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Traffic down, but show was good

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — Although most American exhibitors at Decosit and TIP here last week believed that visitor traffic was down, many acknowledged that this was the best show they have had in years.

And though the total American presence was significantly smaller, those who were here were surprised at their results — mostly in terms of written orders. Those companies that have continued to look to the global market apparently reaped the lion's share of the returns.

One significant absentee was Mastercraft International, which had apparently contracted for space and then cancelled at the 11th hour. Decosit management printed a sign in the area that would have been its space and set up benches for a visitor relaxation area.

As a piece of the global concerns, one attendance hit was caused by the denial of visas to a number of visitors from the Middle East.

Among the highlights for the American exhibitors as well as some off-shore companies was the support for prints after a long dry spell.

Among those in this category was Arthur Friedman, vp, Waverly, who said, "It was the best attended and best written show we've done in years. Prints have started to make a comeback, and for us they were important in our coordinate collections."

Stewart Jarvis, vp of Crestmont, said, "Export for us is getting better even though traffic was thin. The acquisition of some Lanscot-Arlen styles was a big asset."

"We had good traffic the first three days, especially from Asia, and Mideast as well as Europe," said Robert Lachow, director of sales. "We usually don't write orders, but we did well in that respect and we had good sampling."

One concern at TIP was that there was little increase in the ranks of visitors. Said Howard Sackelman, vp, Dukane: "While it was an OK market, we saw the same people, and they are buying less in quantity — and very carefully."

"It was the biggest Decosit we've had in written orders," said Tom Muzekari, vp, Quaker. "Our business in the Middle East is the biggest it's been, we've recouped sales."

At the same time, he said, "Traffic is down, but we've had major breakthroughs with target customers."

"It was our best Decosit," said Mike Shelton, president, Valdese. "It was not because we were inundated with customers but that programs like our all-cotton collections really stood out."

For those who didn't have a strong market, the view of Jack Cobb, president of American Decorative Fabrics, was significant: "It was a fair show. We wrote a little business, and we need to be there. If there's a show we're going to be there — it's called building a brand."

Similarly, Jeff Thomases, ceo of Associated Textile Corp, parent of Swavell/Mill Creek, admitted that "while sales were weak — and possibly because the company doesn't design for the global market — we're probably going to stay here because it's important to have a presence. It's also an important place for sourcing."

Roger Gilmartin, executive vp, Covington Inds., said, "We were absolutely overwhelmed. We didn't come with massive expectations. We had a great show; we seemed to have good values and good, fresh product."

Patrick Geysels, general manager of Decosit, said, "We hope to see governments moving toward policies of free and fair trade so everyone can play on the same level."

Attendance, Geysels related, "was stable, and we don't expect to have more in numbers as companies cut back and consolidate. But the key issue is how many companies come, and are they the right ones?"

As for DecoContract, now in its third year, Geysels said, "We first thought we needed three years, but with all the things happening in the last two [years] we think it will be five years before it is mature. We believe in the concept."

Bill Davis, managing director of TIP/Pret, said, "The progress made by companies in the last 12 months from developing countries has been almost beyond belief. It's fundamentally clear that the content and direction of TIP/Pret is correct."

While the number of exhibitors in the American pavilion at Decosit shrunk to five this year, Kim-Bang Nguyen of the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that "each company here is coming back, and we're going to make a strong move to increase our presence next year."

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