By Jennifer Marks -- Home Textiles Today, 10/18/2004 12:00:00 AM
The times, they are a-changin'. What used to be a Monday-to-Thursday market has stretched into a Thursday-to-Thursday market for many. The department stores in particular have taken to dropping into showrooms even as suppliers are still pulling goods out of boxes and hammering together their displays.
Out-of-towners have split into two groups: the Wednesday (or Thursday) to Sunday group and the Saturday (or Sunday) to Thursday group.
And the locals — particularly the boxes and Federated — seem to go out and about for the duration.
The result is that the New York Home Textiles Market has lost some of its hum and buzz. The lobbies at the recent market were rarely thronged with crowds and elevator access did not require the 15-minute wait of yesteryear. Showrooms that once juggled four or five retail appointments simultaneously now mostly handle one at a time.
And the fact that retailers are economizing by sending far fewer people into the market than they used to also accounts for the thinning of the crowd.
While one might pine for the lost frisson, many suppliers report that they actually have longer, more meaningful meetings under the new system — even if the distended schedule is draining.
The good thing about unhurried conversations is that they are more likely to produce interesting ideas. I came across a couple of them last week.
One sprang from a comment about the number of new showrooms in the textiles building at 295 Fifth Ave., and the fact that retailers' schedules are so regimented they rarely have time to explore new resources.
The suggestion: Each retailer should bring to market a seasoned vet — such as a retired district manager or general manager — whose sole assignment is to tour every floor of the showroom buildings. At the end of the journey, he or she would draw up a list of must-see vendors missing from the retail group's appointment list. If the group couldn't fit all (or any) of those vendors into its roster, the vet could serve as its proxy — vetting the supplier, and when appropriate, ordering samples on the group's behalf for later review back at headquarters.
Another idea arose from a wry remark about all the new product jamming the showrooms. The suggestion: textiles suppliers along Fifth Avenue should throw a massive sample sale for the public. Block off the street on a Saturday or Sunday, drum up some publicity and interact directly with the buying citizenry — or at least the buying citizenry of mid-town Manhattan.
By now, the showrooms have been broken down. Samples are headed for style-outs, and suppliers are hitting the road. Heimtextil is three months away. January ships are in the pipeline. July ships are on the drawing board.
Merrily, we roll along.
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