PRINT BUSINESS WARMING UP

Byline: Michael McNamara

NEW YORK — The recovery is on — sporadically.
Converters of printed fabrics said while the domestic market continues to improve, and that business is better now than it was 12 months ago, the rally is occurring in spurts.
Prints on textured fabrics such as crepes and gauzes are getting a play in traditional markets, including dresses, coordinated sportswear, children’s wear and California junior lines, said converters.
Yarn-dyed fabrics, which generally run counter-cyclical to prints, seem to be plateauing in sportswear and dresses, they added.
However, flat surface goods, primarily basic rayon failles and challis — items hit hard by lower-priced imports — are struggling, executives said. In addition, early markdowns during the Christmas season plagued the print business, said converters.
They added that the continued consolidation of retailers and apparel manufacturers does not help a business expand. That’s especially true in prints, which depend on stores seeking individual looks, giving the market a chance to sell variety.
Meanwhile, the growing emphasis on discounting and markdowns rankles some fabric executives.
“Until stores realize that price is not the key to selling fashion items, business will remain somewhat difficult,” said one converter executive, requesting anonymity. “A woman is willing to pay for fashion. You don’t have to keep discounting, discounting, discounting. That’s what hurts.”
Still, the majority of converters, while not giddy, are relatively pleased with their prospects for 1995. Among the key styles are retro and country florals, conversational themes, tropical motifs and various Forties looks. (For more on prints, see pages 14 and 16.)
“My customers say that retailers are talking to them more about prints,” said Martin Marcus, president and chief executive officer of Marcus Bros.
“There are segments of the business that are always into prints, but last year it was less so,” said Marcus. “This year, we are going to see more prints in more markets. You can do a variety of things with prints, and that makes the stores look exciting.”
Marcus said while the dress and children’s wear businesses are seeing a resurgence in prints, it’s the sportswear business that he finds most encouraging.
“For so long, sportswear has either been solid on solid, or there’s been a tremendous amount of yarn-dyes,” Marcus said, “Now, we’re starting to see our customers run more solids with print coordinates.
Marcus said his company’s print business typically runs anywhere from 35 to 40 percent of overall volume to as much as 55 percent. Steve Yarnell, vice president of Yarnell Fabrics, said his print business was enjoying a boom, “especially in California.”
Yarnell said that over the last year his business has shifted from 60 percent solids to 60 percent prints. Among Yarnell’s top sellers is a variety of retro florals, for summer and for fall.
“But it’s got to be textured fabrics,” Yarnell said. “We can’t give away faille or challis. We are shipping a lot of crepe florals in the junior market.”
David Caplan, chief executive of Metro Fabrics, however, said his faille business has been getting stronger.
“There is a scarcity of good faille gray goods,” said Caplan. “Earlier, some mills took a chance and printed on Chinese faille, and that turned out to be a disaster.”
The Chinese gray goods were of poor quality, and deliveries were slow, he said.
Underscoring the tight demand for faille, Caplan said the price for gray goods has gone to $1.80 from $1.65 a yard in the past three months. Caplan noted that over the past year challis gray goods on the domestic market have dropped to $1.10 a yard from $1.40.
Gerald Greenstein, president of JBJ Fabrics, widely considered one of the premier print converters, said, “Business is tough. The stores are so backed up with commodity items, and they’re looking for something to spark some interest. “

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