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Why You Go to Frankfurt

Warren Shoulberg PUBLISHER/ EDITORIAL DIRECTORWarren Shoulberg PUBLISHER/ EDITORIAL DIRECTOR
SO, HERE'S THE THING about Heimtextil. It's not your father's Heimtex, but it remains the single most important event on the home textiles industry calendar. And if you miss it, you are not doing your job right and your company will not be as good as it can be.
     The reason why you go to Heimtex has changed, but the reason for going has not.
     Heimtex, back in the good old days, used to be the place where you shopped fashion and saw the best the home fashions world had to offer when it came to design and trends.
     And there is still plenty of that to be found. But let's face it: There are fewer European fashion leaders exhibiting in Frankfurt as Maison Objet has gained in importance. And while the American presence at the fair was never at the scale of what you could find at the New York show, the big mills of yore did make a play here for a number of years and - say what you want about the demise of the American manufacturing base - we do create beautiful sheets and towels.
     But even back then you didn't just go to Heimtex to see fashion. You went to see people. To see your counterparts from around the world who did what you did, but did it someplace else and - surprise, surprise - experienced many of the same business dynamics as you did.
     Because even if the definition of beautiful sheets and towels is very different in different places, the business of sheets and towels is not. Cotton is cotton, looms are looms and the twain meets all over the world.
     You just don't know what a conversation with your counterparts from around the world will yield until you have it and the best place to have the conversation is at Heimtextil.
     But now the fair is of course much more. When American companies stopped being manufacturers and became essentially importers, the need for those importers to meet with their suppliers became the single most important reason for Heimtextil, at least to Americans.
     And that's why you can't miss it.
     How can you not jump at the chance to see your business associates face to face, the chance to search out new suppliers, find resources you might not have known about and see who else is working with who else.
     So, what did all of the meetings, conversations and get-togethers yield?
     First and foremost, there is the issue of raw material prices. From all appearances, we're not likely to see much relief in the costs of things like cotton, polyester and down and feather. Nor does it seem that the sudden spikes in prices and the wild swings in those prices is going to abate.
     The old triggers that used to moderate prices - the new crop coming in, the fall slaughter of geese - don't seem to be impacting prices the way they used to. There is a new state of business and it does not seem to be going back to the way it was. If you came to Heimtex, you understood that better.
     And you also got a pretty good read on business conditions overall. The fact that the American economy is coming back very slowly, but it is coming back. The fact that there are fewer factories in China making home textiles. The fact that India and Pakistan are likely to gain market share in the home textiles world. And the fact that sources in countries like Portugal and Turkey and Bangladesh have valuable contributions to make to the business if used correctly.
     It wasn't easy to get to Heimtextil for some people in the United States this year with all the rotten weather on the East Coast last week. But it was worth the effort.

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