By David Gill

In a yearly calendar already packed with trade shows, the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market and the Dallas Total Home & Gift Market have emerged as key exhibiting points for U.S. home textiles vendors. Both shows will have their first editions of the year this month; the Dallas Total Home & Gift Market's second edition occurs in June, while the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market has its second show in July.

These shows have become crucial to many vendors, such as luxury textiles resource Sferra, that also exhibit at shows such as the New York International Gift Fair--whose winter edition will open a scant five days after the close of the Dallas show. Sferra, in fact, will return to the Dallas show after an absence of a few years, in a new permanent showroom in World Trade Center 6-6290.

Showing at one market on top of another is worth the effort to Sferra. "The Dallas and Atlanta markets allow us to showcase our new spring and fall introductions for our retailers," said Steve Schneider, Sferra's president. "In addition, they provide an opportunity for us to connect with international retailers."

The diversity in the retail buyers who attend these shows is a major draw for the vendors. "The variety of customers we see in Atlanta and Dallas run from major accounts, most of whom preview at these shows, to decorators, specialty retailers, grocery stores, hotels, furniture stores, department stores, garden centers, hardware stores, museum shops and gourmet shops," said Jennifer Sheridan, national sales manager for C&F Enterprises.

Along the same lines, Keith Sorgeloos, president and CEO of Home Source International, noted, "We mainly see the high-end specialty stores in both markets, but we do get decent pull from furniture buyers in Atlanta. There are some key retailers that do shop Atlanta like Bed Bath & Beyond and Tuesday Morning, to name a few."

The two shows' draw in terms of geography is also key to exhibiting vendors. "Atlanta is a much bigger venue and opportunity, as this market pulls from a wider geographic area including the Caribbean, where we do some pretty nice business," Sorgeloos said.

With such a broad spectrum of attendees, Atlanta and Dallas provide vendors with an opportunity to get an added dose of recognition in the retail community. "We get a chance to expose our products to customers who have never either heard of us or who may remember us only for our woven throws," said Steve Frawley, director of gift sales for Manual Woodworkers and Weavers.

This month's Atlanta show will afford Manual Woodworkers, which manufactures most of its products in North Carolina, the added benefit of highlighting itself as a made-in-America resource. "In addition to our permanent showroom at AmericasMart, we are also exhibiting in Made in America, a juried collection in Building 3," Frawley said. "We're thrilled about this opportunity because more buyers and consumers are actively searching for quality, design-driven products that are made in this country."

While the two shows are known for their initial concentrations in specific product categories (Atlanta for floor covering, Dallas for lighting and furniture, and both shows for gift), both shows have diversified their product offerings in recent years. This has opened the doors to both shows for textiles vendors whose products complement these categories.

Textiles have grown in importance beyond being sidelines or afterthoughts at both shows. They "are an important component that supports several of our industries, including gift, home accents, living and entertaining, housewares, gourmet and gardens," said Mary Sullivan Harper, senior vice president of leasing for AmericasMart's Building 2.

At the Dallas show, bedding, bath products, decorative pillows and table linens have become highlighted categories, said Mindy Lowack, leasing director of the Dallas Market Center. "Dallas currently offers more than 500 lines in these growing categories," Lowack said. "Bedding is a hot product niche at the consumer level, and we've been focused on creating a broad, comprehensive selection for our buyers to satisfy retail demands."

So important are textiles to the two shows that both market centers have begun efforts designed specifically to increase the business they do as exhibitors. The Dallas Market Center has located a number of bedding resources on the fifth and sixth floors of the World Trade Center to make them easier and more convenient to shop for retail buyers.

In addition, at this month's show the center will host "Sneak Peek: A Conversation Starter," to provide bloggers who cover textiles a behind-the-scenes look at new products and trends from the exhibitors. "We're constantly reviewing different options to help our exhibitors with their business success," Lowack said.

AmericasMart has also initiated special programs for its textiles exhibitors. "Our Retail Services team actively promotes the category with buyers, and our leasing teams literally travel the world to find the most important lines to exhibit here," said JoAnn Miller Marshall, AmericasMart's executive vice president of trade shows.

Such efforts are good news for textiles vendors. "There will always be a need for retailers to attend these markets in order to keep abreast of current trends and to view first-hand the newest introductions in home textiles," Schneider said.

And because of these initiatives, vendors believe that both markets will continue to grow for their categories. "We're betting that customers will continue to support the Atlanta and Dallas shows," Frawley said. "More than ever, independent retailers need a competitive advantage, and you just can't get that by staying home."

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HFN Staff | News & Commentary

HFN provides detailed information on the key home classifications: Housewares, Tabletop, Floor Covering & Rugs, Furniture, Home Textiles, Lighting, Home Decor, Mattresses & Bedding, Gifts, Major Appliances and Consumer Electronics as well as Business, Finance and Retail.


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