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Larry Thomas

Showtime showrooms busy

Steve LindsaySteve Lindsay of Valdese Weavers welcomes Julie Pritchard of Dillard’s, Little Rock, Ark., to Showtime.
HIGH POINT - Despite sluggish retail conditions in recent weeks, fabric and leather suppliers exhibiting at last week's Showtime here said business remains brisk as furniture producers finalize fall product lines.
     Many exhibitors said they had a full slate of appointments throughout the show, and said producers remained upbeat even though current business at retail isn't as robust as it was in the first quarter.
     "We were extremely busy," said Mike Shelton, CEO of Valdese Weavers, adding that the company probably saw more customers than at any previous Showtime. "The response was incredible. We were fully booked through Wednesday (the final day of the show)."
     Shelton and several other exhibitors said the upbeat Showtime reflected the good business many fabric and leather suppliers have experienced in recent months.
     "Our business has been strong since November," said Joe Franck, vice president of the upholstery division at Carroll Leather. "We're having a very good year."
     His thoughts were echoed by Rick Colford, president of Hulshof Leather USA, a unit of the Hulshof Dutch tannery.
     "More people are looking for the better goods," he said. "Business has been good, and leather prices have stabilized."
     Colford was among those pleased with business at Showtime.
     At Los Angeles-based fabric supplier Ramtex, executives said they had prepared sample order requests to last through the show but found themselves scurrying to do more by the end of the first full day.
     "The first half day beat all of last year," said Melissa Andersson, creative director, referring to the December Showtime.
     Danny Koroi, the company's president, said Ramtex is seeing rewards from a re-branding effort, a vibrant design and color palette, and in-stock merchandise for quick delivery.
     "We've had a lot of new business walk through, including a couple of majors," he said.
     Ernie Rose, owner of Rose Lace and Braid, described Showtime as "a good show," and noted, "We've seen some new accounts and some old accounts. And we've taken some orders."
     "We're really happy with the market," added Kirk Reiniger, vice president of sales for Vision Fabrics, which exhibited for the fourth time at Showtime. "We were extremely busy."
     The company owns its factory in mainland China and is getting a lot of credit for its quality, customer service, and extensive array of in-stock merchandise, Reiniger said.
     Ken Kochekian, president of Universal Leather, said he had positive reaction to his company's recent decision to replace the Chinese tanneries that had been supplying its leather with four tanneries in Mexico. The Mexican tanneries provide a more stable supply of North American hides, and give the company the ability to deliver goods to any Mexican border city, he said.
     "We also have a cut-and sew plant in the Yucatan peninsula," Kochekian said. "So, if (a customer) wants us to do that for him, he has that option."
     In most leather showrooms, colors other than brown were a big part of the success story. Leather exhibitors said gray, slate, tangerine and blue attracted the most attention, although some shades of purple, green and yellow also were popular.
     "It's very important to have a wide variety of colors," said Juan Diego Casaretto, managing director at Zenda Leather. "We're not seeing any letup in demand for more colors."
     He said the interest in colors other than brown seems to be working in tandem with the repositioning of leather upholstery as a premium product now that leather prices are significantly higher than they were a year ago.
     "It will become a luxury product again," said Casaretto. "It will not be the same as the past," when falling prices enabled many producers to sell leather sofas priced below some fabric sofas.
     The latest edition of Showtime featured 21 new exhibitors from Turkey, Taiwan and China. They exhibited goods in three newly created International Pavilions at the Suites at Market Square, where Showtime's temporary exhibit spaces are housed. The new exhibitors were all making their U.S. show debuts.
     Senior Editor Gary Evans contributed to this story.

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