Visitors from the East
Carole Sloan, founding editor-in-chief -- Home Textiles Today, 7/15/2002 12:00:00 AM
China. It was the single most discussed topic during Showtime in High Point last week.
One of the interesting things was the differences in the way each of the company executives were looking at the subject. Another was the level of mystique or mystery the subject has achieved within the marketplace.
There is clearly no consensus on what to do or how to deal with the Chinese equation in the decorative fabric business. There are those who appear to be jumping into the Chinese-produced market with both feet; others are dipping a toe or two in the water to test and tweak the process; and others — and they are fewer each day — are still ignoring that the challenge even exists.
Among the most frequently discussed challenges is the issue of quality — how to achieve it and how to maintain it after the initial production run is completed.
Among the other concerns is the protection of intellectual property, not just in the United States but protection against having the producer sell the product on the global market either overtly or covertly.
Then there is the challenge of quick delivery, not the original opening order but reorders down the road. Tied in with this is the issue of reorders themselves, available or not, and in what quantities. The challenge, some point out, is that if a fabric is exclusive to a specific retailer via a bedding supplier, conventional forecasting and delivery times will definitely be altered.
For some, and these are among the larger players in the fabric business, one option is a joint venture with the production of the facility going solely to the American partner.
For others, the China equation offers opportunities to enter segments of fabric production that they cannot produce in this country for one reason or another.
Then there's the even messier question of "Do you sue one of your big customers?" This already is the thorny question facing some fabric producers whose customers or customers' customers are taking stuff to China for replication.
Overall, there a lot of actions being taken, and even more thought processes are being exercised. The next year or so should be fascinating to watch as the China challenge evolves.
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