Exhibitors Upbeat in Difficult Market

Carole Sloan, June 9, 2008

Despite a marked decline in attendance, decorative fabrics suppliers were generally pleased with the results from Showtime here last week.

The small retail fabrics segment was noticeably absent with only one or two players reported in the showrooms, and the ranks of bedding and decorative pillow suppliers shrank even more than in past Showtime events. In contrast, decorative jobbers were out in force, major furniture suppliers were shopping, and lifestyle retailers were shopping lines both alone and with specific product suppliers.

The consensus was that most exhibitors had set lower levels of expectations for this Showtime and in many cases, their results exceeded expectations. Others noted that they were pleased, considering all the external influences on the marketplace.

It was almost a cliché, but many exhibitors reported while attendance definitely was down, "We saw the guys we wanted to."

"With conditions what they are, we had an exciting market," commented Bob Ellsweig, vp, Microfibres. "We had good response to product introductions, and actually booked orders in a variety of trades from furniture to decorative pillows to futons. But we really would like to see more traffic."

"It was just fine, but without a doubt, it was quieter, especially in the temporary exhibitor area," said Richard Hanfling, president. Swavelle/Mill Creek. The big difference last week, Hanfling pointed out, "Is that we're no longer getting walk-ins. Almost everyone went from one showroom appointment to another."

Overall, Hanfling added, "The mood was reasonably upbeat, but business is undeniably difficult."

"Attendance was down, but we still saw the big guys we wanted to see," commented Robert Lachow, vp, sales for J.B. Martin. He noted that lifestyle retailers like Pottery Barn and department stores like Macy's were highly visible.

This was a strong Showtime for Heirloom Decorative Fabrics, a relative newcomer to the marketplace, according to Tom Bruno, president. Heirloom, in the temporary section, had strong attendance throughout, he said.

"It was not a bad market, it was even OK based on what we expected," remarked Jack Eger, senior vp, Craftex. "There were virtually no fabric retailers, but there were a lot of jobbers."

"It was OK; it's still a decent show," said John Ringer, vp, sales, Richloom. "Attendance was down a bit, but we were busy with all trades. It was a decent retail show; we saw a good number of furniture customers and small alternative product manufacturers."

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