By David Gill
LAS VEGAS–Despite the uncertainty over both the U.S. and world economies, exhibitors at the combined Global Home Textiles/Global Home Decor shows in Las Vegas last month said they think the time is now right for growth of their American business.
The lagging global economy, particularly here, has held back sales growth for them so far this year. Yet for some of the exhibitors, this very fact has created some opportunities in this country.
For Pakistani textiles manufacturers, “This is a good time for us,” said Shahid Tarar, commercial counselor for the trade division of the Pakistani Consulate General. “The fact that the currencies in China and India are rising in value makes our products more affordable. The U.S. is our largest trading partner, accounting for one-fourth of exports of all of our products, not just textiles. Our target for 2008 is 15 percent growth in textiles exports to the U.S., and through March, we’re already up 9 percent.”
Another opportunity that the slow economy has opened up revolves around U.S. retailers’ needs for inventory. “Retailers haven’t been buying for a long time, and they need to restock,” said Usman Haroon Puri, director of Haroon Fabrics. “Business has been slow for them for the past six to eight months, and that’s a long time to not be buying in the market.”
“We think there’s an interest in our products [mostly bath textiles] in the U.S. now,” said Muhammad Hussain Moosani, proprietor of Hussain Textiles. “We’ve been doing a couple of containers a year up to now, but we’re hoping to book at least 10 to 15 containers this year. Of course, it depends on meeting the right customers and then following through to finalize the business.”
The decline in the U.S. dollar, which had been limiting business for exporters to this market, has become less of a problem. “People have adjusted to the fall in the dollar,” said Arpan Chaturvedi, director of India Covers. “Now the dollar has stabilized, and everybody was affected by it so the playing field has been leveled.”
India Covers began its sales efforts in the United States, which includes creating designs that would appeal specifically to American consumers, last year. Chaturvedi was optimistic for a significant boost to the company’s sales here in 2008. “I’m looking for the U.S. to account for 5 percent of my total exports this year, up from less than 1 percent in 2007,” he said. “We will also definitely grow over the next two years. Design will be the key factor. We’re creating muted designs for this market.”
Based on preliminary data provided by Penny Sikalis, vice president of GLM, owner and manager of the show, the Global Home Textiles Show drew more attendees in Las Vegas this year than it did when it took place in Orlando, Fla., last year. The attendees were skewed toward wholesale importers and U.S. manufacturers looking to source goods from abroad, Sikalis said.
For other exhibitors, having the capacity to meet demand is crucial to making waves in the United States. “We’re extending our reach into the U.S. by increasing our productivity,” said Amr Marzouk, general manager of United Textiles of Egypt. “First, I want to keep in competition with the Chinese, and to do that I have to increase production and decrease costs. We’ve invested in our equipment to increase the automation, so that we have fewer machines but more output and better quality at reduced costs.”
Pricing is also a factor for the exhibitors. “We have good designs at affordable prices,” said Richard He, merchandising manager for China-based Goldsun. “Our prices for production are still in a good range, but the cost is rising because of the increase in our currency, and because labor costs in China have increased. But these increases have not been much.”