INTERSTOFF COMES BACK WITH REUNITED SHOW

Byline: Melissa Drier

FRANKFURT — With trade visitors packing many of the booths and a literal buzz in the air, the newly reunited Interstoff fabric fair here was widely hailed as a considerable improvement over last season’s separate Interstoff Season and World shows.
Nevertheless, Frankfurt’s once mighty fabric fair still has a lot of lost ground to recover.
Even though a number of exhibitors reported a clear upswing in business from the split shows of the recent past, Interstoff is now a mere shadow of the former megashow. This year, the three-day event, which ended Thursday, had just over 330 exhibitors and was housed in one hall. The final visitor count was 7,500. As recently as 1995, the show drew more than 1,000 exhibitors and almost 20,000 visitors to multiple halls of the Frankfurt fairgrounds.
Visitors and exhibitors grumbled over the way the fair has changed and changed again its timing, focus and content in the past few seasons, and there was criticism about the setup of the last week’s fair.
“There are barely enough people to see here,” remarked Robin Alexander, managing director of the London converter Schwarzchild Ochs Ltd., who was scouting the fair.
“The fair has made counterproductive decisions, and now it’s a total mix-up,” declared Tibor Burian, senior director of the Lyon print house Komar & Cie, and longtime Interstoff veteran. “On one floor, you’ve got people selling books, designs and fabrics — for now, next year and 18 months from now. It’s confusing.”
But both Burian and Alexander said there was room for a fair in Frankfurt. Alexander said some buyers might prefer to come here to avoid the bigness of the Premiere Vision in Paris, which is regarded as the preeminent show for upscale fabrics.
“If they [Interstoff] hold on, Frankfurt will come back,” Alexander predicted.
In response to complaints, Michael Peters, member of the board of management of the Frankfurt Fair, said he was “very satisfied with the result of our decision to recombine the fairs.”
“As for the quality of visitors,” he said, “it’s already a success, and we intend to keep on improving the concept.”
He said fair management would no longer bend to the often contradictory demands of its exhibitors, who promoted the change in timing and split in the fairs in the first place. And in the future, he stressed, the Frankfurt Fair would decide what the timing of the show should be. For next season, Interstoff is scheduled for Nov. 11-13.
While everyone welcomed the decision to reunite the European and non-European segments (formerly Season and World, respectively), the internal segregation of European producers on one floor and all other countries on another didn’t please everyone, especially the few American participants. Norman Rome, export director of Gibertex Trading Inc., New York, commented “I’ve been coming to this fair for 28 years and always felt the philosophy was that everyone was on the same playing field. But the Europeans are drawing together and want to keep everyone out, and as an American, it feels weird to have suddenly joined the third world.”
“Our major competitors are from Italy and Switzerland, and we would be best served by being on that level,” added Raymond Hill, export sales manager of Sequins International Ltd., Woodside, N.Y.
However, Hill and Rome, as well as Ed Jacobs, president of the New York converter Balmoral Textiles, were fairly satisfied with business at the show.
Interstoff this season was truly a mixed bag in terms of products, market orientation, trends and even the seasonal focus of the exhibitors and the national makeup of the show’s visitors.
Germany had the largest number of participants, 63, including design services, trade associations and publications, followed by Taiwan with 38, India with 34 and Italy with 27. Forty-one countries were represented, though such seasoned observers as Peter Gottlieb, president of National Resources Unltd., Pound Ridge, N.Y., an international fabric, fiber and yarn sourcing agency, noted there were some conspicuous absences.
“China is a shell of what it usually was, the three biggest Indian [shirting] mills aren’t here and the majority of Indonesian mills pulled a no-show…and South America is virtually nonexistent,” he said.
For many companies, especially in the European section, Interstoff was primarily a German buying fair. And given a continued slump at retail, German manufacturers aren’t buying as much as they used to. On the international floor, on the other hand, buyers came from a number of countries, and the Taiwanese and Korean booths had a constant stream of shoppers.
“Last year was good, this year very good and maybe next year will be excellent,” said Ricky M.C. Chou, European area manager for Li Peng, one of Taiwan’s larger textile producers, which was racking up strong results in Frankfurt, Chou said, in imitation leather.
The Taiwanese trading company YCL also noted an improvement. “We’ve written more orders this show than at both [World] shows last year,” a company spokeswoman reported. Top sellers included piques, velours, stretch ottomans and burn-outs.
In terms of trends, however, there was very little consensus, even about prints, which seem to be on an upswing and had strong representation in Frankfurt.
“Prints are coming back. Last winter demand was low. People were looking for two or three motifs, but the main business was in plains. Now, we’re doing well with coordinated stories, such as stripes and florals in the same colorways,” said Frank Schulte, export manager of Gebrueder Colsman, Essen.
At KBC, one of Germany’s largest print producers, Peter Mauch, export director, reported, “So far, we haven’t had a real print season. In some countries, such as Spain, there’s been a bigger response.”

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