European influence

Carole Sloan, July 9, 2001

Working through the piles of fabrics that evolved into our Showtime product preview this week, it was a refreshing change to see all the color that is bursting onto the fabric fashion scene.

And apparently, no one is more excited about this turn of events than the designers who have been trapped in a world of beige, gray and brown for more years than most of them can count. Or so it seems.

And it looks like we'll have a real color fest for some time to come. Perhaps this will help pull the home textiles world out of its doldrums.

But even more interesting — and perhaps more important than the color explosion — is the change of attitude on the part of American suppliers, especially at the upper end.

Many are recognizing that big is not necessarily better — or more profitable — when it comes to dealing at the upper middle to upper end of the market.

It is this segment of the market that thought itself to be immune to the "Chinese disease," but even in these price points, they are seeing some of their work come back over the water.

Now in addition to the cry of "The Chinese are coming," there is the European threat.

From a competitive perspective, the European mills are becoming more and more aggressive in their approach to the American market.

With their high-quality production, low-yardage requirements and a willingness to deal with exclusives, they are an increasing challenge to American fabric suppliers.

A number have adopted more of a European mentality for this season's introductions, overtly acknowledging that several key segments of their distribution are calling for change.

Conversations this go-round are about more and innovative product, more fashion color offerings, more differentiators like combed cotton, Egyptian long staple yarns, new technology, and on and on.

At the same time, some are talking shorter runs and exclusives that are really exclusive to accommodate their higher-end customers' needs and wants.

American textile suppliers certainly have the talent of their European counterparts. Now's the time for them to prove they are as adroit as their European counterparts by changing the way they do their business with a European mentality.

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