Yarn Fair: Niche Markets Key

NEW YORK — As they prepare for next week’s Yarn Fair International, exhibitors said they’re zeroing in on specific market niches where they can use technology for a competitive advantage.<br><br>While they acknowledged that business...

NEW YORK — As they prepare for next week’s Yarn Fair International, exhibitors said they’re zeroing in on specific market niches where they can use technology for a competitive advantage.

This story first appeared in the July 16, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

While they acknowledged that business is still in recovery mode going into the second half of the year, textile executives from the approximately 90 exhibitors said the Yarn Fair — which takes place here July 22-24 — will be an opportunity to meet up with existing and potential new clients to collaborate on projects for fall 2003. Some will premiere new products at the fair.

At Nilit America Ltd., merchandising manager Molly Kremidas said the company plans to use Yarn Fair to raise the profile of Sensil, its nylon brand. The company plans to focus on its Colorwise variety, which accepts a preset amount of color no matter how long it is in a dye vat, and Arafelle, a fiber that accepts varying amounts of dye along a single strand, allowing yarn spinners to produce a heathered look with only one dip into the dye vat. The Israeli firm said it hopes to further expand its end use in legwear, intimate apparel, activewear and swimwear. Also, Kremidas said the company is expanding its legwear operations into the sock market, noting that the bulk of applications at the fair will be geared toward circular knitting. Exhibitors at the fair have traditionally targeted the sock and sweater trades.

“Since we’ve never been at the show, we’re optimistic and from the response from the invitations we’ve sent, there will be quite a few people visiting the show,” Kremidas said. “But I have nothing to stand against since we didn’t attend last year.”

Two years ago, Nilit entered into a joint venture with Greensboro, N.C.-based Unifi Inc. to distribute Arafelle in the U.S. In return, Unifi has access to Nilit’s nylon capabilities. Nilit develops products exclusively for Unifi.

At Yarn Fair, the two companies will collaborate again by reserving adjacent booths at the show and by co-hosting a cocktail party the opening night of the fair in efforts further promote Arafelle, as well as create buzz surrounding the two companies and the fair.

Kim Lewis, the director of marketing at Unifi, said she was surprised last year at the scarcity of domestic exhibitors and decided to stage something celebratory to try and drive up attendee traffic.

“It was a little disappointing last year because there were so many foreign companies,” Lewis said. “It’s an international show, but because it was in the States, you would have expected more visitors.”

Lewis’ observation was echoed by Yarn Fair show manager Annik Klein, who said part of this year’s main efforts was to stimulate U.S. attendance.

Klein said the marketing helped bring the number of U.S. exhibitors to represent roughly 30 percent of attendees. However, the number of exhibitors is down slightly, Klein said, since the show will now be held at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, a smaller venue. Yarn Fair was formerly held at the New York Hilton Hotel in midtown.

Klein acknowledged that softness in the yarn business over recent years had pinched yarn spinners’ participation in the show.

“Instead of showing, they’re trying to save money,” she said. “What we want to do is upgrade the show to be very creative, so that people should be able to go to Yarn Fair and find what they need from Europe.”

Ian Croad, sales director at Wakefield, West Yorkshire-based British company Tilsa Yarns, said his U.S. business has increased by 50 percent over the past four years and that the U.S. is now Tilsa’s largest export market. Those two reasons, he said, are why he chose to exhibit at Yarn Fair for the first time.

“We’ve got about 17 new yarns and we’re going to target the hosiery and sweater market,” Croad said. “We’re also coming out with a weaving range for nonapparel products.”

Croad said he expects the show to be a little quiet since business Stateside has not been great. He said he plans to make new contacts with people at the show and then follow up and pursue sales afterward.

Trends for Tilsa Yarns, which primarily produces novelty yarns with acrylic and spandex, range from yarns lending a washed-out look, jacquards and colors such as pastels, black and white.

At Feasterville, Penn.-based Coren-Indik Inc., president David Indik said his company is bringing acrylic-and-wool yarns that lend a tweed-like look for sweaters and socks that come in a variety of stock-dyed colors. Custom colors are also available.

Indik said he decided to show at Yarn Fair because his local agent, who used to take a booth at the show, wasn’t going to attend this year.

“We wanted our own exposure,” Indik said. “In other years, we didn’t feel the agent pushed our products particularly well. So, we’re figuring we’ll give it a crack.”

Despite a slow first quarter, Indik said business is not that bad. In recent months, Coren-Indik struck up an informal collaboration with Fall River, Mass.-based Geb Yarns to jointly promote and market themselves. The two firms offer similar yarns and can pass customers back and forth, Indik said. They also share some back-office duties.

“We’re very conscious of the fact that the market is very price conscious, so we’re trying to offer economical yarns,” Indik said. “A lot of the companies we twist for need fresh looks that are inexpensive.”

Creating expensive-looking novelty yarns with synthetics is how Montreal-based CNS Yarns created its niche. Instead of using merino wool, mohair and other natural fibers, CNS president Eric Nichols said he uses cotton, rayon and acrylic as the company’s main fibers.

“Whereas Europeans will use more expensive fibers, we’re using less-expensive fibers to create the same look,” Nichols said. “So instead of a merino wool bouclé, for example, we’ll do acrylic.”

At the show, Nichols said he plans for one-third more exhibition space to market the yarns to U.S. customers. Since CNS experienced a 35 percent drop in Canadian business a few years ago, Nichols said he has focused on the States in recent years. While he acknowledged that the business in the U.S. is also shrinking, he said it’s still larger.

“The U.S. is shrinking too, but it’s a larger market,” Nichols said. “So we’re optimistic in a pessimistic market.”

Nichols added that CNS’ strategy of trying to get a bigger share of a shrinking market has worked well for the company this year and that business with the U.S. has tripled.

As for the show, Nichols said his three days at Yarn Fair are usually beneficial to his business.

“We get to see and expose ourselves to the American market and we see a lot of customers in a short three-day period,” Nichols said. “It’s very good for us. It’s a chance to make contacts and work with customers that we would normally see in their office, so another chance to say hello is good. But the primary reason is that we get a chance to meet new contacts and last year, we met someone and it turned into decent business.”