By David Gill
Having displayed their wares for retailers at the September New York Home Fashions Market, home textiles manufacturers are now turning their attention to another class of trade—the hospitality industry.
This month brings the International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show in New York City, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. The presence of vendors of bed, bath and table linens—including prominent manufacturers such as Hollander, Sferra, Protect-A-Bed, Frette and Welspun USA—indicates that this show has become another important trade-show stop for the industry.
This month’s show is also taking place at a time in which the hospitality industry appears to be emerging (slowly but surely, according to industry executives) from the doldrums of the past couple of years.
“The outlook (for the industry) is good, generally,” said Lynn White, GLM’s show manager for the hospitality show. “People are starting to see and feel a recovery in the industry. Even though the recovery is slight, it’s still worth talking about.”
White cited preregistration statistics for the show, which rose slightly versus last year’s event. “In recent years, the numbers have gone up and down based on the shape of the economy,” she added.
The show will encompass more than 700 exhibitors covering all of the product categories, and will welcome about 30,000 attendees.
Those thousands of visitors—consisting of hotel owners, operators and purchasing executives—will see vendors, particularly on the textiles side, who view hospitality as an increasingly important market. “Hospitality is an important part of the Hollander growth strategy,” said Beth Mack, chief merchandising officer for Hollander Home Fashions. “We have not concentrated on this market in the past. However, we do believe that the timing is right for us to enter this market.”
Part of the good timing for this particular show is the fact that consumers are getting back into a spending mood, according to Eugene Paceleo, hospitality sales director for Frette. Acknowledging that the hotel business is still off from where it was before the economic downturn, Paceleo added, “Consumers seem to feel more confident about spending on a hotel vacation. A lot of properties helped this along by lowering their room rates, while others didn’t necessarily lower their room rates but offered other things to compensate.”
Some textiles vendors that have established a foothold in this market are already thankful that they did. “We entered the hospitality market five or six years ago, and our sales to this sector have grown every year,” said Sandra DiVito, vice president of hospitality for Protect-A-Bed. “Our sales for this year through September have grown 40 percent versus the same period in 2009.”
Protect-A-Bed’s position as a provider of anti-bed bug mattress covers has fueled its rapid growth in hospitality. “The hotel consumer is becoming more and more educated,” DiVito said. “You can’t pick up a newspaper or magazine, or turn the TV on, without hearing about bed bugs. This is a golden opportunity for us, and from my conversations with hotel executives, it’s clear that they get this, too.”
While consumers are learning more about bed bugs, DiVito said hotel executives have more to learn about this growing problem. “We still have a long way to go to educate our hoteliers on the critical need for our product, and that our product is one step for hotels to address bed-bug infestation.”
Toward this end, Protect-A-Bed has scheduled a seminar on the bed-bug issue during the hospitality show. Co-sponsored by Hotel Business magazine and the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the session will take place on Nov. 14, the Sunday of the show.
Exhibiting at the hospitality show presents other golden opportunities. Being a supplier to hotels sometimes gives vendors another way to reach consumers…who are, after all, the hotels’ guests.
In some cases, the hotels cooperate with the vendors in this effort. “Sometimes we work deals with the hotel on a co-marketing program where we offer a customer discount card they can hand out at the hotel,” Paceleo said. “This gives the hotel guest a discount at our retail store or online.” (Frette operates several stores under its own name in the United States.)
Another way this can be done is through offering hotels products under the same brands the vendor sells through retailers. Hollander “will concentrate on offering our exclusive trademarks (Arctic Feather and Down) and patents (Superside) to this business,” Mack said. “If the hotel offers a direct-to-consumer product, we would be happy to entertain the prospect of selling direct under the hotel label.”
Clearly, the hospitality show opens a whole new area of opportunities for the textiles industry. “We believe that our product line, distribution and dedicated hospitality team will allow us to have success in the category,” Mack said. “As we enter this marketplace, the question can be asked, ‘Why weren’t we in this business before?’”