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Hot & bothered

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, July 16, 2001

The only thing that seemed to evoke a negative reaction at Showtime in High Point last week was the heat — and the accompanying lack of air conditioning in many of the buildings housing fabric showrooms. But that's a typical July reaction — nothing new here.

The big surprise was that many of the suppliers that expected a lot of gloom and doom were pleased with the spirit among the buyers attending the show.

Yes, business is tough, but there were quite a few fabric suppliers reporting gains for the year.

And even more interesting, there were more than a few home textiles manufacturers shopping the show who reported that their businesses were ahead for the year. Not easy to come by, but ahead nonetheless.

As usual, Showtime is not really a buying market, but a sampling show. And this one was no different. But in showrooms where some of the more innovative fabrics were being featured, a fair pace of buying was reported.

It just seemed that the sampling and the orders reflected the knowledge that doing same-old, same-old just wasn't going to work come October in the home textiles, jobber, furniture and retail segments of the fabric business.

For the home textiles producers, the big news was the return of color. As one manufacturer explained, all that beige and brown might be good for furniture, but not for the accessory textiles products.

Showtime also wasn't a matter of how low could pricing go. Yes, price is a critical part of the equation, but conversations with buyers indicated that better goods that offered value as well were on top of their shopping lists.

If there was a true negative — and this really was the single, ever-growing concern — it was the financial stability of the customer base across the board for fabrics.

For many fabric suppliers, the financial problems that are part of the home furnishings industry are just part of the overall picture. For these companies, their home textiles customer base also is challenged financially.

And for quite a few, the dilemma is further complicated as factors or insurance companies refuse to take the risk involved in selling some of these customers.

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