NEW YORK — The president of the Fabric Salesmen’s Association, Fred Goshin, says his organization is facing one of its biggest challenges ever — increasing its membership in a shrinking industry.
Goshin, a sales representative with Bloomsburg Mills here, is the FSA’s eighth president. He will begin his second one-year term this weekend during the group’s annual meeting, at Kutsher’s Country Club in Monticello, N.Y.
Consolidation, restructuring and company closings have plagued the 245-member FSA, which is comprised chiefly of apparel fabric salesmen and jobbers here. Several members, said Goshin, lost jobs last year. So, even with a handful of new members, the total membership is roughly the same as it was five years ago, Goshen said.
Interviewed Thursday at the FSA offices here, Goshin said: “The business climate, obviously, has impacted our membership a great deal. “The North American Free Trade Agreement and GATT are issues that may affect our industry, but when a company downsizes or goes out of business, that’s an immediate problem,” he added.
Among the FSA primary functions are serving as a networking vehicle for members looking for opportunities and positions in the industry, establishing funds for retiring salesmen — who receive payouts in a lump sum — and providing money for several charities.
Fulfilling those functions, said Goshin, “depends upon a strong membership base.”
To beef up its roster, FSA has begun to solicit membership from all areas of the textile industry, such as designers, marketing executives, merchandisers and financial personnel — anyone involved with the sales of fabrics.
“For the last 10 years or so we have allowed people other than salesmen into the organization,” he said, “but we are going to have to really start to aggressively pursue more from those other areas.”
To attract more people, this year the FSA has made its convention public, opening it to the entire textile industry instead of just members. Last year’s convention drew 276 people. This year, despite added publicity, only about 200 are expected. The FSA has also distributed its 80-plus page journal throughout the industry and has put up posters in several SA-area restaurants promoting both the journal and the annual meeting.
“While we want to get more new members, we would like to get more new young members and some more women into the FSA,” Goshin said, noting that most FSA members are in their mid-50s, and even the recent new members, “are at least in their 40s.”
“As for more women members, right now we have about a half dozen, and we know there are a lot of women out there, especially in the design and marketing areas,” he said.
Goshin said he would like to see the FSA eventually total 500 members, adding, “I’m realistic enough to know that it will be a tremendous challenge to get to that number.”
The FSA is funded by membership dues — $50 per year per member — and advertising revenue from its journal. Goshin wouldn’t divulge the amount of money the journal generates, but did describe it as “substantial.”
The FSA was formed in 1982, when the Piece Goods Salesmen’s Association and the Fabric Salesmen’s Guild of New York merged.