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Cecile Corral

Suppliers Head Into Last Mini-Market

New York — Behold, the last-ever February Mini-Market.

This week marks the end of a long era of vendors pitching their Santas and sleigh bells to buyers during a scaled-down event set aside just for the selling of holiday-specific goods.

Or does it?

Not necessarily, argue suppliers of table linens, kitchen textiles, decorative pillows and accent rugs — the textiles categories which typically best convey the Halloween, harvest and Christmas motifs.

While it’s true that the occurrence of an annual winter Mini-market in early February for holiday-themed home textiles will be a thing of the past, the new regular market schedule moves up the dates to February and August, and thus allows for seasonal goods to still get showcased in their usual, wintry, key time of year.

“The new schedule really works well for table linens,” said Nancy Kristoff, president, sales and marketing, New York-based Bardwil Industries. “We will be able to finalize fall and Christmas holiday orders in February as we’ve always done in Mini-market — the April market just reinforced the fall and holiday line.

Our major introductions were always in February and not during the April market anyway.”

As Kristoff said, for suppliers who have long relied on Mini-market as their venue for holiday wares, this event is not necessarily eliminated but rather absorbed into the entity of a regular semi-annual market.

“By moving major market week to February, we do not lose the seasonal shopping and booking for holidays,” said Larry Price, director of sales for Pembroke Pines, Fla.-based Hilasal USA. Price added, “We get the additional two months earlier in the year to establish fall programs, which should improve retail planning and mill deliveries with the extra time.”

Trendex Home Fashions, a table linens and decorative pillow supplier based in Quebec, sees the market change as “not affecting the business one way or another,” explained Lorraine Ragland Maberry, vp sales and merchandising. “We will all continue to show to the customers as necessary, both during markets and by appointment depending on timing needs. Some customers will still wait until the last minute to place orders, while others will strive to place their orders on a timelier basis.”

It’s an ongoing process, he said. Freshness is also key.

“For those of us who are heavily involved in the seasonal businesses of Christmas, back-to-school and beach, year-round newness is always on our minds,” said Dan Harris, vp marketing and product development, Des Plaines, Ill.-based Revere Mills.

Added Rae Ellen Blum, vp, national sales manager of New York-based Cobra Trading/Lintex Linens, “In today’s world and with globalization, I believe we as vendors will need to have many choices in various product categories for all seasons at all times in order to service all the various needs of our clients — and mainly to guarantee deliveries.” Blum said having Mini-market become part of the regular February market “should be an easy transition.”

What suppliers can expect come next year in a changed schedule is not much different from Mini-markets and regular markets of the past.

“Christmas and back-to-school will be pre-sold before the February market in the future, and finalized at the market,” Harris said. “Two markets per year will work out fine. We just have to allow for the special nature of seasonal business, and get out in front of it for our customers.”

However, this likely means suppliers will be forced to jump more product presentation hurdles, observed Mark Grimes, director of design and creative development, Los Angeles-based ADI (American Dawn Inc.).

Mini-market, he said, “really gave the vendors a chance to showcase holiday product in their showrooms, adding that touch of sparkle and romance that you just cannot conjure up when you are pulling samples out of a duffle bag in a retail buying office.”

However, he acknowledged, the shift was inevitable, considering the earlier deadlines established by retailers.

“Timing has been a problem for the last several years, as retailers really try to nail down their holiday merchandising decisions by February anyway,” Grimes said. “This gave the show less meaning and lower attendance each year.”

His suggestion: a mini-market scheduled in November, which would not conflict with the February or August markets.

Lintex Linens/Cobra Trading is on that same page.

“Many of our buyers [come in] November to get a jump start to work on holiday,” Blum said.

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