Contract contractions lead show-goers' thoughts for '04

Carole Sloan, November 17, 2003

Beset by the continuing contract market slowdown from 9/11 and shows bringing new competition, decorative fabric exhibitors at the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show here last week were candid.

For the majority, the show at the Jacob J. Javits Convention Center here was significantly lower in traffic than in previous years — possibly impacted by their assessment of the success of the debut HD Boutique show in Miami last month.

A number are reevaluating their investments with the possibility of not returning to next year's event.

Business in the hospitality segment has improved since 9/11, a number of decorative fabrics suppliers said. But the expense factor could make the show unworkable.

Despite what Phillip Robinson, senior vp, general manager of George Little Management, which operates HM&RS pegged as a seven percent drop in attendance, "all the majors were here with the key purchasing people — including Donald Trump himself."

Robinson said the attendance, about 40,000, continued to represent all price points and levels of the business. "There's clearly a place for a horizontal show like HM&RS and vertical shows like HD in Vegas and Miami."

Noting that "there was less of a turnout, but we saw new customer potential," Bruce Resch, contract manager for Richloom, added "There were also fewer fabric exhibitors."

Of the exhibitors listed, there were eight that were conventional full line fabric houses. They included Covington, Duralee, Edgar, Fabricut, Kravet, P/Kaufmann, Robert Allen, and Swavelle/Mill Creek.

On the positive side, Joseph Bettini, manager of the contract division for Swavelle/Mill Creek observed, "It was better than last year — a nice flow of people, quality people. But Tuesday was really slow."

The major positive about the show, he noted, "is if you're New York based, it's a viable northeast market."

In contrast, Andy Pacuk, senior vp, The Robert Allen Group, stated, "It was not well attended. And our peers have expressed some reluctance about returning. The boutique hotel business is a growing segment of the market."

For veteran contract executive Barry Baron, consulting with Northeast Textiles, "we see the potential in HD Florida, which will double its space next year as drawing away from this. And management just is not promoting this show."

"We're not sure we will be back in '04," said Harvey Nudelman, president of Fabricut. "There's also the issue of the expenses in New York and do you get enough bang for the buck?"

Business at Javits "was very slow," Nudelman related, "and the showing of exhibitors was definitely down in both fabrics and furniture," which impacts the overall performance. But from a positive perspective, Nudelman added, "The people who were there were very serious, but the show may have run its course for fabrics."

For Duralee's Techstyle contract division, "we're not sure about coming back in '04, we see a lot of locals here," said Gary Rosenthal, managing director, sales.

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