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Showtime's Future Discussed

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, August 8, 2005

New York —Despite an apparent drop in attendance which primarily affected “drop-ins,” exhibitors at Showtime were pleased with the results of the recently held semi-annual event in High Point, N.C.

But a number of exhibitors expressed concern about the recent and current level of business in a number of channels — ranging from retail fabric stores to mainstream furniture manufacturers to small manufacturers/suppliers — beyond the typical summertime lull.

Almost of more consternation than the current and near-term business outlook is concern about the shifts in dates from holding Showtime in January to December, and how it will impact the growing “pre-sell” that takes place in New York and at a number of the mills.

“Changing the dates to have Showtime fall just before the holidays will affect attendance,” claimed Tom Hilb, president of Heritage House and ITC. “Major retailers won't let buyers out of the store before the holidays, and families won't like the holiday disruption,” he said.

As for this Showtime, “We wrote less business than normal, but overall it was fine,” Hilb added.

“Drop-ins were definitely down,” said Jack Cobb, president of American Decorative Fabrics, “but our appointments were on target. We didn't miss anyone of significance.” Overall, he added, “Niche businesses in all channels have been good, but mainstream hasn't been strong. We did pretty well with retail fabric stores and hospitality and RV is doing pretty good.”

Looking ahead, Mike Shelton, president of Valdese, noted, “We don't do a New York pre-show, but we see a lot of people at the mill. And they are not a lot of the same people going to Showtime.”

As for this month's event, “We had a full three-and-a-half days. The mood was mixed. There are a handful of companies in all channels doing very well. They're the ones that have a special cachet, they create an aura with their product.”

Said Rocco Simone, vice president, Sunbury: “We were unusual from what I heard, we had a lot of appointments but the mix was not the same. There were lots of diverse channels and not a lot of large furniture manufacturers.”

And despite the trend to offshore sourcing by the top-of-bed and decorative pillow suppliers, “We deal with the upper-end of the market, and that is not a commodity market. They — like furniture manufacturers, retailers and jobbers — are looking for design, exclusivity, quality and service. They're not taking these for granted anymore.”

As for Showtime in the future, Simone said, “I'm kind of disappointed by the change in date to December. I hope it doesn't affect the pre-show in New York which typically falls at that time.”

Similarly, Jack Eger, vice president, Craftex remarked, “I'll be interested to see how the pre-show in New York will turn out, how important it will be.” As for this Showtime, he added, “It was slightly better attended by jobbers. Only key pillow and top-of-the-bed suppliers were in, and by appointment only.”

A new twist, he added, is that retailers are coming in to try to buy direct, trying to bypass the product suppliers they previously worked with on design licensing arrangements.

And though Craftex does limited licensing, Eger emphasized, “It has to be well thought out and a true partnership.”

Most of all, he added, “The lead times from China don't work for the manufacturers looking for style, consistency, and delivery.”

Quaker President and CEO Larry Liebenow termed the attendance “quieter” and expressed concern about the level of business, even accounting for the typical summer slowdown. Nonetheless, he reported “a high level of enthusiasm for the company's forward looks including a new sueded velvet” — one of two new import groups.

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