By  on December 3, 2008

NEW YORK — Domestic textile trade show organizers planning exhibitions for the first half of 2009 are facing an uphill battle.

Consumer spending has plummeted as economic conditions have worsened across the globe. With holiday sales expected to be particularly dour, brands and retailers have sought to drastically cut orders, reduce inventory and tighten budgets. Textiles, which account for the lion’s share of an apparel item’s cost, are naturally coming under scrutiny. The situation will make for a difficult environment for mills planning to show their wares at fairs throughout the first half of the year, as buyers deal with having little leeway on pricing. The harsh economic realities have most show organizers anticipating declines in both the number of exhibitors and attendees.

“When you are in good times, marketing is easy. When you are in bad times, marketing is difficult — but that is when you have to do it more than ever,” said Stephanie Everett, group show director of textile shows for Messe Frankfurt, which organizes Texworld USA. “Now’s the time, more than ever, to build relationships with these key buyers.”

Everett said she believes Texworld USA’s emphasis on lower-cost suppliers from around the world should provide buyers with a number of resources able to work within their diminished budgets.

“We bring value from around the world, not just Asia,” said Everett. “We do have mills with quality fabrics at better price points, so [for] buyers looking for [that], we’re in a better position right now.”

Texworld USA does run the risk of losing some attendees and exhibitors due to its scheduling. The show typically runs concurrently with Première Vision Preview and Prefab: The Supima Premium Fabric Show in January. However, due to scheduling issues with the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, this year’s show will take place a little more than two weeks later, from Feb. 3 to 5. Alexandra d’Archangelo, marketing manager of textile shows for Messe Frankfurt, doesn’t expect to see a substantial decline in visitors despite this. D’Archangelo noted that approximately 90 percent of visitors come from the tristate area, and exhibitors are being reminded that the U.S. remains a leading economy despite its problems.

“We are expressing to our exhibitors that the U.S. is still ranked as the world’s most competitive economy,” said d’Archangelo.

Prefab will return to a two-day format for its show at Gotham Hall Jan. 13 to 14. Buxton Midyette, marketing director for Supima, which organizes Prefab, acknowledged that the pima cotton industry hasn’t escaped the pangs of the financial downturn.

“We’re trying to push innovation as the real answer to the challenge that the industry faces today,” said Midyette. “Playing it safe is probably the riskiest thing that retailers and brands can do,” he said.

Supima will highlight innovation by hosting its second design competition. An open call for designers took place for two days in mid-November. Designers were asked to bring sketches for their eveningwear entry, a design portfolio, a résumé and a garment they have designed and sewn. The selected designers will be given 10 yards of pima fabric to create a women’s eveningwear design that will be shown at a runway event Jan. 14.

The pima industry in the U.S. has also been hit by low prices and competition from higher-profit crops.

“There’s a lot of competition still for the acreage upon which pima is grown from other crops,” said Midyette. “So we were hoping to get some price increase to better compete for land. It doesn’t look like that has happened.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates domestic pima cotton production will fall more than 46 percent this year to 459,000 480-pound bales compared with 851,800 bales last year.

Philippe Pasquet, chief executive officer of Première Vision, said the company has committed itself to maintaining its level of investment in its show in order to maintain the quality and services offered to buyers. Première Vision Preview will take place Jan. 14 to 15 at the Metropolitan Pavilion.

“We maintain our level of quality because things are getting tougher,” Pasquet said. “It’s getting tougher for the trade fairs, but we think that we have to keep up with the policies that made us a leading show.”

Pasquet said he expects to see a slight decrease in attendance at the show, but isn’t “anxious” about it. Pasquet said he takes solace in the belief that the show has established itself as the leading U.S. textile show for high-quality trendsetting fabrics. “I think PV in New York is a milestone in the season for American professionals,” he said.

The textile market will be heating up on the West Coast in 2009 with the launch of GlobalTex. Produced by Dallas-based Market Center Management Co., GlobalTex will kick off April 28 to 30 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. David Pennes, vice president of new business development, said the goal is to create a state-of-the-art fair capable of addressing a range of needs and services.

“It’s going to be the only international show held in Los Angeles that addresses every single aspect of the supply chain of the apparel and fashion industry,” said Pennes.

The show will be divided into 10 categories, including West Coast denim lifestyle, contemporary fabrics, technical fabrics for outerwear and athletic apparel and sourcing resources.

Pennes is counting on buyers needing to restock their shelves by the time the show rolls around.

“After moving through holiday and into the first of the year, there’s going to be a tremendous amount of buying power because inventories will be low,” he said.

The show also hopes to capitalize on L.A.’s large apparel and manufacturing base. According to MCM, the city produces approximately $36 billion in textile and apparel manufacturing, representing 15 percent of the city’s workforce.

GlobalTex will take place two weeks after the Los Angeles International Textile show, which will run April 14 to 16 at the California Market Center. Material World Miami will take place April 21 to 23 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Kingpins, the premium denim trade show, will host two shows during the first half of the year. The East Coast edition will take place in New York April 13 to 14, while a West Coast edition will take place in Los Angeles March 4 to 5.

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