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S'more

Warren ShoulbergWarren Shoulberg Publisher/Editorial Director
SO, ANOTHER MARKET week is over and the home textiles industry is feeling pretty good about things, dare we say even a bit smug. Sure, business is still tough and margins remain as squeezed as an overused, near-dead tube of Crest.
     But the cotton crisis seems to have subsided, or at least it's stepped down from Defcom 5 levels and most companies have figured out how to bob and weave when it comes to bobbing and weaving.
     Likewise, market attendance was acceptable, at least according to most exhibitors. Unlike some market weeks when one or two retailers decide to proclaim their eminent sovereignty and not bother to show up, there were no big stores conspicuous by their absence.
     And business, though still not terrific, remains basically OK. Whatever is happening to the rest of the American economy, retail sales continue to hold up, and for some reason, we're a nation still out there buying consumer products. Maybe not as much as some would like, but probably more than most expected given what's going on in the world. Put it all together and the home textiles industry believes it had a successful market week.
     Think again, sheet-and-towel boys. Those empty elevators, sparsely occupied showrooms and lightly attended events could very well be a sign of things to come for this market.
     The New York market week has evolved into a highly concentrated appointment-driven show for the big boys. Walk-in traffic and smaller accounts are not only frowned upon, they are often ignored. Vendors will tell you that if they've seen their top eight accounts they consider it a good market. All others need not show up.
     Make no mistake about it: The American home textiles industry is very much a business of big stores. Those top eight or ten accounts do more than half of the business. But there has to be more.
     The New York textiles market needs more customers, and it has to make some sort of an effort to attract those stores to come in for the show. Having decided its future is not in Atlanta or Las Vegas or anywhere but New York, it needs to find a way to expand its horizons. Without a strong central organizing entity like a market center or a trade association, that's easier said than done. But its very future depends on it.
     Maybe it's a coordinated marketing effort to attract stores from the edges of the home industry to come to New York. Are the drug chains, the super markets, the DIY stores, the lifestyle furnishings stores and the larger independents really solicited as they should be? What about the international retailer? Shouldn't New York be trying to get stores from South America, the Middle East, Europe and even Asia to attend, as High Point, Atlanta, Dallas and Las Vegas have all successfully done?
     And is it time to revisit coordinating the New York showroom show with the Javits temporary textiles show that is now part of the New York Gift Fair? That divorce always seemed to be much more about bad bravado than good business.
     Anyone who's ever had a campfire in their history knows about s'mores, the chocolaty, gooey dessert that gets its name from those always wanting some more...or s'mores. This is hardly the time for the New York market to sit back and get complacent. It should be time to ask for s'more. That would be sweet.

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