What a Difference a Year Makes
If it's January, it must be Heimtextil, the traditional start of the new textiles year and the moment when everyone in the industry takes stock of business - theirs, their competitors and the world in general.
This time last year, there were a lot of big question marks hanging over the home textiles universe:
1. Would China increasingly turn its attention to its domestic market, resulting in it turning its back to the export market?
2. Would the American economy continue its mild-mannered rebound from the Great Recession and resume its worldwide role as the chief conspicuous consumer of stuff?
3. Would Europe continue its slide into its own Great Recession Part Deux, the Economic Union dragged down by weak economies throughout its southern tier?
4. And of particular importance to anyone making the annual trek to Frankfurt in January, what would the weather be like?
Well, we got our answers and they came pretty quickly to anyone paying attention. If you got most of the answers right, chances are you had a pretty good year. But for those companies who strategized incorrectly, 2012 was a very tough year to do home textiles business in the world.
While China's emerging consumer class continues to ... well, emerge, it is doing so with neither the velocity nor veracity that some predicted. If you were a Chinese supplier who put most of your egg rolls in your domestic basket, the local appetite proved to be somewhat less plentiful and you probably missed the boat - the export boat - in 2012.
In the meantime, despite an election year filled with the usual out-of-control spending and vituperous behavior, the American economy did in fact continue to mend - slowly but surely - and U.S. retailers generally had a good year. With the housing market finally showing a legitimate and sustained recovery, consumers in the States returned (at least partially) to their spending ways. If you were too conservative in your business plan you were guilty of putting the cart - the shopping cart - before the house.
Across the Atlantic, about the only thing members of the Common Market had in common was that their business continued to deteriorate by the metric moment. Despite patchwork solutions in such countries as Greece, Italy and Spain, the economies in Northern Europe were getting pulled down by their weaker neighbors to the South. It was no longer a question of "if" Europe's economy was collapsing, only by what degree.
As the textiles world gathers in Frankfurt this week, the answers to all of these riddles is much clearer now. So, we really are only left with one big unknown: What's the weather going to be like this year?