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Shuffling the Deck

A weakening economy forces textile shows to adjust.

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A weakening economy forces textile shows to adjust.

This story first appeared in the June 25, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

NEW YORK — Organizers of international textile fairs are feeling the sting of the weak economy and poor exchange rates as they prepare to kick off another season of fiber and fabric shows next month.

The poor economic environment has already changed the makeup of New York textile week, which is slated to begin on July 16. One casualty has been the Turkish Fashion Fabric Exhibition, launched by the Istanbul Textile & Apparel Exporters’ Associations, also known as ITKIB, in 2002. Attendance among both exhibitors and buyers had been steadily declining in recent years as Turkish mills grappled with rising costs and poor exchange rates, and over the last several years some mills opted to move to the higher-profile Première Vision Preview or Texworld USA shows.

Exhibitors at the January edition of the show saw few buyers and widely believed that it was unlikely that the show could continue. Several sales representatives noted that the Turkish government’s financial support of the show mandated that at least 20 mills exhibit, but only 15 mills presented at the show. Others noted that the weak American dollar forced Turkish mills to focus their efforts on improving their business with European and Middle Eastern clients.

ITKIB has since confirmed that the New York show will no longer take place, nor will its show in Milan.

“We believe that the Texbridge New York formed a strong bridge between the American market and the prominent members of the Turkish textile [community] and that it proudly fulfilled its duty. Our valuable member companies have now solidified their place in the U.S. market,” read a statement on the show’s Web site. “Even though the Texbridge New York will no longer take place in the near future, we keep our full confidence and excitement in our future projects in the United States.”

Prefab: The Supima Premium Fabric Show is also making significant changes for its fourth edition that organizers hope will better suit buyers’ schedules. The show will move to a one-day format, occurring July 15 at Gotham Hall in Manhattan, and will dispense with the traditional trade show model of mills setting up booths to show their product. Instead, Supima has obtained fabrics from between 25 and 30 mills and will handle displaying them and taking sample orders from buyers.

“We’re looking for the best way that we can serve the buyer,” said Buxton Midyette, marketing director for Supima. “[Buyers] are really time constrained and need to get a lot done in a little bit of time.”

Midyette said the format change should benefit those mills who previously exhibited at multiple shows during the week. It will also allow the organizers to show a broader range of fabric made exclusively from Supima. Previous editions of the show featured 12 to 15 mills that were allowed to show non-Supima products.

Organizers have also added a design competition that will culminate with a runway show the evening of the 15th. Supima hosted an open call for “emerging designers” on June 17 that drew 50 contestants. The field was narrowed down to 25 designers, each of whom will be given 10 yards of Supima fabric to use for their runway design.

Midyette said that because Supima is a premium fiber it has been somewhat shielded from the effects of the weakening economy. Exports of American Supima have reached record levels as well. For the week ended June 19, shipments of American Supima stood at 779,800 bales, a 36.8 percent improvement from the 570,000 bales shipped during the same period a year ago. Still, farmers are facing rapidly rising costs for things such as fertilizer, causing some to move toward crops with higher profit margins such as corn.

“It’s just a slower environment, there’s no question,” said Midyette.

Stephanie Everett, group show manager for Messe Frankfurt Inc., which produces Texworld USA, said she has seen “a little pullback” from mills. According to Everett, the number of mills exhibiting at the show has decreased slightly. An estimated 185 mills, primarily from Asia, are scheduled to exhibit, representing 15 countries.

Texworld USA runs July 14 to 16 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Everett said she and her staff have been speaking with many mills whose executives are nervous about the strength of the U.S. market. She has stressed to them that the number of preregistered buyers is still increasing and that there are still pockets of the market that continue to perform.

“Obviously there’s not a pullback in terms of designers coming to the show,” she said. “We’re trying to get across to our exhibitors that there’s still sourcing going on.”

Alex d’Archangelo, marketing manager of textile shows at Messe Frankfurt, has presented mills with reports detailing current trends and those retailers who are performing well. Private label is one area showing strength as well as junior specialty stores, she said.

“We’re trying to educate our exhibitors on what they should be trying to promote, like flexible minimums and shorter lead times,” said d’Archangelo.

Everett noted that the weak dollar value should benefit lower-cost Asian mills. And despite the decrease in exhibitor levels, the show remains the largest in New York.

Paul Cavazos, director of marketing and sales with Olah Inc., which produces the Kingpins denim show, believes fabric buyers are facing extreme pressure to keep costs down.

“The pressure for the people who look at and buy fabric now is pretty strong,” said Cavazos. “Nobody is behaving luxuriously. If before it was a penny business, now it’s a half-penny business.” Cavazos pointed out that fabric can often account for 50 percent of the cost of a garment.

“From the early stages the conversations are serious,” he said. “The buyers are demanding, they have a lot of pressure right now.”

Cavazos believes that the fabric industry could be approaching its nadir.

“I’m optimistic that the market is on the upswing,” he said. “The fact that these textile shows are moving or closing is an indication of the dips of last year.”

In May, Urban Expositions announced that it would be launching Material World West, a new Los Angeles show to replace its annual New York event. Tim von Gal, president of Material World, said the West Coast venue would open access to California’s domestic production and manufacturing hubs, and serve as a gateway to the Pacific Rim countries.

“It’s important for vendors, mills and contractors that we present the largest customer opportunity, and California, with its dynamic production community and fashion manufacturing base, offers exceptional access,” he said.

The inaugural show on the West Coast is scheduled for Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, 2009, at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Première Vision Preview is set to run July 16 to 17 at the Metropolitan Pavilion. A show representative said more than 2,000 attendees have preregistered and that they are expecting to have the same number of exhibitors as the winter edition.

The Los Angeles International Textile Show will run Oct. 27 to 29 at the California Market Center.

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