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How the other side lives

It looks like it won't all be for naught.

For those attending Decosit and Textiles d'Interieur Premier (TIP9) in Brussels, Belgium, next week as exhibitors, the mood of the market seems to have taken on a slightly positive aura.

After months of being buffeted by bankruptcies among their retail customers and the domino effect of those woes on their manufacturing customers both in home textiles and furniture, things seemed to be bottoming out.

Conversations with a dozen or so American fabric exhibitors heading for Brussels has revealed that in the last month to six weeks business overall in the fabric world has improved somewhat for many, not at all for a few and surprisingly better — though not well — for a select few.

And along with the overall business improvement for a few has come spotty growth (still an improvement) in export sales, despite the robust dollar and myriad global economic woes.

While few American exhibitors see Decosit and TIP9 as the springboard for a major business improvement in export, they are more comfortable that showing there will be not just an exercise in presence, but one that could and probably would produce some important business.

To this end, the majority of the exhibitors seem to be putting their best creative feet forward with product introductions that reflect the best of their specific niche's creativity.

Almost to a person, there is the realization that the American advantage lies in the niche segments of the fabric business. When conversations move into the parts of the fabric business that deal in huge runs and lowball pricing, the American advantage takes a backseat to the Asian piece of the equation.

At the same time, there seems to be an increase in the number of Americans going to Brussels to shop the shows, and for some it's a two-part reason — even for some of the exhibitors: Decosit offers a bird's-eye view of the better end of the global fabric market; but TIP9 offers a bird's-eye view of what is happening in the "other" parts of the fabric world, the ones that are increasingly capturing the attention of both fabric suppliers and their customers.

See you all there.

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