High-end sees positive signs at HD 2003

Carole Sloan, Staff Staff, May 12, 2003

LAS VEGAS Judging from the response of customers and others walking the HD 2003 show here earlier this month, the better- to upper-end of the contract fabric market has turned around.

HD 2003, which is focused solely on the hospitality and design segment of the contract market, draws the crème de la crème of the fabric business as well as the more mainstream mills and converters.

It was in the latter group that the uptick was most noticeable, executives said. "This segment is warming up quite nicely since the downturn that began with 9/11," said Mike Shelton, president of Valdese. In addition, his company has intensified efforts in this area with the hiring of Blake Millinor to concentrate on contract, he explained. "We made a better effort for our presence here than a year ago."

While not a direct exhibitor here, Quaker's collections for the hospitality market "produced great reactions for our customers that were exhibiting. This has been one of our areas for expansion, along with top of the bed," said Larry Liebenow, president and ceo.

A longtime exhibitor at the show here, Bruce Resch, contract manager for Richloom, pegged HD 2003 as "the busiest we ever had. It was non-stop. We had more than 20 people selling, and they never stopped."

Looking at this segment of the contract market, Resch said "I'm optimistic. The turnaround is here. There are lots of jobs to do."

Equally important, Resch added, "is that we didn't see price sensitivity. The showings weren't about price but product, coordinates, delivery and service."

For Swavelle/Mill Creek, "it was a good show; it grows incrementally every year," said Richard Hanfling, corporate vp of parent company Associated Textiles. "Its decorative room-driven rather than Javits [in November], where everything for contract is there."

And, he added, "It's a great networking show. It's got good traffic, and we were able to fill some weak spots with new product, like our new better upholstery collection of fabrics from $15 to $23. It's a category that the specifiers seem to need."

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