Byline: Sophie D’Aulnay

FRANKFURT, Germany — Interstoff is not the giant fabric fair it used to be, now that it has been broken up into three events. Interstoff World, the only one to allow non-European suppliers, closed Thursday on a quiet note.
“We split the show because we felt [that otherwise it] was too big to please everyone’s needs,” explained Thomas Wolenik, Interstoff’s project manager. The three spinoffs, begun this year, are Take Off, a preview show of 76 European exhibitors, held in February; Interstoff World, the largest of the three, and Interstoff Seasons, a late update show for European resources with second collections, to be held in April.
Among its 535 exhibitors, Interstoff World had strong contingents from India and Taiwan, a Far Eastern presence resented by many of the European resources, who were in the minority at the event, and the dozen U.S. suppliers who showed. A number of large European mills dropped out in favor of Take Off or Premiere Vision, the dominant Paris fabric fair held March 8-11, right before the start of the three-day Interstoff World.
“We knew we’d have a lot fewer European mills at Interstoff World. Before the breakup, we had 75 percent of resources from the European Union, and for Interstoff World, we thought we’d have 50/50, but it’s more like 60 percent non-Europeans,” said Wolenik. He hastily added that while people often snub non-European companies because they don’t know them, about 20 of the exhibiting companies do more than $1 billion each in volume.
“Maybe Interstoff World could turn out to be the place for volume business,” he said, mentioning heavyweights like Arvind of India, PenFabric of Malaysia, Exsa of Turkey and three Brazilian companies, Alpargatas Santista, Corduroy and Vicunha.
The show had expected 8,000 to 10,000 visitors and pulled in the low end of that forecast. In the past few years, the big spring Interstoff show — under the old format — had drawn 20,000-22,000 visitors.
“We knew there’d be a risk to be [right after] Premiere Vision. We would have preferred one or two days in between,” he said, adding this was more of a problem for visitors than exhibitors. “There are only a handful of companies showing both at Premiere Vision and here, so we’re not competing.”
Besides the major European dropouts, U.S. firms who have shown at Interstoff in the past but were absent this time included Avondale, Greenwood Mills and Symphony Fabrics. But most evident was the lack of visitors.
At U.S. resource Sequins International, export director Raymond Hill reported the traffic in his booth was down at least 25 percent from a year ago.
Debora Harris, sales manager at New York-based converter Gibertex agreed. “We’ve seen our regular clients, but for the money, it’s not worth it. And three days is too much now. Before, three days was not enough.”
“There’s no comparison with the old Interstoff format. It’s not the same clients, it’s marginal clients,” said Francoise de Barbuat, area sales manager for large French cotton manufacturer Deveaux SA. “But we will go to Interstoff Season, because it makes sense for winter previews, short circuit and restock orders.”
She explained that the company was exhibiting because Germany represents 30 percent of its export business, which accounts for 60 percent of total turnover.
“But we really haven’t seen that many Germans. We saw lots of Lebanese for stock orders, but that’s not for us because we don’t have that much stock,” said de Barbuat.
At New York-based Alpine Textiles, president Gerry Ross was more positive. “We’ve seen fewer people than usual, but definitely better-quality buyers, and a higher percentage have been German,” he commented. “Directly and indirectly, Interstoff is responsible for 25 to 35 percent of our annual turnover,” he said. “It’s too early to tell about the life and future of Interstoff. Certainly no exhibition needs three shows per season.”

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