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Which Way From Here?

Marc Barnes, Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, January 3, 2005

As we move into what is rapidly becoming the January marathon of home textiles related shows globally, understanding what is happening around the world in terms of design, product development, production and that new element — logistics — becomes critically important.

There are those involved with fabric products and home textiles products who will begin the year with next week's Showtime in High Point, N.C., move across the Atlantic to Frankfurt, Germany for Heimtextil, and follow their own personal business needs with visits to Turkey, India, Pakistan and China to secure this year's specifications.

If there is any energy left, it will be back to Paris at the end of the month for both the Biennale and Maison & Objet, the former, the once dominant fabric design show and the latter, its challenger both on a decorative fabric basis and on a manufactured product level. Maison has expanded its push into the stratospheric level of the decorative fabrics business, expanding on its debut last January in this segment.

There seems to be increasing interest on the part of American retailers especially on what is happening in Europe — Italy and Portugal in particular.

Home textiles producers and decorative fabric suppliers in both countries continue to develop and produce superb designs and quality. But they have been noticeably remiss in changing their ways in terms of production schedules, pricing, vacation times and reliability to stay on schedule. These elements all interrelate. With little discipline on the business side of the equation, all the design and product quality formidability in the world amounts to zilch — except for a very teeny, tiny — and increasingly smaller segment of the global market.

So Heimtex, in particular, will be a significant point of meeting for American companies which still see a value-added element to the European cachet. But from all indications, there will be some hardball negotiations to continue these relationships.

Hopefully, there will be few ostriches with their heads in the sand on the European side of the discussions. It would be a tragedy to see these decades and even centuries of design and quality production finesse disappear because of dedication to ways of the past. They don't exist today.

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