Stepping Up Exports at Decosit

Jeff Linville, Carole Sloan, September 8, 2008

Although the value of the dollar should present a plus for American decorative fabric companies exhibiting at Decosit here later this week, many are approaching the event with the classic phrase, "cautious optimism."

Export remains a small piece of the total business for most decorative fabric companies. But many acknowledge that it is a steady, and mostly growing, segment of their overall revenues.

Roc-Lon's export business "is flying," said Stan Fradin, president. "We don't have a weak sector and we're getting a bigger piece of the pie." For Decosit, the company is launching a 110-inch blackout printed fabric in 35 colors — "and for Heimtextil we'll expand it to patterns and polyester cloths," Fradin said.

Most U.S. suppliers are more temperate in their views. "Export is pretty good for us; the dollar is still in our favor," said Mike Czarnecki, svp sales and marketing for Microfibres. "We have good brand name recognition in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, India and China."

Microfibres is launching a new marketing program — Long Life Fabrics by Microfibres — with a point of sale aspect for retail. And there will be a warranty for some of the fabrics, he added. New in the product lineup is a flock-on-cotton grouping.

For Fabricut, said vp David Klaristenfeld, "We have to look market by market. Most of our major markets are still growing but not necessarily as fast as they were — they're mature. In other markets that are newer, they will grow larger and faster."

Klaristenfeld called Canada his largest export market. "Russia never has had much to do with the U.S. economy and China is a complete growth market."

"We're optimistic, but we don't know," is the assessment of Mike Durham, president of Tietex Interiors concerning results at Decosit. Of import "is our short-term prospects in Europe. They seem to be more interested in U.S. jacquard products — and ours are stocked at our facility in the Netherlands." Export for Tietex "is not huge but very stable and is actually growing."

Tietex is showing both its U.S.-made jacquards and the pile and velvet products from Tietex Asia. In the jacquards, the company is launching a 13-style collection of ditsies that have long been European favorites in updated colors, Durham said.

The pile and velvet fabrics will feature an effort with Crypton under license in Asia.

While steady, "Our export business is not that big," said Robert Lachow, vp of J.B. Martin. "We have to focus on better service and better velvets." The company also is looking to attract a higher level of agents.

"It's a tough business," said Mike Shelton, president of Valdese, on the export market. "It's OK for us, and we're seeing some uplift in the business because of the currency values." Most of its export business remains in "the English speaking part of the world."

For Regal Fabrics, "Export is a relatively new business for us and it's growing nicely in the East," remarked Gil Tavares, vp. Regal has new agents in Indonesia, Malaysia, Macao, and in Canada.

"Decosit probably won't be a big show," said Jeff Thomases, ceo of Swavelle/Mill Creek. "Shows for us are more important on the buy side than on the sell side, and we also buy artwork."

Overall, Thomases noted, "Export is slightly better than it has been in the last few years. It's also a matter of creativity. We have linen prints that have been a big boon, and faux leather at the high end. Our Bravo division's faux silk better goods also are strong."

While Rocco Simone, svp of Sunbury, "is unsure of the outcome for Decosit," the company is coming out with a major collection of 85 new patterns including the debut of its Sunbrella sheers. Despite what he refers to as "the perfect storm — China, oil, bankruptcies," he said international business is "doing pretty good, and we're putting more emphasis on it."

For Decosit, Simone noted, "Some U.S. customers are not coming, but international customers are and we made a special blitz of invitations to them."

Calling Decosit "a bit of a p.r. event, and a very good selling opportunity," Ron Kaufmann, ceo of P/Kaufmann, feels attendance will be down.

"It's been a good show for us, and I'm very bullish about this year," said Roger Gilmartin, president of Covington Fabrics & Fashion. "I'm optimistic we will be revisited by old customers."

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