Suppliers Deflect Showtime Rent Uptick

Traffic Slow but Stable

Carole Sloan, Staff Staff, December 15, 2008

It was a Showtime that played out pretty much as expected. Attendance was down, some appointments were cancelled last minute, and buyers focused as much or more on unique or forward looks as price at this decorative fabrics market.

But the real news coming from Showtime here last week was the attempt made by Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. (MMPI) to raise the rents in the temporary spaces (aka the Suites at Market Square) by $1 per square foot.

Typically, tenants in the Suites are given a form towards the end of Showtime with the renewal terms for the subsequent event. This time there was a new twist — the $1 per square foot increase. However, a meeting held between the MMPI executives and the International Textile Market Association (ITMA), sponsor of Showtime, and the ITMA board resulted in a rescinding of the increase in rent.

From a business perspective, suppliers of decorative fabrics brought out collections that were more tightly focused, with an emphasis on creative looks, drawing on new technology at sharp but not budget prices, in order to create a level of differentiation with what already exists in the market.

Since Showtime is primarily a "sampling" event for all distribution segments, results are mainly based on response and sample requests.

"We introduced 200-plus patterns to jumpstart the turnaround. We need to keep our best foot forward," said Rocco Simone, svp, Sunbury. Looking ahead, he predicted, "The first quarter will continue to be tough, the second quarter better and we'll get better from there." He added, "I expect to see some attrition" in the ranks of the supplier base.

Discussing the MMPI rent move, Simone said that as a board member he was part of the meeting, "and they backed down."

For Stewart Jervis, vp at P/Kaufmann, "There were mostly furniture suppliers there. The jobbers, retailers and other manufacturers were largely missing in action. But Showtime met our expectations … which were set low."

Noting that many customers were planning to put in fewer new items "but looking for unique or innovative product," Tom Notaro, vp of Wearbest, allowed that he was "pleasantly surprised at the response."

"We were moderately busy and the temporary spaces were not full," said Jack Cobb, president of the American Decorative Fabrics division of Westgate, He noted that the RV buyers were mostly missing, and there were fewer fabric retailers shopping.

"There were fewer people here in all categories and it was relatively quiet vs. past Showtimes," said Mike Shelton, president of Valdese. "The core group we always see were here but they took many approaches — sitting on decisions, generating excitement, new product — and many haven't formulated their business plans. They're looking at it day by day — it's definitely not business as usual."

Specifically discussing the plans of decorative jobbers, Shelton observed, "They're reevaluating their overall plans but new programs are going forward. They're being cautious."

At Swavelle/Mill Creek, "We saw traffic as somewhat less than normal. Enthusiasm was good. People weren't walking around with their heads down but they weren't looking for kooky things — but they weren't conservative in their sample choices."

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