Hospitality Outlook Mixed

Gary Evans, Carole Sloan, May 4, 2009

Heading into the spring hospitality show season — HD Expo as well as company-oriented vendor conferences — suppliers of textiles to the hospitality industry offered divergent views on the state of the business.

"We're down a bit but still in the single digit-plus range in contract. And in international, both contract and resuidal are holding their own," said Stan Fradin, president of Roc-Lon.

While contract business has been viewed as in a "holding pattern" in recent months, many hotels are still going forward with planned projects. "And we're seeing the slight beginning of renewed consumer confidence," he noted.

"In addition, domestic retail business is doing well and we haven't laid anyone off. Our South Carolina plant is running full, and we've added new equipment," he said.

For HD, Roc-Lon will not show new product. "We were lucky rather than smart in that we did not bring out a lot of new product here, but are focusing on product we know the hotels are looking for."

Richloom is taking the opposite approach. "We are having one of the biggest intros we have ever come out with," said Tony Riggio, president of Richloom's Contract Division.

"We've taken a bigger booth, but we're not sending as many people as before. We're being very cautious."

So far this year, "we're starting to see an upswing based on the results of the third quarter of '08 and we developed product based on these results. It takes months of working ahead to bring out a line," he said.

Besides the decorative fabric intros, Richloom is also featuring a major introduction of its R Bed program, "which is growing even though the business in this category is soft."

Last year was a good year, he said. "It was like pulling teeth, but we were not crazy off in hospitality. There are lots of projects that are still on hold. Overall, this segment of the business has been excellent for us and has been for at least five years."

At P/Kaufmann, "Hospitality has been the bright spot over the last couple of years, but it may not be for long," said Ron Kaufmann, ceo. "It could get worse."

He credits Curtis Breedlove, president of P/Kaufmann/Contract, who said: "My long-term goal is to increase our market share in the beginning of the abyss in the hospitality world. HD will be my shortest time, based on a personal situation, but I think it will be the poorest attended since the beginning of HD. Most interior design firms will be sending one person per company."

Kaufmann is bringing out two groups: a middle group, which will be pointed from A to C in terms of need; and a second group that is designed to scoop up immediate program needs. In addition, the company is bringing out a "most exciting new product," an inherently FR yarn-dyed, large-scale jacquard for top of bed and public spaces. The designs will be 110 inches in total.

Fine linens producer Sferra will come out with a number of exclusive programs created specifically for the hospitality market to be launched at HD. Following up on its residential program, it will offer a Sferra program of bedding created by Los Angeles interior designer Kelly Wearstler.

"Hospitality business has been very good. We're very fortunate, but reorders are not what they were," said Tom DeLoca, vp of hospitality. "It's no surprise. No one is immune. We're fortunate in that we're working on a number of large projects."

In addition, the company will be showing in a space that is approximately 30% larger than it has had in the past. Sferra will also introduce Sferra Hospitality Down, a program that will focus on a combination of price, quality and delivery. It will be produced by "a noted down supplier" the company declined to identify. Sferra has also forged an alliance with a leading mattress producer in a program that will feature Sferra sheets, said Aaron Stewart, creative director.

Textillery Weavers will have a larger space, but co-principal John Rose noted, "The space changes every time at HD.

"We're gong to HD, of course, and all of sudden in March we started getting reorders from hotels," said Rose. "For a number of months, this segment of the market had put off new buying, but there now is a ton of new construction and they are using new product."

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