Crestmont Steps Up Export Effort While Prices of American Goods Lag:
December 31, 1999
Hauppauge, NY (USA) — Crestmont Fabrics, manufacturer of several lines of multi-purpose fabrics, is concentrating on expanding its export activities. "We're going after Asia, the Middle East, South America, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.," said Crestmont President Paul Harris. "It's the right time. Export right now of American goods is at a 5- or 6- or 7-year low. I think it's going to radically improve." Harris said that Crestmont's export business is doing well in Western Europe. Crestmont recently hired Stewart Jervis to direct the invigorated export effort. Formerly, he worked for five years with Lanscot Arlen. "He's a very intelligent guy, and he's a worker," Harris said. "Stewart had a lot of exposure to the export market during his last job." Crestmont has actually been quietly building its export for five years, mainly by using a network of independent sales representatives. "We have in every territory in this country an export sales representative from this company," said Harris. The swelling number of sales reps eventually created a need for centralized oversight, which will be Jervis' responsibility. The company's export effort is augmented by a team of multilingual workers. "Other than English, we have in this company people who can speak either well or fairly well about seven languages. This should be a great asset to us in terms of pursuing a greater export market." When it began 15 years ago, Crestmont's niche was natural casements and antique fabrics. "The big players in those markets were abandoning that for 54-inch multi-purpose goods," Harris said. The reduced supply of those fabrics created an opening that Crestmont hit with full force. "We wound up, not with 100 percent, but with a very good percentage of the decorative novelty in the satin business and the natural casements," he said. Eventually, Crestmont also began making multi-purpose fabrics, and today it has a broad selection. "We have about 600 skus in solid-dyed, flame-retardant fabrics for the contract market. We have separate lines that we sell to retailers across the country. And we have a separate product that we sell to the mobile home and the manufactured housing and RV business." Today the company operates from three facilities: its showroom in Manhattan, N.Y., (appointments only), its headquarters in Hauppauge, N.Y., and its warehouse in Massachusetts. Harris said that his sales and office staffs are the best he has worked with. "We hired Ralph Gellar when he retired from Richloom after 32 years. He's an excellent administrator. He has relationships in the market that go back thirty or forty years." Harris named several other Crestmont employees integral to the company's success, including his wife Judi who is Vice President of Product Development and who, he said, contributes "a lot of creative effort." Harris said he believes that making high-quality products is more important than any particular marketing strategy. "We put a great deal of time and effort into finding those kinds of fabrics that we feel are of an excellent quality and can be delivered in a timely fashion. Our marketing, in terms of where we're selling, is secondary to the quality of the product."