, recently returned from the Germany and Paris shows, seeing a lot of Pucci-inspired looks, geometrics and paisleys, and such colors as bright oranges, yellows, moss greens and browns. Anichini focuses on offering a broad range of looks for its customers, she said, from simple Zen-like patterns to the bold and bright. "People are personalizing their homes and rooms," she said. "Globally, the world is getting smaller."

Color was the main attraction at Metropolitan Design Group, based here, and a mint green bedding collection, which mixed fabrics and textures, caught many attendees' eyes. Designer Mark Snider said it was very fresh for spring. "It's contemporary but classical; it suits a lot of different environments."

Visitors to New York-based bedding manufacturer Dwell's booth were also looking for bolder patterns and colors. "They're going beyond the safe ones," said Christiane Lemieux, designer and owner.

At Claire Murray, scatter rugs continue to be huge, said Michael Blackman, president, ANB, the parent company of Claire Murray, Ascutney, VT.

And though all levels of retail are affected by the slowdown of late, most vendors felt that the luxury level was insulated from most of it.

"No one is holding back. It's more psychological than actual," said Bellino's Gershkowitz. "Specialty retailers don't feel it."

His overall business is good, with steady upward movement. "The people it hurts the most are the ones with not a lot of money to spend."

John Rose II, president, Textillery Weavers, Bloomington, IN, said, "Everyone's being cautious, but the sell-throughs have been good. Maybe people are buying a few less pieces, but they're not reluctant to buy."

"The world has become so small," said Chateau X's Krolik, and knock-offs have "spoiled the process of design and the perceived value you put into it...It's harder to separate yourself from the pack."

The vast majority of Area's customers had great first, second and third quarters last year, said McNamara, but were worried about the fourth. However, most of them pulled off a good Christmas, she said.

The economy has been hard to read, said ANB's Blackman. "But it hasn't bothered us. We plan to hit our numbers this year."

People want to see where the economy goes, said Metropolitan Design Group's Snider.

Not even a year ago, dot-commers packed the aisles, noted Dwell's Jennifer Chused, design director. At this show, however, she said, only two dot-commers dropped by. "That trend came and went," said Lemieux.

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