ISSUES: PESOS, DATES
Byline: Michael McNamara
NEW YORK — Exhibitors at the Los Angeles International Textile Show next week will be gauging the impact of two key but disparate elements — the big shift in show timing and the sharp drop in the value of the peso.
The three-day show, featuring fabrics, trimmings, machinery and services, begins its fifth edition Monday at the California Mart. The event is sponsored by the Textile Association of Los Angeles (TALA) and the Mart and is also heavily endorsed by the New York-based Textile Distributors Association, which sends about 40 of its mill and converter members to the event under the association’s banner.
After five months of debate about the timing of the show, exhibitors will have the opportunity to determine how beneficial an earlier date is. The twice-yearly show had been held in April and October. However, due to complaints from many exhibitors — primarily those from the TDA — that the event fell between selling seasons, TALA and the Mart agreed in August to shift the spring edition from April to January.
Officials from TDA, TALA and the Mart will meet sometime during next week’s show to decide if the October show will be advanced as well, to August.
Sue Scheimann, executive director of marketing for the Mart, said there’s even the possibility of having four shows — In January, April, August and October — although several steps would have to be worked out, including the guarantee that enough firms would exhibit at each stand.
James Gordon, president of Gordon Textiles International Ltd., which represents 18 upscale fabric mills, primarily from Europe, was in discussions with TALA and the Mart to try and arrange another show in April. While Gordon’s initial effort failed, he said he will continue to push for another show. Gordon has said his firm will not participate in the upcoming show, explaining, “It makes no sense for us.”
“We wouldn’t let the fact that we may have four shows in any way water down the importance of any individual show,” Scheimann said. “But we are leaving all options open.”
While all parties concerned are formulating plans for future shows, last month’s devaluation of the peso could well cut into attendance of Mexican buyers — who make up the largest portion of international visitors to the show — and cool the buying of those who do come. Of the 300 or so international buyers who attended the October event, about one-third were from Mexico.
Benito Perez, a marketing executive of Elan Ayala, a Parras, Mexico-based apparel manufacturer, said he’s been coming to every edition of the show, sometimes bringing two other people with him to shop for fabrics.
“This time,” He said, “I’m coming alone and probably staying only for one day. It’s very tough. We are trying to save money in any way we can. But we still need to go see the fabrics. It’ll be one long day for me.”
“Until we see the final numbers, I don’t know what kind of impact [the peso devaluation] will have,” Scheimann said. “As long as we don’t lose a big share of companies that come, if they send one or two people instead of three or four, then it won’t be that great of an impact.”
Whatever happens, many exhibitors express a long-term confidence in the show.
“Of all the textile shows in the U.S., Los Angeles is the most important,” said Seymour Schneiderman, president and chief executive officer of Symphony Fabrics Corp., a converter here. “Los Angeles is where so much innovation takes place, and it’s an exciting, dynamic apparel market.”
“To this point, the California show has been a successful venture for our members,” said Bruce Roberts, executive director of the TDA. “The members have gotten much more out of it than they’ve put into it. There has been some difference of opinion [between the TDA and TALA] over the dates, but the show will perpetuate.”
The new, earlier January date boasts another sellout, the fourth consecutive time all available space in the Mart has been taken. At latest count, 321 companies were slated to show their goods, roughly the same number of firms that exhibited in April 1994. The first Los Angeles event, held in May 1993, drew 275.
The October show, highlighting fall fabrics, drew about 350, but 40 of those were a joint showing of leather and accessories firms, a group that shows in a temporary space in the Mart, only in the fall. The October 1993 event featured about 320 companies in total.
While firms such as Gordon Textiles have pulled out of the show, they’ve been replaced by newcomers such as Malden Mills Industries.
Gordon, a TDA member, has said that while the January date works for the print converters that make up a large portion of the TDA membership, “for fashion fabrics, it doesn’t work.”
Howard Ackerman, Malden’s vice president and general manager, apparel, said, “California has always been an important market. We’ve heard that the show is an important one, so we’re going to try it out.”
Mart officials said buyer attendance should be around 7,000, about the same number that walked the through the halls in October. “We’d rather have the same number of buyers coming in and looking at the new things we have to offer than more buyers just coming through our showroom and not buying because they made their decisions already,” said James Gutman, president of Pressman-Gutman, a converter here. Gutman was one of the more vocal TDA members who moved to get the January date.
“The show had grown so much so quickly, but a lot of that was just people coming through and saying hello,” Gutman added. “For the show to become more viable the second and third time around, the timing had to change. We need January and August dates.”
While TALA has more companies showing — about 100 — many of them are represented by sales agents. The TDA contingent, on the other hand, is made up of larger firms, and most of those companies bring key executives to the show.
“I think the best thing now about the show from our standpoint is the timing,” added Isaac Kier, chairman and chief executive officer of Lida, which has three showrooms in the California Mart. “In terms of numbers, I don’t think the show needs to grow, it just needs to maintain its current importance in the market.”
Maurice (Corky) Newman, president and ceo of the Mart, said that by changing the physical layout of the show for greater accessibility and beefing up what he calls “the added attractions,” the event is gaining in stature — if not in total numbers.
January’s show will occupy all of the 13th floor’s A and B sections, along with a small number of showrooms in the C section. Other areas include the Market Mezzanine, located just above the lobby, and the Exhibit Hall, located just below the lobby.
“We’re eventually planning to clear the entire C section of the 13th floor, and that will allow us to put nearly everyone showing at the show in one space,” said Bob Berg, executive director of TALA.
Currently, he noted, because the show is spread throughout the Mart, “it’s hard to get consistent traffic sometimes.”