Bedford’s new Buckingham throw is woven at its New Hampshire mill using a new domestic chenille yarn to create a fresh texture and pattern.
NEW YORK – With fourth-quarter sales up sharply and first quarter orders fueling a cautious optimism, many exhibitors at the New York International Gift Fair and New York Textiles Week at Javits and in the showrooms may finally be feeling the wind at their backs.
“Pendleton’s fourth-quarter business was spectacular. Sell-throughs at retail were above plan, resulting in fourth-quarter reorder activity.” said Bob Christnacht, division manager, home, Pendleton Woolen Mills.
The manufacturer is seeing larger commitments from core customers for spring and fall 2012 bookings, he added. At NYIGF, Pendleton will introduce a throw program using Alpaca fiber sourced from the United States, a new jacquard towel program featuring the company’s well-known Chief Joseph design, and 12 new bedding groups as well as new tabletop and dinnerware collections.
Keith Sorgeloos, president and ceo at Home Source International, also saw a pickup in business as 2011 closed. “Believe it or not, fourth-quarter business was the best it has been in four years … although that is not really a surprise in lieu of the economic conditions we have been through for the past three years, not to mention the cotton crisis we faced.”
Others approach the seas ahead with a similar wariness. Owner of Linen Me, Inga Lukauskiene told HTT, “We find that our fourth-quarter business was steady. We are just finishing up at another trade show and our current customers are placing conservative orders, with newer customers placing larger orders.”
Lukauskiene sees areas of growth in both new product introductions as well as the retail channels and has added four new colors to Linen Me’s Lara Collection. The company is also introducing dec pillows, scarves and linen throws as well as aprons, tote bags and more clothing styles at NYIGF.
Chortex’s honeycomb sculpted bath towels
Jason Needleman, ceo and president of Peacock Alley, described buyers as, “conservatively ordering, and we foresee that through 2012. We have been working with them closely to hold inventory and keep a healthy flow of key items.”
Despite positive Q4 sales, the fact that navigating the current environment can be difficult was summed up nicely by Pradnya Korde, partner and creative director at relative newcomer Black Pepper Dessin.
“Business can never be taken for granted,” Korde said, “It’s going to be a very tough year. However, I believe it is in the tough times that new and innovative ventures rise and help change things in an industry. I believe the industry can use a makeover anyway.” Black Pepper will be introducing a range of hand-made soft furnishings at the show.
The once elusive volume of the online business netted increased sales last year with prospects for this year strong for many exhibitors who do business with flash sites such as One King’s Lane, Haute Look and Rue La La.
Eric Vergucht from Chortex sees the trend, “Our business is growing very well in this [onlin
Pendleton’s jacquard bath towels
e] area. It is now part of doing business. We have invested in servicing in this segment of the market place and are very pleased with the results.” Chortex is presenting its new Honeycomb & Oxford line of sculpted bath towels made of 100% Turkish combed cotton at NYIGF
Others see business from websites and flash sites complementing growing volume from more traditional retailers.
“Requests from online retailers and flash sites have been picking up,” said Richard Sherman, president, Bedford Cottage/Kennebunk Home “but you have to pick your spots.”
Brick and mortar retailers have been finding success online as well, Sherman continued. Many retailers are now looking for product Made in the USA. Bedford will debut two new textured chenille throws, including an indoor/outdoor throw that is machine washable, stain, odor and mildew resistant. Sherman described the new products as, “unlike anything we’ve ever done before”. Displaying at both NYIGF and the Las Vegas market, the company will also be presenting new spring colors in some of its best-selling styles.
Cathy Deale, founder and ceo of Jacaranda Living, has been having a similar experience. “We are being asked more than ever before to drop-ship for both our retail stores and web customers, which we are happy to do. More stores are adding websites to their brick-and-mortar stores and asking us for support with product pictures and copy. Many of them have Facebook pages for their stores either in addition to or instead of a website which is increasing their sales. Our investment in the professional photography of our products gives us a great return as they are used by our retailers to increase their sales.”
Deale is also finding m
Softline’s travel themed pillows
ore demand for domestically produced goods, “We are finding retailers are questioning where products are made more than ever before. They express a preference for fair trade and USA made,” she said.
Jason Carr, co-founder of Softline, agrees with the positive online/traditional trend. “We see areas of growth in both retail and internet, both in readymade curtains and decorative pillows. We are looking for further growth by acquiring companies and continuing to build the Softline brand.” Carr told HTT that the company will be introducing new grommeted panels, novelty sheers, and a 90-sku program named Silk Road in 30 colors with three coordinating designs. Softline will also participate in the Las Vegas show.
But it’s not all about online growth.
“We work with flash sites on a limited basis. However, our main focus continues to be with the full-price in-line merchandise and our brick and mortar customers.” said Steve Schneider, president, Sferra.
Schneider added that Sferra’s primary focus is on specialty stores, “We continually strive to provide the highest level of support for these stores in terms of customer service, product availability, collateral material and sales training. That said, many of our customers maintain a website and more are considering expansion on the Internet.
Including new colors, Sferra is excited about a number of new introductions at the NYIGF. Among them, the Sonya featuring a jacquard constructed with Italian-woven Egyptian cotton sateen.
Some companies are taking it more slowly when it comes to flash sites. Meg Woodhouse, director of marketing at John Matouk & Co. said: “We usually limit our involvement with flash sale sites to discontinued items.”
This minimal involvement doesn’t appear to have hurt the company. Their bath business grew significantly, Matouk had a “great” fourth as well as a good show in Atlanta earlier this month and is looking for a strong performance in New York.