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Gearing up for Gift Fair

Expectations high

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, September 2, 2010

duvet coversSferra introduces Lena, a collection of 100% Egyptian cotton, printed duvet covers and pillow shams, sheets and pillowcases. Shown in butter, it is available in four other colors. See page 10 for additional product introductions.
NEW YORK - A more diverse product portfolio, a re-merchandised price point emphasis, and a sense that specialty retailers are once again writing orders - albeit small - are key factors boosting the expectations of home textiles exhibitors showing at the International Gift Fair/New York Home Textiles Market here later this week.
     Current business conditions are much improved compared with the same time last year, with exhibitors reporting different reasons for the uptick. For some, it is a general improvement in mood, for others it's a marked upward movement in the better end of the hospitality segment of the business. Others report a comfortable but not huge upsurge in projects from interior designers.
     The key, most agree, is the premarket effort to set appointments - either on a management level or through sales reps' efforts versus relying on walk-in traffic or casual plans for visits by existing customers.
     With strong results from the recent Dallas and Atlanta shows, "we anticipate that New York will still be big, but we will be showing at our rep showroom, Mary Harper Group in 7W," said David Bates, creative director for Peacock Alley.
     "We've returned to our core Peacock Alley roots - timeless designs that can work with deco or modern or traditional. We're harnessing what we do best and emphasizing simplicity as well as versatility."
     Overall, Bates added, "We're giving the collection a more modern look with more non-gender specific directions. And we're enhancing our custom capabilities as well as featuring things like washability and garment- washed technology."
     "It's tough to determine," said Scott Sorgeloos, vp of Home Source Intl. "This will be the fi rst time since 2005 that we took a crack at Javits with a booth on our own, and Home Style [the company's rep group] will work the booth as well."
     "We're getting appointments, but a lot will depend on the efforts of our reps." Overall, Sorgeloos remarked, "Business is shaping up to a good second half, the fi rst half was good. And our customers are once again buying compared with last year when they took notes. Vegas was a good show, and even Monday, which is typically slow, was very good - a good omen for the week."
     "We had a really good January show at Javits," said Murray Massre, president of Fino Lino. "There were a lot more designers who are working directly with consumers. It's the high stores that are really coping with getting these customers and coping with their retail overheads."
     One suggestion, Massre said, "would be for the stores to work with designers as their sales people on the road." In terms of product, Fino Lino "will be featuring what we do best - pre-washed silks and natural fibers." The focus will include a Moroccan- influenced contemporary design and a unique natural raw Shaker linen highlighting traditional, cutwork and embroidery.
     For Ann Gish, head of her namesake company, "business is not bad." Some stores are doing really well, she said, but others struggle, depending on locality. "There aren't really price point shifts, but the stores are more careful. There's not a lot of fight on price." As for results from earlier shows, "we are happy. They [Atlanta and Dallas] were absolutely acceptable."
     Among the looks being highlighted are two extremes - fancy and more conservative, but not organic. Two new groups of decorative pillows are being featured to attract the price-conscious customer, she noted.
     "We're shooting for more presentations at mid-price points, we're adding fewer super-priced items," said Paul Hooker, ceo of Sferra. "We've geared up since January for this market. In 2009, we cut way back on new collections - we see a two- to four-year recovery. For this market we're showing more than 25 new items. We're proactive but not expecting huge increases."
     New offerings will highlight multi-color designs and different price points as well as new items like travel kits for first-class customers. New bedding, he said, "is incredible. We worked with our vendors to be creative from yarns to finishes."
     From a business perspective, Atlanta was the best since '09, "I'm thinking positively about this show, but there will be a lot more hand holding and we'll be more involved than ever without customers."
     "We're up 50% over August '09, and I'm sure this show will be even better," said Pamela Kline, ceo of Traditions by Pamela Kline. "We are doing nine new beds, gift items, washed silk scarves, embroidered tabletop."
      Business, she commented, "is very erratic. We're being fl exible with our customers. And the stores are buying less but more frequently. They're still using credit cards but also are using the client's credit cards."
     "We are really pleased with even the small increases in retail orders added to the floodgates opening in hospitality," said John Rose, co-owner of Textillery. In New York, "we expect more retail involvement, but reorders are not huge."

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