• Jennifer Marks

Ball of Confusion

Suppliers Wondering if Buyers Will Stick to Weekday Plan

New York — In what was welcome news to many, the Home Fashions Product Association declared that the August 2006 market will be a) casual dress and b) a Monday-to-Friday affair.

But the big question looms: Will buyers from major retailer companies — the ones who increasingly hit the market on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of the then-Friday start date — comply with the no-weekend rule?

While supplier execs last week were still pondering their options and consulting with customers, an early consensus appeared to be forming:

-Early-bird buyers are expected to remain early-bird buyers, even if that means they'll be out on Friday and Saturday rather than Wednesday and Thursday before the official market start date of Aug. 7.

  • Buyers that tend not to come in early will probably arrive in New York on Sunday.

  • Suppliers that expect to stick to the Monday-to-Friday schedule will probably arrive in New York Saturday to hold sales meetings.

  • Any major customer who demands an early appointment is likely to be accommodated.

“My hunch is that we'll be heading there late Sunday or early Monday and staying through Wednesday,” said Gary Nickolie, rug buyer, Kohl's. “Besides, in the summer, it's harder to get away [for these events] over the weekends.”

Much hinges on “the locals,” particularly metro New York-based Bed Bath & Beyond, Linens 'n Things and Macy's Home Store.

Croscill Home Fashions, which maintains a New York showroom year round, plans to encourage its customers “to come early and often,” said Julie Brady, office of the president.

“We certainly understand the need to change the market dates to accommodate the evolution of the industry in general. As a company, though, our doors are always open to our customers,” she explained.

Dale Talbert, vp, Veratex, noted that buyers that routinely hit the market early do so because they're motivated to get first dibs on new product.

“No matter when you start market, there are always going to be people who want to come in early,” he said. “Even if I don't have my first appointment until Monday, I'm still going to have to be in New York over the weekend.”

Corey Faul, president, of Newport/Layton Home anticipates having weekend traffic, but hopes that the later starting date for market will, in essence, push back pre-market visits by a relative number of days.

“I'm all for it because we need all the time we can get with the short period between the markets this year. I'll take every extra day I can get,” Faul said.

Another fan of the plan is Bob Hickman, senior vp for sales and marketing, United Feather and Down.

“I love it. I love it. I absolutely love it,” said Hickman. “That allows us to come in on Saturday, shop some stores on Sunday, then get started on Monday and pack up on Thursday.”

He said UF&D is getting positive feedback from its customers, and the company intends to “take a pretty hard line” on limiting appointments to weekdays.

That said, he acknowledged, “the reality is that if a really big customer wants to come early, we'll be there.”

American Dawn Inc. (ADI) expects most of its customers will be traveling Sunday and ready to work Monday, said Kathleen Healy, manager, sourcing/product development.

“I don't think it's a big deal. We're looking forward as it is, to the change from October to August,” she added.

Rick Williams, senior buyer, The Company Store, likes the weekday market idea, but wonders whether the schedule will ultimately wind up losing suppliers two weekends — a weekend setting up beforehand and one breaking down afterward.

“It won't affect New Yorkers much, but it will affect the out-of-towners a lot,” he said.

The Home Fashion Products Association said it decided to change the market start date to Monday, Aug. 7 because buyers and senior executives expressed a desire to have more personal time, and because Saturday night stays for cheaper airfares mostly no longer apply. The summer market had originally been slated to start Friday, Aug. 4.

HFPA also amended the dates for the February 2007 market, making it a weekday event running from February 12-16.

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