WEST COAST LURE: THRIVING JUNIOR MARKET

Byline: Michael McNamara

NEW YORK--In contrast to a year ago, good expectations are in the air as exhibitors look to the Los Angeles International Textile Show.
It's not that overall business conditions have improved, but rather that mill and converter executives see an increasing demand for higher-margin-generating novelty fabrics from a junior-oriented market, which the show primarily serves. They say they are confident sampling will be active for their fall 1996 fabrics.
The three-day show, cosponsored by the Textile Association of Los Angeles and the California Mart, opens Monday at the mart.
Also adding to the better feelings is a resolution of the bitter controversy over the show's timing. The battle over show dates, along with what many said was the inability to draw buyers from east of the Mississippi River, threatened the show's future.
As reported, exhibitors who belong to the Textile Distributors Association, a group made up of New York-based mills and converters, had lobbied long and hard for a switch of dates to August and January, rather than hold the event during the current October/April schedule. However, a poll taken among buyers at last October's show suggested that they preferred the current timetable for the shows.
"We had to go with the dates buyers wanted," said Maurice (Corky) Newman, president and chief executive officer of the mart. "We tried shifting the dates, but it didn't work.
"In any show, attracting the critical mass is the most important aspect, and that is getting buyers to the show," he said. "We're happy that the TDA members have elected to continue to exhibit, as they are an integral part of the show."
Indeed, the TDA is once again endorsing the show and will send 40 of its members to exhibit under the organization's banner.
Overall, TALA reports that the show is a sellout, with 321 textile, trimming and service-related firms set to display their products, about the same number of exhibitors as the show held in April.
Discussing prospects for the show, Paul Reiss, a partner at Omega Textiles, a converter here, said, "The California manufacturers seem to be more on top of things in terms of styling and direction." His firm will be putting the show spotlight on novelty fabrics of rayon and acetate, and polyester and rayon. "We're running a few basic goods, but the bulk of what we're going to show at Los Angeles, about 80 percent, will be novelty fabrics," said Reiss. "The best part of our print business right now is in California," said Gerald Greenstein, president of JBJ Fabrics, a print converter and member of both the TDA and TALA. "The junior market there is hot for printed satins to go along with coordinated solid knits or wovens.
"But price is still an issue," said Greenstein, echoing the lament of virtually all textile executives. "We're still not passing as much of our costs along as we'd like, and there doesn't seem to be any easing of fiber prices for the most part."
"We've done well in New York and in Los Angeles, but the [California market] is allowing us to get some better margins," said Ed Moskowitz, president of Fabrictex, a producer of knitted fabrics.
"Right now both structured and stretch knit fabrics are doing well." he said.
Next week's event will mark the end of the show in its current format, as a refurbishing project on the Mart is expected to begin Nov. 15 and will add 30,000 square feet of show space for the April 1996 edition. Mart management said it is also in the process of selecting a new name for the Mart building.
The redo of the showroom floors of the building is expected to be completed by the end of February. The Mart's lobby, on which $6 million is being spent, will probably be finished in April, Newman said.
Included in the renovation are a 1,200-seat fashion theater, a facelift for the 13th floor exhibit hall and the establishment of permanent textile showrooms on the seventh floor.
"We're a 52-week-per-year operation, and to sustain it, you need to have a lot of traffic," said Newman, adding that the mart houses six banks, four travel agencies and several restaurants.
More global buyers, particularly from Mexico and from Asia, are expected to be part of that traffic pattern. One vice president of a California-based knitter, said, "We believe the way to the Pacific Rim is through California.
"We're spending more time looking at that part of the world than we are at Europe," he said.
Thus far, international traffic has been holding steady at about 10 percent of attendance, but growing in actual numbers as overall traffic grows. Newman said a total of 8,000 buyers is expected to visit the show next week--compared with about 6,000 in April. So far, the foreign visitors have come primarily from Mexico and Canada, but for the upcoming show, Newman expects to see increasing representation from South America and the Far East as well.
Along with exhibits, the mart will sponsor three seminars: A fall 1996 color and design presentation by fashion forecaster Pat Tunsky at 4 p.m. on Oct. 23; a discussion on copywriting by members of the law firm Buchalter Nemar Fields & Younger at 8 a.m. on Oct. 24, and a talk on doing business globally, with executives of the certified public accounting firm Moss Adams, at 4 p.m. on Oct. 24.

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