Confidence with caveats heading into NYIGF
Courtney Paschal -- Home Textiles Today, January 25, 2013
New York - As home textiles exhibitors prepare to attend the New York International Gift Fair/At Home featuring Home Textiles at the Javitz Center this week, a sense of confidence about business in 2013 seems to be emerging not long after the ball dropped nearby in Times Square.
Beata Hendrichs-Lieb, owner and founder of HedgeHouse USA, summed up her feelings about the business climate for the company in upbeat terms.
"I think as long as I stay available to my customer, wholesale and retail alike and I continue to produce a consistent, well made and unique product I can feel confident about going into 2013."
At Pendleton Woolen Mills, Bob Christnacht, director wholesale sales-worldwide and division manager for home, is cautious about the future but nevertheless likes his prospects for the company's 150th year of weaving in Oregon.
"Our business continues to remain on track. Our expansion into new categories in the home arena is leading to new businesses and expanded relationships with our current account base. Our trade accounts report their fall '12 Pendleton sales were at or above plan," he told HTT.
While the mood of participants heading into this year's NYIGF seems to portend a prosperous 2013, vp sales and marketing for M&Z Marketing Group Joe Maur is concerned about national politics, saying he is: "Optimistic at best, depending how well we solve the fiscal cliff and rebuild our confidence in Washington."
While many exhibitors are expressing self-assuredness, the outlook for pre-show appointments is mixed.
Mike Shabtai, owner/founder of The Rug Market America told HTT: "Very few buyers are committing to appointments for this or any show; therefore, as with everyone, we are looking to strong walk-in numbers."
Michelle Ciarlo-Hayes, the artist/owner of mkc photography, said she has several appointments booked but is also anticipating walk-in business due to both of her best-selling items being featured in the SustainAbility display near the Handmade section.
Ciarlo-Hayes added, "As a handmade/eco-friendly artist, I can tell you both Made in the USA and eco-friendly products are still very important."
Responses from several NYIGF exhibitors suggest the middle tier of the market may be the sweet spot, but don't count out the high end.
Mary Shields, director of marketing, Sferra said: "We have one of the biggest introductions we've done in years launching at the NY International Gift Show."
Despite NYIGF's plethora of high-end offerings, opportunities exist across the spectrum. Michael Harounian, principal, Ebisons Harounian Imports, said he is working the low to medium end of the markets, but added, "As the economy builds momentum, we'll be looking at introducing finer goods."
Vikas Chuttani, president, Cosmic-Inc, is looking for most opportunities in high end and middle tier, "but based on customer requirement we are capable of working on budget also."
Beth Sprole, president of Hibe LLC, said in the middle to high end, where the company is poised, "we are finding both retail buyers and consumers recognize product detailing and quality from custom zipper pulls to premium fabrics, for example. I would characterize our target consumers as more purposeful in their purchases."
Fab Habitat is also seeing middle-market opportunity. Jacquelyn Lau who heads up the company's marketing and client relations, detailed the strategy.
"Fab Habitat strives to bring trendy products at reasonable prices. Our current line of products and the new products, like baskets, non-slip rugs, recycled cotton rugs and indoor/outdoor cubes (poufs) in 2013 all try to bring something unique targeting the middle tier."
Antiochia USA LLC is also offering reasonably priced merchandise with an eye to environmental stewardship. Antiocha's owner, Berna Rodman, believes that the company's terry manufacturing capability helps to offer reasonable prices at low minimums and also allows her to respond to the individual needs of retailers.
So buzz abounds about green programs, but are eco-friendly and sustainable features, well, sustainable? John Mahoney, president of John Mahoney Designs seems to think so.
"Our customers are design-savvy and well-informed, and they continue to be very aware of sustainability and environmental impact. I don't think the interest in sustainability is going anywhere; it's the new normal," he said.
Ellen Fish, founder and director, Friends of Tilonia, believes a customer's decision is about more than labeling. "We find that the entire story of the product - how the product design comes to be, who makes the product, what materials and methods are used, how it is distributed - is what creates value."
Sara Selepouchin Villari, owner and designer of Girls Can Tell, doesn't view environmental awareness as just another passing phenomena. "Eco-friendly, sustainable products will never be a fad for Girls Can Tell. Customers that love our line are interested in knowing where the products come from, how they're made, and what their impact is."
Jennifer Morton, office manager of the French Farm, sees the eco trend as gaining momentum. "Eco-friendly and sustainable products are still growing in popularity and it's a good thing because our tea towels are printed with water-based eco-friendly ink."
Kevin O'Brien, owner and chief designer of Kevin O'Brien Studio believes Made in the USA is an even stronger sell than eco-friendly, although he strives for both. "I think the made in America claim has a little more impact than the eco claim because fewer companies can make the claim. It is pretty easy to make some flimsy eco claim, but with made in the US, either it is or it isn't."
Having started Deny Designs in a recession, its founder, Dustin Nyhus, like other exhibitors is bullish on the Made in the USA advantage.
"U.S. made products are incredibly important to our customers and to us as a company. That's why Deny prints all of our products here in the United States and manufactures all of our hard goods out of Denver."
Caron Miller, owner/designer, Caron Miller Inc., believes the price resistance she experienced 7-10 years ago with respect to Made in the USA products has subsided. She said people didn't used to care about Made in the USA, "...but now they do."
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