Showtime Reflects a More Careful, Studied Market with More Tailored Product Introductions and Tariff Concerns

Editor’s Opinion

June 7, 2019

F&FI Editor Eric Schneider
F&FI Editor Eric Schneider

By F&FI Editor Eric Schneider 

HIGH POINT, N.C.—Fabric suppliers are taking no great chances by introducing too many products not readily sought by the furniture fabric buyer.

This was my impression at this most recent Showtime.

Attendance was sparser than usual and there was a general decline in the number of exhibitors in the temporary spaces, but major buyers still turned out to the Textile Tower and permanent spaces.

There was much talk about the U.S. tariffs as they affect China export of fabric. Most companies are looking at raising prices by as much as 15 percent in some cases as of July 1.

Mexico and tariffs is also an area of concern, and with President Trump discontinuing India’s favorite nation status, one wonders what will happen in regards to tariffs on Indian goods going forward.

Nevertheless, the primary fabric buzzwords are still performance, sustainability and outdoor with at least one major vendor, Valdese, pitching the ‘Indoor/Outdoor’ category with great enthusiasm.

“While our product is designed to perform well in the indoor environment, it holds up well outside too,” says Mike Shelton, Valdese CEO.

However, if the application is geared primarily to outdoor, outdoor fabrics in solution dyed acrylic still have an edge in terms of UV ratings, but they might still pill excessively, Shelton says.

In other product areas, STI, Kings Mountain, N.C. , is still finding success with its ‘Revolution’ brand of polypropylene-based fabric, but the fastest growing part of its business is now online sales to designers and consumers, according to STI CEO Sean Gibbons.

His son Anderson is heading up this effort, which averages 15 yards per order.

While most of the upholstery business is geared to plain vanilla body cloths starting at $4.95 (and even lower than that from Chinese mills), there is a growing effort to supply
digitally printed cotton and linen fabrics by many firms including Valdese, Springs Creative Products and
Belle Maison Textiles. These efforts are resulting in printed accessories, pillows, bedding and window coverings and some chair fabrics; but again, the upholstery business continues to be a unicolor and texture story. Digital prints allow manufacturers to test the market with a minimum investment.

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