Thursday, June 30, 2005

Index shows confidence on the rise

BENTONVILLE, Ark. - Overall confidence in the economy grew significantly in the last month, according to the Small Business Confidence Index released today by Sam's Club.

According to June figures from the index -- provided by market intelligence firm, BIGresearch -- 49.5 percent of 1,000 small business owners and managers surveyed were confident/very confident about chances for a strong economy over the next six months. That confidence level rose 5.6 points from 43.9 percent in May, and is the highest business confidence index since January of this year.

Luxury Linens

This latest boost in economic confidence was also reflected in how small business owners and managers feel about the U.S. employment environment. 57.3 percent of those surveyed felt that employment levels will remain the same over the next six months, up half a point from last month.

Customs looking for counterfeit imports

WASHINGTON - U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has initiated an intellectual property rights (IPR) audit program, targeting companies thought to be at "high risk" for importing counterfeit or infringing merchandise.

The post-entry audits may include on-site personnel interviews, documentation reviews to track related financial transaction, and warehouse inspections.

"High-risk" companies are identified after studying importer history, shipper history, country of export and commodity type. CBP has specified that its focus is no longer relegated to well-known brands and high-end products.

Friday, June 24, 2005

WestPoint bidders still behind doors

NEW YORK - Corporate financier Carl Icahn arrived to join the WestPoint Stevens auction shortly after 1 p.m. today, expressing optimism he’d prevail in his bid for the bankrupt mill.

Other participants in the auction being held in WestPoint's attorney's offices at Fifth Ave. and 58th St. started arriving before 9 a.m. But after Icahn's arrival it appeared other groups of professionals involved in the bidding may also have entered.

The auction, pitting Icahn against a creditors group led by Wilbur Ross, will likely be decided no earlier than tomorrow during a bankruptcy court hearing.

But on entering the building today, Icahn seemed to expect an outcome sooner.

"I think we'll win it. I hope we'll win it, but we'll see," Icahn said as he strode up the steps outside. Icahn also seemed to quell speculation that he and Ross have been in private talks aimed at finding a compromise solution to the impasse that led to today's contest.

"I know Wilbur, but we haven't spoken in the last couple of months -- about this anyway."

Icahn is WestPoint's single largest creditor but his interests are spread over two different classes of debt. That factor has caused the Steering Committee of first lien creditors to claim Icahn's interests are subordinate to their own.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

How to Buy a Luxury Down Comforter

How to Buy a Comforter Comforters are cozy "must have" for a cold night. What better way to wrap yourself in warmth than with a nice, soft comforter. These considerations can help you select the right comforter

1. The first step is to decide how large of a down comforter you want. You can buy comforters for twin or for king beds, or for any sized bed in-between the two. Some people, however, like to buy comforters bigger than their beds, especially if they have a twin bed. Why? Down Comforters are often called to duty in other places besides the bed, like a couch or a floor when you are watching TV or reading. People like to have enough comforter to be able to either roll themselves up in it or to share with another person. So, you may want to buy a comforter that can do double duty as an all-around blanket.

2. The big decision involves whether you buy a comforter that is filled with all-natural down or with a synthetic material. Down, of course, is the under-layer of soft feathers found on birds. The softest down is considered to come from the eider, a large type of duck. Down comforters can be filled completely with 100% down, or they can be filled with a combination of down and less soft feathers. Be sure to check which is true of any down comforter you are considering. Of course, a 100% down comforter is the more expensive of the two.

3. A synthetic comforter filling that is gaining in popularity is the Primaloft comforter. Primaloft is a synthetic material that is antimicrobial and hypoallergenic. It mimics the lightness and spring of down, as well as down's insulating characteristics. Primaloft comforters are especially the choice of people who are allergic to feathers.

4. Another consideration when buying a comforter is whether or not it is quilted. A quilted comforter contains its filling in spaces bounded by the quilt stitching. A comforter without quilting is essentially a large bag of down or Primaloft. Many people consider quilted comforters easier to wash and control, since the filling cannot all shift to one edge or corner.

5. Finally consider the shell of your comforter. It is best to have a shell made of cotton fabric, as cotton breathes and allows some heat to pass through. Synthetic shells can actually make the comforter too warm. You can also buy a comforter with a plain, white shell that is meant to be covered with a duvet. Or you can buy a comforter that has a colored and/or patterned shell. These comforters do not require the extra expense of a cover.

Caution! Make sure you only consider comforters that can be easily washed. All bedding must be washed sooner or later, and a comforter that must be dry cleaned will cost you much in cleaning expense. A comforter that can be tossed into the washing machine is usually just as warm and useful as one that needs to be dry cleaned.

