17671 Wed, 01/13/2010 - 12:42pm
To all of those Americans who bemoan the changing nature of the giant Heimtextil trade fair in Frankfurt that opened Wednesday morning, I say build a bridge over the Mein River and get over it.
Heimtextil has always been the opening salvo of the trade show season for the textiles industry, a time and place to kick off the new year and get refreshed and restarted.
Back in the day, that meant coming to Frankfurt and seeing all the high-style European stands for what was called inspiration but what was really just plagiarism. A good American company could see something here and manage to have its version of it ready for the spring market back home. An average company would show it in the fall. A bad company would figure it out in a year or two. A really bad company never had a clue.
Many of the Europeans have pulled out of Frankfurt‚ often because they went out of business. Survivors headed to Maison Objet in Paris later in the month.
Heimtextil has come to be dominated by Asian suppliers. In some cases, those companies from India, Pakistan and China have stepped up and learned how to create fashionable goods. In many more cases they haven’t, but no matter: the textiles business is now an Asian-based industry and the fact that its most important trade show has followed suit shouldn’t surprise anyone ... much less make them unhappy. In the words of the immortal Hyman Roth, “This is the business we’ve chosen.”
Heimtex is now all about sourcing (at least to American companies), as it should be. If I were an American looking to import sheets and towels—and I thank the powers-that-be everyday that I am not—I would much rather come to Frankfurt and meet with my suppliers, find new producers and maybe pick up a trend or two than schlep all over the back roads of China, India and Pakistan getting to maybe one company a day ... if I was really efficient. Why more American companies—importers and retailers—don’t take advantage of this is beyond me.
Sure I miss the Italian Piazza display, the beautiful French bedding and all the parties and social activities that used to take place during the fair. But as with virtually every other business in the world, Heimtex has had to reinvent itself and the new creation is just as good—it’s just different.