Suppliers Stoic at Hotel Show

Quinn Halford, Carole Sloan, November 17, 2008

Concern about the near term opportunities in the hospitality field dominated conversation among exhibitors at last week's New York International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show.

Business for home textiles suppliers in hospitality has been strong this year, but prospects for 2009 are cloudy, especially in the area of replacement products.

And although many believed that attendance was down, being present offered opportunities to reinforce contacts and product exposure. Monday was viewed as the major attendance day of the three-day event, home textiles exhibitors said. Sunday drew mixed reviews and Tuesday was generally acknowledged as very quiet.

One segment of the business that is still strong and looks to continue that way is the designer business, commented Susan Dollenmaier, ceo of Anichini, who reported that big designer businesses were helping the firm stay ahead of projections.

For Koni Corp. the show was "absolutely terrific," said Koni Kim, ceo and president. "We didn't expect a strong Sunday, but we've had more than 125 leads and seen some very qualified buyers."

"It was our first show here in years, and while the amount of leads we had was 20% less than at HD Boutique in Miami in September, it depends on the quality of the leads," remarked Michelle Harrison, wholesale and hospitality manager for Cuddledown.

For WestPoint Home, the show was an opportunity "to remind the marketplace we're in this business — and we accomplished this," said Geri Wetmore, vp sales. "Overall we were pleased, we got exposure and a reinforcement to our distributors who sell into this market."

The hospitality business "has been great this year — some 40% to 50% up — we're concerned about '09; we see the replacement business as a big challenge," commented Chad Altbaier, hospitality division director for comforter and pillow supplier Downlite. He also feels the luxury sector, which has been very strong, "as feeling the pinch; the dollar squeeze is most dramatic."

For Bed Bath & Beyond, here for the second time, "There are less people, but they are more engaged," said Adam Schnauffere, business-to-business sales. One asset for the company is "that we emphasize service including setups, as well as the breadth of our product mix, as well as price."

Looking ahead, Tom Healy, hospitality manager for Louisville Bedding said, "I see 2009 as being tough, after a good year this year."

For Tom DeLoca, vp, hospitality for Sferra, "Traffic was definitely off, and it is obvious why." He also reported that some luxury hotels were downscaling some of their home textiles specs.

The show was "much more regional — from New York and the tri-state area — than usual," in the opinion of Adam Pinkow, northeast sales manager for Baltic Linen. Although just Monday "was a good day and Sunday and Tuesday were slow, we made some good contacts. But people are concerned, even though projects are going forward. There have been no cancellations at this point."

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