Luxury Comforters

Monday, June 20, 2005

Joanne and J.F. finish new facility

TORONTO - Joanne Fabrics Canada Inc. and its subsidiary, J.F. Fabrics US Inc., have completed the grand opening of their head office, distribution center and showroom facility here.

The 45,000-square-foot facility was constructed to cope with the companies growth in North America and to prepare for expansion. The head office is now located in Oakville, Ontario -- a suburb of Toronto.

Joanne Fabrics Canada Inc. and J.F. Fabrics US Inc. constitute a wholesale distributor of home furnishing fabrics and related products, with distribution across North America.

August market dates firming up

NEW YORK - Some retailers and suppliers are already pinning down appointments for the unofficial "Mini-market" in August.

While most retailers and suppliers contacted by HTT said they expect to meet between Aug. 1-4, some retailers plan to piggyback textiles appointments onto their visit to the New York International Gift Fair at the JacobJavitsCenter a week later.

It remains unclear at this point how many major retailers from outside the New York metro area will travel to showrooms. And not all suppliers said they found August appointments necessarily.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Home sales stood out in May

WASHINGTON - Furniture and home furnishings stores were among a handful of winning retailers in May, turning in a 0.4 percent month-over-month sales increase against a drearier backdrop of overall declining U.S. retail sales.

Total U.S. retail sales fell last month for the first time since August, dropping 0.5 percent due to weak sales of cars and falling gas prices.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Baltic takes Lipton, Fuentes on board

VALLEY STREAM, N.Y. As part of its expansion into bath accessories, the Baltic Linen Co. recently appointed Rick Lipton to the newly created position of director of bath coordinates.

In a related move, the company brought on board industry newcomer, Veronica Fuentes, also to a newly created post -- vice president, sales.

Both Lipton and Fuentes started in early May and are based in the company's New York showroom at 295 Fifth Ave. They report to Barry Neilinger, president of Baltic Linens retail division.

For the past six years, Lipton was national sales manager for Creative Bath Products.

Fuentes most recently worked as marketing director for Lady Foot Locker.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Memorial Day spurs sales

NEW YORK - With the nation's department stores getting a lift from strong Memorial Day sales, which offset some weakness at mass merchants, same-store retail sales came in modestly ahead of plan during the first week of June, rising 3.3 percent and besting a target of 3.2 percent growth.

Same-store sales in full-price department stores climbed 2.8 percent, easily exceeding targeted growth of 2.4 percent. But discounters missed their target during the week, with sales rising 3.6 percent, just shy of a targeted 3.7 percent increase.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Industry group asks for window safeguards

NEW YORK - An industry coalition is asking the U.S. government to place a safeguard restriction on imports of cotton and man-made fiber curtains and draperies from China.

Filing the safeguard petition with the Commerce Department were four groups: National Council of Textile Organizations, which stimulated the action, National Textile Association, American Manufacturers Trade Action Association and UNITE, an association of labor unions.

The petition covers products in quota categories 369/666. The Commerce Department's Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements has 15 days to decide whether to accept the petition, which would be about June 20, according to Karl Spilhaus, NTA president.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Weather takes toll on sales

NEW YORK - With unseasonable cool weather throughout Northeastern states hampering sales of seasonal goods, same-store retail sales eased off during the fourth and final week of May, rising 2.9 percent, compared with a stronger gain of 3.4 percent the prior week, the Johnson Redbook Index reported.

But even so, same-store sales for all of May still came in ahead of plan, helped by a solid performance at department stores, and rose 3.2 percent, besting a targeted 3 percent gain.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Anile to head Culp upholstery fabrics

HIGH POINT, N.C. - Culp, Inc. has named Dominick Anile vice president of sales for its upholstery fabric line.

Previously, Anile was vice president of sales for the company's velvets/prints division.

Home Fashions

Liam Waters has been named director of design and merchandising for upholstery fabrics. Waters was the creative director for the company's decorative fabrics division.

These changes follow the company's earlier announcement that it was combining the sales and design activities for the Culp Decorative Fabrics and Culp Velvets/Prints divisions.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Natco moves into bedding

WEST WARWICK, R.I. - Natco Home Fashions - parent company of Corona Curtain, Robertson Home Fashions, Central Oriental, Soft Impressions, and Flemish Master Weavers - is expanding with the launch of a bedding division.

Stacey Vega, who has been with the company for the past year as senior vice president of sales and marketing in the textiles division, will lead the newly created division.

Neil Levi is joining the company as vice president of design over bedding. He was previously the creative manager at Dan River.

