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Turnaround time

What a difference a year makes.

The change in mood, presentation and dialogue during the market in New York last week was a 180 degree turn from the atmosphere last April. Of course an improved business environment played a key role in making most everyone feel positive about the market, their businesses and the economy in general.

What stood out was the fairly universal emphasis on presentation with a number of companies stepping out with new ideas and new fixturing. Whether the major retailers with all of their charges and fees for doing business will accept new ideas is another point — and a subject for another column.

But of course, it is the merchandise that is the critical issue. And while there were no radical changes in direction, product or color, the overall market impact was that there is a discernible upgrading of looks — without necessarily an increase in price points.

Clearly the impact of imports is being felt in this regard. Constructions such as embroideries, cutwork, appliques, beading and the like, that formerly were the province of the upper end of the market, now are available in the upper moderate levels of the market via the import phenomenon.

The issue now emerging is how long these looks will last once knockoffs drive the quality and price points down. It's got to happen, it always does in the world of home textiles.

A secondary but also key issue involves the reliability of the sources making the products off-shore. As this market scampers across the waters to have product made, it is almost inevitable that the delivery issue will come up sooner or later.

It's no longer just a question of direct imports by retailers, or who the U.S. supplier is or who owns the off-shore factory or who has a close relationship. Today the issue also involves global governmental relationships that encompass war and peace. This is an issue the marketplace never has had to contend with, and it's definitely out of anyone's control.

And despite the challenges, the change in mindset last week was remarkable.

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