By David Gill
The New York International Gift Fair and Gift & Home Textiles Market are launching the trade-show year in home textiles in this country, amid an atmosphere that can be characterized with an oft-heard phrase: cautious optimism.
Regarding the Gift Fair—according to Christian Falkenberg, the show’s director and vice president of NYIGF owner and manager GLM—the upbeat mood among both exhibitors and attendees comes from the economy’s emergence from several months fraught with uncertainties. “You’ve had the election, you’ve had Hurricane Sandy, you’ve had the fiscal cliff,” Falkenberg said. “With these problems gone, people know what they will be dealing with.”
Another reason for a hopeful outlook is the fact that independent specialty retailers, which comprise the lion’s share of attendees at NYIGF, posted good results during the just-completed holiday shopping season, according to Falkenberg. “What we’ve experienced over the past few winter markets is that these retailers have managed their inventories very well,” he said. “They’re ready to buy, which is why our recent winter shows have had good results.”
For the Gift & Home show, which will take place at the New York City showrooms at 7 W New York and 230 Fifth Ave., the optimism comes from the fact that—even with the storm and the vote and the cliff—the building’s tenants had a reasonably successful 2012. “The majority of our tenants had a good year, with modest increases in most areas of their business,” said Chris Collins, vice president and general manager of 7 W.
The 2013 outlook is more cross-your-fingers for the tenants at 230 Fifth, according to Jane Gural-Senders, the building’s executive director. Gural-Senders described the tenants as “hopeful but not overly confident” about business this year. “The economy is still on a slow path and has not stabilized yet,” she said.
Clearly, 2013 will present unique challenges to textiles vendors. “I believe a lot of our showrooms are still working to figure out the correct business model to employ in what is a new economic reality in our business,” Collins said. “The process will continue in 2013 and expectations are moderate, however encouraging.”
In Collins’ opinion, one key challenge for vendors will be how they incorporate the growth of online retailing into their selling and marketing efforts. “Industry wholesalers will need to continue to make critical decisions in 2013 to determine how to take advantage of this growing segment of business while maintaining other important segments of their business,” he said.
A look at the expected attendance at both shows reinforces, to some extent, the positive mood among the Gift Fair and showroom building executives. Falkenberg said the number of textiles exhibitors at NYIGF are up from 5 to 7 percent from last year’s winter Gift Fair, as of early January. Attendance is harder to track, but Falkenberg added that preregistration numbers as of early January were ahead of last year’s winter show.
At 7 W, according to Collins, tenants expect that attendance at the Gift & Home show will either remain flat or show a small increase. “However, they expect the quality of the attendees to fuel their growth, which has been the trend for the last 18 months,” he said.
Gural-Senders had a rosier view of the market, commenting that for some 230 Fifth tenants, this is the biggest market week of the year. “It appears businesses are expanding,” she said.
About 400 international exhibitors, in all, will participate in the Gift Fair. Almost 200 of these, comprising suppliers of high-end textiles in a number of categories, will be in The Gift Fair’s At Home featuring Home Textiles section.
A number of textiles newcomers will be present at 7 W for Gift & Home Textiles Market. These include BBJ Table Fashions, Hellenic Rugs, Peking Linen and Shanghai Sunwin Industry. At 230 Fifth, newcomers include Better Trends, which offers braided rugs; EKE USA, a vendor of bedding, pillows, towels and bathrobes; and H&M Home Designs, offering window treatments.
The Gift Fair will also offer some 40 educational seminars addressing a variety of industry trends, ranging from design and product development to retail strategy. 7 W and 230 Fifth are preparing a number of buyer-focused amenities including showroom specials, receptions and giveaways.
Looking beyond the two shows, Falkenberg believes that the removal of the key economic uncertainties will encourage consumers to shop more for products from the Gift Fair’s exhibitors. “They don’t seem to be concerned about the possibility of higher taxes,” he said. “Employment numbers are also improving, so the exhibitors seem pretty encouraged about that, too.”