By Johnny Keeton
In January, after Heimtextil in Frankfurt, Germany, a group of home-textiles executives met to discuss promoting U.S. brands worldwide. The concept of an independent group showing at Heimtextil 2010 was discussed.
The good news is, we will have a good showing of American home textile brands in Frankfurt in the newly designed USA Garden Pavilions—one in the fabric area and one in the finished product area. More details are at usahometextilebrandtour.com.
OK, what did I learn from this? I learned that last year, we shipped to Europe alone $286 million in “man-made fiber broad woven fabrics,” fabrics woven in America; on the soft-bedding side, $351 million—just to Europe.
I learned that leaders in our home-textiles industry are quite active in the export markets. Led by savvy international textile icon Scott Kravet and his team, Kravet is targeting every major world market—as is Lee Silberman at Duralee, perhaps the first to recognize that China was a potential market, not only a place to resource.
On the converter side, Richloom and Swavelle are looking at China as a resource as well as a new market for their brands. Chris Stone exports are being led by Scott Edwards, while P/Kaufmann has an active export team making sure their brands stay in front of the international buyers.
I learned that many finished product manufacturers and importers are also active overseas. Arthur Tauber of Avanti Linens counts four department stores in Panama as loyal accounts, while Herb Gershowitz of Elite Home Products has a robust overseas bedding business that is growing. David Li of Westgate has invested in Brazil, certainly the growing star of potential markets for American brands.
Stan Fradin leads the worldwide marketing program at Rockland Industries, the mill that set the standard for blackout fabrics worldwide. Then there is Spectro Coating, which sells 90 percent of its flock velvets overseas. Robert Lachow at JB Martin is active overseas and working to increase its coverage of buyers of fine velvet.
So, the bottom line is, I learned we Americans have a lot to sell. The fact that many companies import products to make up their lines does not negate the fact we should all be offering our products to a world market of almost 7 billion people, not confine our sights to the U.S. market and 300 million people.
The reasons we need to export are too numerous to mention. For some companies, they could be the keys to survival.
Johnny Keeton is president of New York-based Johnny Keeton Studios and has been in the forefront of American home textiles industry export efforts for the better part of his career. He can be reached at: email@example.com.