NEW YORK — Textile executives reported an uptick in business during the new year and said they hope the good fortune will carry through to next week’s International Fashion Fabric Exhibition.

The show will again be held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s West Side, but the dates are a month earlier this year — March 4-6 — to stay in line with the European shows that are also earlier this year.

Textile executives for the most part, said they don’t mind the change in dates, since many have reported that buyers are finalizing orders later than usual post Sept. 11. The earlier show dates, they said, will give more breathing room to the supply chain.

Raymond Hill, vice president of Union City, N.J.-based converter Haymoss Industries said his company now offers incentives to buyers who place early orders, including payment extensions and first consideration during the busy season.

“People want shorter deliveries,” Hill said. “We’re working on ideas to induce people to order early. It’s advantageous to us, to use our machines as much as possible.”

While the last IFFE fell barely a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, executives said next week’s show will be an opportunity to get back in touch with clients that didn’t attend the October fair.

“Primarily, we’re interested in accounts from out of town,” said New York-based importer Shamash & Sons Inc. president Kevin Kiley. “Most of the local businesses we get a chance to call on whenever we want. We’re hoping attendance returns to normal and I think a lot of people are traveling right now.”

Kiley said his company’s Los Angeles office takes care of the California market, so he will look to meet more South American clients, which is said are a major market for Shamash. He said Canadian buyers are also key for the company.

For Pearl Ann Marco, principal at New York-based converter De Marco California Fabrics, catering to the various needs of her clientele means bringing fabrics for immediate spring, summer and fall goods, in addition to the spring 2003 merchandise the show is intended to focus on.

“A lot of buyers are looking for spring and summer,” she said.

Executives also said the tight economy has driven down prices, due to buyers’ restricted budgets. Sid Appell, vice president of sales at New York-based converter Symphony Fabrics, said pressure to lower prices has come along with the increased activity in business which started during the last quarter of 2001.

“People are holding back until the last minute because they want to watch their dollar,” he said. “If a style was good, companies would cut a garment and have some left for inventory, but today, people only want it made-to-order. We’ve had to become more competitive and refigure costs and markups because everything is price today. The price is the first thing a woman or girl looks at when she walks into a store, so we have to be competitive. Business is tight, that’s all.”

To create more business, Appell said Symphony has started to develop relationships with apparel factories in the Far East, offering full-garment packages for apparel vendors.

“Getting involved in the Far East enhances our piece-goods business,” he said. “We never did much importing, but we’re doing more of that now. We have to change with the times.”

Shamash’s Kiley said the company is producing more finished apparel and home furnishings goods, which is done primarily out of its office in Shanghai. Kiley said he is looking to enlarge the staff there, from its current level of 40, to accommodate the expanding business.

“China is our largest source of imports,” Kiley said. “It’s definitely a plus even though it’s more difficult, but there is definitely a strong market for it. It gives our customers more choice.”

However, Kiley said fabric is still the core of the company’s business. At IFFE, he said he expects a resurgence in rayon-velvet burnouts, brocades in polyester-nylon blends and embroidered silks.

“Anything novelty seems to be doing well,” he said. “We’ll also bring spring-summer merchandise because it’s fairly early for spring 2003. We have a fair amount of base fabrics chosen, but it’s still a little early for that.”

Lace, the main business at New York-based converter Malibu Textiles Inc., is doing well, according to vice president John Irwin. He said lace is now being used in all areas of apparel, rather than just for undergarments.

“Our business is up 50 percent over last year,” Irwin said. “Not many people can say that today and we know that’s not the case in the industry. Lace is used in contemporary high-end fashion to children’s wear, pants and junior tops. It’s in every market possible.”

Irwin said the surge in interest for lace started in mid-October and said his company has continued to create different ways to use the fabric, including the addition of pleated, crushed or metallic accents.

“We’re not sitting back and saying, ‘We’re swimming in orders,”‘ Irwin said. “The only thing we can do is continue to offer creative items. In addition, anything mesh, like netting and tulle, is very strong. It’s all the same feeling.”

Shipments to the Far East, where Irwin said companies add novelties like beads or sequins, has increased since last year.

“We’ve been shipping a lot directly to Hong Kong,” he said. “Treatments are more affordable over there.”

Lace has also crossed borders at Hyman Hendler & Sons.

“Lace has dramatically picked up as well. It’s transcended heavily into contemporary and junior,” said Shelley Hendler, vice president of the Los Angeles-based converter. “It’s being used across the board.”

Despite increased shipments overseas, executives did not report any changes to their sourcing patterns.

De Marco California’s Marco said, “We never bought from Afghanistan or Pakistan, mainly we’re sourcing domestically.”

Marco said with the return of the blouse in fashion, she expects buyers to look for laces, embroidery and voiles. Stretch fabrics with little print patterns, stretch imitation leather and metallics are other key items.

At Malibu, colors for fall will be earth tones, Irwin said, adding that his company tends to work closer to season.

“We’re currently shipping dustier pastels,” Irwin said. “We add a lot of colors to the same fabric style, so if we do a palette for spring, we’ll do it for fall. It will be a spring booth, but I don’t know if it’s in line with what their projecting for spring, we have our own ideas.”

While some in the industry complained about IFFE’s earlier timing, show manager Amy Bonomi said the shift was the result of the change in the European calendar.

“We’re keeping the same pattern of falling 10 days after Premiere Vision,” she said, “so it’s the same date pattern but everything has moved earlier.”

Still the timing change prompted some fabric vendors to sit out this IFFE. Saxon Textiles, which has participated in all but one IFFE since its inception eight years ago, will not attend next week.

“Our new products aren’t scheduled to be finished until mid-March,” said Gail Strickler, president of the New York-based converter. “They didn’t give us enough time to reschedule our production. If it depended on coatings or finishings, it would be OK, but our outerwear, anti-microbial and stretch fabrics won’t be ready.”

Hyman Hendler & Sons will also not be participating at IFFE this year.

“The reason I’m not participating is that it conflicts with other shows that are not in the garment manufacturing industry,” Hendler said. “We only have so many personnel and I just cannot staff it, but it’s not from fear of travel or financial reasons.”

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