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Jennifer Marks

Positive Market Mood

Positive — the word of the week during the recent New York Home Fashions Market.

Nearly every supplier I spoke with had a healthy slate of appointments. Not one complained of an account failing to show.

With retail inventories running low and many 4Q retail financials exceeding expectations, there is open-to-buy again. Manufacturers, forced to tighten up in the face of rock-bottom demand last year, are also lean on inventory, with fewer close-outs available then usual.

Pricing continues to be a big issue for the industry. Cotton prices in January jumped 34% compared to a year ago, and with farmers growing less cotton, they're likely to remain high going forward. This isn't a blip, say cotton buyers, it's a reset.

Down and feather prices are up 100% or more compared to historic lows in pricing a year ago. Supply is also a severe issue here and not likely to change for a couple of years, according to down and feather customers.

Also soaring: poly prices and ocean freight costs. Enough suppliers having started saying “no” to unprofitable business that retailers are beginning to bend on passing along prices, if only on new programs.

The new outlook for business growth is, as one supplier framed it, “7/11.” The generally held view appears to be that the industry won't see 2007 levels of business (the benchmark) until 2011.

In terms of product:

Cotton/poly blends with a more satiny hand than was standard for the old cotton-rich blends.Quick dry towels. Yes, the major manufacturers introduced these a couple of seasons ago. Now everybody's got them. (See cotton prices, above.)Contemporary looks. Where the last wave of contemporary echoed or updated specific looks from the '60s and '70s, today's contemporary attempts to establish “modern” for a new century. It's also heavily influencing the interpretation of traditional looks.Speaking of which, if you wanted to see what 21st Century packaging looks like, Hollander was the showroom to visit.Global influences. They still abound, but are less rigidly tied to one country. They're also less fussy, more purely distilled.Overscaling. You thought it was big before? It got bigger.

All in all, a good week. Now begins the testing, testing, testing.

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