The View from Abroad

Carole Sloan, January 11, 2010

Talking with a senior home textiles executive — a guy who's been around for a day or two. We were discussing the changes in how products are developed, sold within the community and then to consumers.

In talking about international markets and how Americans work within this sphere, he noted — as I have over the decades — that Americans are viewed internationally as fair weather friends.

The weather, however, typically, has to be in our favor for good global business. Notably, when business is good here at home, export is ignored. Come a downturn at home and the folks off shore are truly our best friends.

This was never more noticeable than during the run of Heimtextil and Decosit during the '80s, when even the high honchos of the United States took to showing lines — and working throughout the days sweating like the croupiers in Vegas of the same era.

Then came the major change at the turn of the century, and the Americans were producing product off shore and bringing it back here for sale — in areas close to our borders. Producing far off shore and in those similar areas was an extremely foreign concept to many key players.

That situation is modestly modified in recent years as a number of American companies have established beachheads in the countries where they are producing products — and are ready to ship that product anywhere.

We're beginning to see some familiar names showing up in some very unfamiliar locales. There's no reason this trend should not continue and grow.

But beyond the international market, there are far too few companies — suppliers or retailers — looking to any fields beyond traditional home textiles.

There are a gazillion markets that would welcome specific segments of this business. There are specific avenues like QVC, Home Shopping Network and the plethora of Internet venues as well as the Internet segments of key retailers that are always looking for the newest and trendiest to set them apart from the mother ship. Then there is the whole array of other market segments, offshoots or whatever you want to call them, who also offer big-time opportunities for product expansion.

Isn't it time to take advantage of some of this?

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