17122 Thu, 10/08/2009 - 4:18pm
By David Gill
Vendors had every reason to be nervous going into last month’s New York Home Fashions Market.
First, the economy is still crawling out of its trough ... “crawl” being the operative word. Second, consumers are still wondering if they will have jobs going forward, and that worries retailers, too, especially with the holiday shopping season about to start. Finally, the Las Vegas Market took place on exactly the same week, creating the possibility that attendance at the New York market would be slimmed down.
Given all of this, however, the market was well attended and vendors came away feeling optimistic. Retailers, some of them in herds, were seen at a good number of the showrooms, and the products they viewed were fresh and well designed.
Here are several other, less formal but fairly reliable indicators of the market week’s success:
•The elevator index: During market, one vendor executive was overheard to say, “In recent markets, you could get onto the elevator at one of the showroom buildings on one of the top floors, and it would go straight to the lobby without stopping. This week, you get on and it stops off at 10 floors, letting people off and on, before you got all the way down.” Not only did the elevators have to make more stops, but the elevator population was clearly higher than in at least the three previous markets. I had to squeeze myself into a few crowded elevators at several showroom buildings.
•The schedule index: Some major retailers had set meetings with vendors for Thursday and Friday of market week. In recent markets, vendors often were packing up samples and checking for early flights home by Wednesday afternoon.
•The facial-expression index: I actually saw vendors AND retailers smiling at me during market. Of course, being a vendor involves positive attitudes and cheer during even the darkest of times. But in a nearly three-decade career of covering business, I have had scant experience with retailers smiling at me at any time. There’s nothing personal about this, of course; it comes with the territory of being paid to snoop. But lo and behold, buyers who I encountered at market didn’t, for once, look for a place to hide or make the sign of the cross.
Of course, the real measure for any market week’s success is orders. But as in all industries, one key ingredient behind orders is psychology. Retailers who are in a good mood are more likely to order products than those who are gloomy about the prospects down the road. And if the indicators, formal and informal, are as upbeat as they appeared to be last month, orders should be coming your way as you read this.
David Gill is the senior editor, textiles, housewares and bedding, for HFN. He can be reached at email@example.com.