ENDLESS BATTLE: L.A. SHOW DATES
Byline: Michael McNamara
NEW YORK — The Los Angeles International Textile Show, which normally stages two shows a year, will have had three by the time this year is over.
It has already shown in January, but last week, organizers said more shows will be held April 24-26 and Oct. 23-25.
Those are the months in which the show had been held in each of its first two years — 1993 and 1994. The reason a January show was staged this year stems from complaints by key exhibitors who thought the April and October dates were too late. They wanted them moved to January and August, respectively.
The decision to again show in April and October has infuriated several members of the New York-based Textile Distributors Association. The TDA is one of the major endorsers of the show, sending about 40 of its mill and converter members to the California Mart to exhibit under the association’s banner.
It was the TDA that argued that the April/October slate falls between selling seasons for most of its members — converters selling fabrics to the moderate market. Responding to the TDA’s complaints, the event’s sponsors, the Mart and the Textile Association of Los Angeles (TALA), agreed last August to shift the spring edition from April to January. At that time, no decision had been made about the October show.
But after a lackluster January stand, and based partly on the results of a buyer poll that indicated a preference for April, TALA and the Mart last week decided to go back to an April showcase and keep the fall show in October.
In response, the TDA said Friday it will continue to endorse the show, but some of its heavy hitters might not be present in April. Because the TDA backs the event, the Mart will guarantee TDA companies preferred space on the Mart’s 13th floor. Had the TDA decided to pull its endorsement from the April edition, the Mart couldn’t have guaranteed the prime space in October.
“The TDA feels that the April show follows too closely the January show,” said Bruce Roberts, the organization’s executive director. “Some of our members will no doubt be showing in April. However, several may not.”
James Gutman, president of Pressman-Gutman, a converter here, said he is “very upset” over the return to the original timing. Pressman-Gutman, which services the moderate market, “may not participate in April.”
“I need to talk to people in the organization, and really weigh whether it’s worth it,” he said. “We will, however, most likely participate in October.”
Gutman has been the most vocal TDA member to criticize the April/October slate and continues to question whether the show can be a viable one if it maintains those dates.
Only with a January/August slate, Gutman said, “can we have a quality show.”
“I think [the Mart] just arbitrarily decided to go back to the April and October dates because of pressure from TALA,” said Gutman. “These dates reflect the needs of importers, which make up a good deal of the TALA membership.”
While Gutman acknowledged that fewer buyers attended the January show, he said, “There wasn’t a lot of redundant traffic. We did a good business. In October, we had a lot of people coming into our showroom asking about minimum orders. The quality was better in January.”
Lida Inc. is another firm that is undecided about taking part in the April stand.
“If we do show in April, it will definitely not be in the three showrooms we usually take,” said Isaac Kier, Lida’s chairman and chief executive officer. “I think the return to the old dates is inappropriate, and because of that, it may be difficult for the show to maintain its momentum.
“I believe it came about because of the Los Angeles sales reps who rep European companies,” he added. “That’s their whole orientation. They’re able to lobby every day, and they got the change back.”
“We are not going to the April show,” said TDA member Albert Fenner, president of Malibu Textiles, a supplier of laces. Fenner’s company exhibited at Los Angeles for the first time in January.
“We may come back in October, because that would be for spring 1996,” Fenner said. “April is all wrong.”
Some TALA members are also puzzled by the move back to April and October, especially since the April event will mean three shows in a span of seven months.
“What the hell are they doing?” said one TALA member, requesting anonymity. “They’re going to water this damn show down so much it will have absolutely no meaning. If you’re going to switch it, start it back up again in October.”
Ed Albrecht, president of Texollini, a Los Angeles knitter and TALA member, added, “We will participate in April, as we feel the need to support the shows. I can’t say that I am overly pleased with the shift, however.”
Bob Berg, executive director of TALA, said the date shift “came after looking hard at the January show and what would work best for everyone concerned.”
Berg noted that prior to the January event, TALA, TDA and the Mart agreed to leave open the option to return to the original times — April and October — if the January show failed to live up to expectations. Mart officials cited poor weather, the Mexican economic crisis and even the distraction of the O.J. Simpson trial as keeping attendance lower than expected. Roughly 6,500 buyers attended the January event, down from the nearly 7,000 who visited last October.
To gauge the show, representatives from the Mart polled buyers who attended in January, as to which dates they preferred. About 65 percent said they wished a return to the October and April dates, according to the Mart.
Still, while the timing was satisfactory for some buyers, many said the January show was too late to shop for fall 1995 fabrics and too early to find a good selection of spring 1996 goods.
Not all TDA members, however, were angered by the return to the October/April schedule.
James Gordon, president of Gordon Textiles International, which represents 18 upscale European mills, for the past five months had been lobbying for an April/October schedule.
Gordon had even been in discussions with TALA and the Mart to try to arrange a separate show in April, had the January/August schedule been implemented.
“This is a vindication of what most people believed all along,” said Gordon, who did not participate in the January event. “August made absolutely no sense for us, or for a lot of other companies that handle import lines.”
“We have no problem with April or October,” added Ronnie Mack, vice president of marketing for Majestic Mills, a supplier of corduroy. “April is the height of the corduroy season, and October is in the middle of spring shipping.”