By  on September 30, 2008

PARIS — Economic turmoil and a strike by transit workers did little to aid order writing at last week’s Texworld fabric fair at Le Bourget exhibit halls here.

Buyers attending the four-day event said the chaotic economic environment forced them to buy more conservatively and place smaller orders. The impact of weakening economies further showed in the fair’s attendance figures. According to organizers, 15,952 people visited the show, representing a 10 percent decline from last year and a 2 percent drop from the February edition. Organizers attributed a portion of the decline to the transit strike that occurred during the show’s run.

Fewer Chinese visitors attended the show and American attendance trailed off by 10 percent as well. Compared with the February edition, Asian attendance shrank 20 percent and European attendance fell 9 percent, as fewer Italians, Spanish and British made the trip.

“To say that business is difficult is an understatement,” said Darren Peden, fabric technician with Leeann Fashions Ltd., a company that works for major retailers in the U.K. “Price is definitely a big concern.”

Jessica Cheres, a designer with Disca, a Mexican fabric wholesaler, said she has been attending Texworld for four years and had never seen a more dour mood.

“People are being very careful,” she said. “Business is tough.”

Michael Scherpe, president of Messe Frankfurt France, which runs the fair, said he expected Texworld to benefit from the economic malaise because buyers were looking for ways to save money.

“It’s certain that many of our exhibitors are in a better situation to weather this type of financial storm than many more expensive European companies,” he said.

Many exhibitors at the fair said business, though not spectacular, was holding.

“With what’s happening we aren’t doing so bad,” said Ayush Murarka, partner at Ventures, an Indian mill that specializes in embroideries. “We are close to fulfilling our target.”

The majority of buyers said they would keep their budgets on par with last year. Some said they would reduce spending as sales show no sign of rebounding. Most voiced hunger for exceptional fabrics.

“I’m looking for technologically advanced fabrics and new types of embroidery,” said Mar Pastor, a designer with El Corte Ingles, the Spanish department store. “Organic fabrics are also very important. The big companies are all moving green. It is important because customers are asking for it.”

Anup Agarwal, vice president of Eastern Silk Industries Ltd. in India, said business this year is down “a minimum of 10 percent.”

“The problem is that people want better quality and at less expensive prices,” said Agarwal. “People are asking for prices that are below our costs. Obviously, that makes it difficult to satisfy our clients.”

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