To say the mood at Heimtextil earlier this month was upbeat would be stretching things, but it was definitely hopeful.
Where the 2011 business mantra was: "A flat year will qualify as a good year," at the recent show I detected a sense that the coming 12 months might actually produce some growth, however modest.
Several manufacturers are expanding capacity again - even as many acknowledge there exists an overabundance of production availability on a global basis. Some suppliers who do the majority of their business with the United States are looking to open new accounts in other markets. By the same token, exporters who concentrate on non-U.S. markets expressed an interest in jumping into the big pool.
There was a fair amount of chatter about Sears Holdings, parent of Sears and Kmart. The news from Women's Wear Daily late last week that CIT Group would shortly resume factoring the company will perhaps ease some concerns - depending upon the terms.
As has been the case for a few years now, the roster of U.S. retailers in attendance did not equate to an accounting of actual buyers. More often, the big chains now send members from their sourcing team, product development division or design group.
In terms of product, even the European exhibitors were fairly subdued - often interpreted as a sign of caution. It's not that European offerings were completely devoid of color, but there was a lot of brown on display in the continental outpost of Hall 11.
I saw only one new product introduction that turned my head. (And, of course, I didn't see every item offered at the show.) It's a top-of-the-line towel from Shri Lakshmi Cotsyn. It's densely woven, but not a fatty. The words that sprang to mind when I picked it up were "baby blanket."
We'll soon be making our way through the New York International Gift Fair and the Las Vegas Market. The pre-market point of view for both from exhibitors planning to show there is also hopeful.
Maybe this is the year the industry will move decisively forward.