Vacancy in the Contract Business
Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, 2/20/2006 12:00:00 AM
More and more folks in the home textiles world are talking to me about the “C” word — as in “contract.”
Virtually every converter has had a contract division for as far back as most of us can remember. And the fabric mills, in one way or another, have edged into the business as well.
Now there is a new twist, and it has come about because of the sourcing revolution, with everyone from the contract customer to the prime suppliers looking eastward.
The converters are becoming sources for manufactured textiles products for their customers. It's a simple thought process for the contract specifiers: bring us the complete product so we won't have to bother about where to get the stuff made, or even when.
Easier said than done. Just ask those who have been involved in the parallel challenge in this country called cut-and-sew furniture kits — the pre-sewn covers that then are applied to furniture frames. The horror stories emanating from that sector of the business are enough to keep one awake nights. And some of the early-on stories from this side of the home market are not much better.
The major challenges come in terms of timing, which for contract is more of a key issue than for retail, when a missed delivery is a nightmare for a promotional event. In contract, it is for the opening one or more new facilities. Then there are the dye lot misses. Know anyone who can use 15,000 yards of an off-color blue?
The move to have the product made off-shore adds still another twist to the demands of product performance, especially in terms of standards involving flammability, something the residential sector has yet to deal with. The issue of liability is critical, and still hasn't been totally resolved.
Nevertheless, this business has been growing in recent years, especially in the segment of hospitality — certainly among better hotels and with better goods, not your humdrum roadside hotel. For many, upscale hospitality is the key growth piece of their business, and with the hotel explosion around the world, it looks like it should continue throughout the decade.
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