The market week that was
By Jennifer Marks, editor-in-chief -- Home Textiles Today, 4/7/2003 12:00:00 AM
With the exception of Canadian retailers, nearly every retail company that had said it would come to the New York Home Textiles Market actually showed up this time. Still, it was very much an appointment-driven market. As has become the case in most other trade shows, there were few random drop-ins and fewer people roaming the halls of showrooms and the Javits Center. Those who had set up a healthy roster of appointments in advance, however, reported that their meetings lasted longer and proved more meaningful.
One of the emerging stories from the market is the pursuit of classification business. From mills to designers to sourcing houses, the realization has taken hold among bedding and bath ensemble suppliers that there's money to be made in moving beyond coordinated programs into classification businesses. The three most popular areas of expansion: decorative pillows, quilts and window treatments. A message to specialists in those product categories: The field is about to become a good deal more crowded. You're going to have to differentiate like the dickens to stay ahead of the one-stop-shop crowd.
The impact of security measures on supply lines was another hot topic last week. It's not unusual during market to find here and there that an item has failed to arrive in time for presentation, but at last week's market the problem seemed to be ubiquitous. Companies large and small had holes somewhere in their ensembles, in some cases several of them. Nearly everyone reported that the U.S. Customs Department's new security regulations are forcing them to build a little more time into their delivery schedules — just as retailers are demanding shorter lead times. This is an issue the industry will be grappling with for some time to come.
Finally, and unfortunately, the industry witnessed the birth of the next impossible issue: SARS. In the weeks just prior to market, some New York-based suppliers were putting together back-up plans to keep their operations running in the event of a catastrophic terrorist action on the city. Then the news broke about an acute and potential deadly strain of pneumonia racing through parts of Asia and — thanks to air travel — making its way in short order into the U.S. As the market got under way, the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization issued advisories cautioning against all non-essential travel to mainland China, Hong Kong and Vietnam.
For an industry increasingly dependent upon those countries for product, SARS poses a sobering dilemma, to say the least. The ceo of one West Coast sourcing house said that one of his employees was recently hospitalized with the disease.
Should the condition continue to spread exponentially, suppliers and retailers that regularly send people to those countries may suddenly find themselves looking for alternative sourcing options, just as many did in the aftermath of 9/11. The potential ripple effect in both human and pricing terms could be huge.
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