Both report to Christine Bolton, president of Corona Curtain and Robertson Home Fashions.

Confidence bounces back

NEW YORK - With Americans feeling better about the economy and the jobs outlook, consumer confidence reversed a three-month losing streak during May and rebounded 4.8 percent to a reading of 102.2, The Conference Board reported today.

But even with the spike, the confidence level is still 3.3 percent beneath its 12-month high of 105.7 recorded last July. Results were mixed on a regional basis.

"Consumer confidence improved in May, gaining back nearly all of the ground it lost in April," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's ConsumerResearchCenter. The index gauging current business conditions, she said, "despite fluctuations in recent months, is more than 26 points higher than a year ago. Consumers' concerns about the economy and jobs have eased."

Hospitality Industry Driving Fabric Sales

New York - Contract business, especially in the hospitality segment, is driving sales for many decorative fabrics converters and mills this year.

As hotel chains increasingly develop new facilities and initiate refurbishing programs for existing hotels, the hospitality segment of the contract business has moved into the strongest growth area for a number of fabric companies with the HD show in Las Vegas earlier this month reinforcing that view.

Analyzing their various channels of distribution, a number of fabric executives point to a weakness at retail in the furniture channel - a mixed bag as far as the retail fabric and decorative jobber channels are concerned.

The top-of-bed business, until recently a major segment of fabric supplier revenues, has dropped - precipitously in some cases - because of direct imports by the bedding suppliers as well as retailers. In other cases, the fabric houses have initiated programs that provide either fabrics and/or the finished products for the bedding and window coverings suppliers.

Export for some fabric companies is showing gains, in some cases because of the dollar's value in relation to the euro and other currencies; in other instances because of renewed efforts on the part of the companies.

"Contract is leading the way" in an overall business picture that is just fair, according to Jim Richman, president of Richloom, who termed the retail channel "good" and jobbers "OK." An important change, he pointed out, is the trend to shorter life cycles for designs. "We are having to bring out collections more frequently."

Contract is the big gainer for Valdese - up 28 percent for the year, said Mike Shelton, president, who noted that Proposte earlier this month in Como, Italy was "great - really good. But the dollar was a big influence."

Furniture was up comfortably and jobber business, while off a bit in the first quarter, "is creating more of a selling opportunity for us with existing customers who are asking for assurances that suppliers will be around five years from now," he said. Top-of-bed is off significantly, Shelton noted.

"We saw an industry-wide slowdown in January and February in the independent retail channel," noted Tom Leahy, vice president of Waverly. He pegged that channel and export in the last three months as being the big gainers for the company. As for export, he said, "We're benefiting from exposure at offshore shows."

Overall, Leahy explained, "We've had good results from our merchandise direction change with national fabric accounts, miscellaneous manufacturers, jobbers and furniture manufacturers. Importantly, we're adding shelf space, not just substituting new for old product."

Calling furniture business "up and down, a bit of a struggle," Roger Gilmartin, executive vice president of Covington Industries, remarked, "Contract is booming. It's really strong, and we're focused on hospitality and health."

Export continues to grow for Covington, Gilmartin noted. "We had a very nice Proposte and our best jobber season in some time."

For Heritage House with its ITC division, "We're the wrong ones to complain about business," said Tom Hilb, president, who noted, "We could double our sales this year. We're up 70 percent through April, and May is up 150 percent."

He explained, "We brought out a lot of salable skus - well priced and middle of the road." The company's strengths, he added, are with over-the-counter retail, some contract, JCPenney custom decorating and jobbers.

Calling business "good," Burt Kaplan, president of Portfolio, said furniture was fair at best. "Suppliers and furniture producers are still looking for the best way to source overseas." Contract is strong - "hotels are being built like crazy, and we're getting more project business from the non-furniture manufacturing areas."

As for strong selling areas, Kaplan said, "Higher-end products are strong and prints are back in the decorative area."

"Our core converting business is dull," was the assessment of Ron Kaufmann, president of P/Kaufmann, who added that business in contract is "very nice, as well as in manufactured product. Retail, generally, is not great, and there is a contraction on the furniture side."

On the retail fabric side, "The moms and pops are healthier than the big chains which are not as aggressive as they had been," Kaufmann observed. As for export, it was up in 2004, recovering from a slump, and is up again this year.

Business is steady, not booming, explained Rocco Simone, vice president, Sunbury, who added, "We have to be more diverse than ever." Jobber business is strong especially in the Crypton and Sunbrella collections, and the residential casual market is growing especially with Sunbrella, he noted.