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Intertextile Sales Remain Robust Despite Shortage of Global Buyers

Mixed reports from this year's Intertextile Shanghai Home Textiles expo, with some exhibitors bemoaning the lack of international buyers in attendance, while others maintained they had done more business at the show than ever before.

Photo: Fabulous fabrics: Miscellaneous materials on show in Shanghai.
Fabulous fabrics: Miscellaneous materials on show in Shanghai.
Photo: Fabulous fabrics: Miscellaneous materials on show in Shanghai.
Fabulous fabrics: Miscellaneous materials on show in Shanghai.

Alongside Istanbul's Evteks and Frankfurt's Heimtextil, Intertextile Shanghai Home Textiles is ranked as one of the most important trade fairs in the domestic-fabrics sectors. According to Messe Frankfurt, the show's organisers, this year's event attracted 1,106 exhibitors from 30 territories, as well as 38,964 visitors from 99 locations around the world.

Despite such impressive figures, for many of the exhibitors, this year's show seemed overwhelmingly Chinese in terms of visitors. This led many to view it as, primarily, an opportunity for domestic and overseas suppliers to interact with local buyers.

Among the overseas suppliers looking to woo mainland purchasing agents was Hefel, a family-owned Austrian manufacturer with a 110-year heritage in the premium-bedding sector. Introducing the business, International Sales Manager Stephan Hase said: "Although we originally started out as weavers, we now supply anything that can fit onto a mattress. We pride ourselves on using only natural fibres, while all our range is still exclusively made in Austria."

Justifying the comparatively high prices of many of its products, Hase emphasised that only premium-quality natural materials are used throughout its range, with no chemical binders employed in the manufacturing process. Citing one item in particular as embodying the company's ethos, he said: "We produce a quilt that uses a combination of stone pine flakes as its filling. Stone pine trees are only found in Austria, with their flakes known to have a soothing effect that enhances sleep. It's this kind of thing that makes our range hard to imitate.

"For us, this is our third time at the show. This year, though, the event definitely seems less international, with 99% of the buyers that have approached us based in China."

Among the local businesses, it was also clear the sector was no longer as lively as it once was. Huzhou-based Fornice, for instance, a company specialising in sofa fabrics, confessed itself somewhat disappointed as to the new client enquiries coming its way.

Assessing the state of the industry in the past 12 months, Aries Fan, a Sales Representative with the company, said: "This year, business has been very so-so. Overall, the kind of prices we've been getting have not been great."

Another Chinese company that confessed itself disappointed at the turnout at this year's event was Dongguan-based Yinhua Leather, which has 23 years' experience in the production of leather upholstery. This year it was looking to showcase a new leather product that changes its look when pulled or stretched.

Reflecting on his company's experience at the 2017 event, Sales Manager Vanilla Huang said: "This year, there are not as many visitors as in 2016. For me, this is down to the fact that the market is struggling and there are just too many shows taking place in too short a time."

Huang's frustration was shared by Jeon Hyeon Tae, a Sales Manager with Songwontex, a South Korean supplier of curtain fabrics. Outlining his view of the problem, he said: "This is our third time at this event and we feel it is gradually getting smaller. I think this is partly because it is now overshadowed by Heimtextil, with many more people now heading off to Frankfurt every year."

Photo: The best of bedding…
The best of bedding…
Photo: The best of bedding…
The best of bedding…
Photo: ...and upmarket upholstery.
...and upmarket upholstery.
Photo: ...and upmarket upholstery.
...and upmarket upholstery.

This negative experience, however, was not shared by all of the exhibitors. Indeed, Karachi-based Bari, one of Pakistan's leading textile exporters, was more than happy with the feedback it received at this year's event.

Highlighting the plus points of the show, Sarfaraz Gilani, the company's Sales and Marketing Manager, said: "We came to this expo for the first time last year, but we have had a far better experience this time round. We already have a number of orders signed off from buyers we have met here."

This year, the company was in Shanghai to promote its range of towelling-based baby products, including a new line of hooded ponchos. It was also hoping to expand its US exports of jersey bedding sheets.

Similarly on its second visit to the event was Kishan International, an India-based exporter of silk, linen and polyester fabrics. Clearly satisfied with his experience to date, Narayansa D H, the company's Founder, said: "For us, this year is better than the last. Overall, the demand for silk is growing, as is the market for different colour combinations and designs.

"We are finding that buyers are primarily interested in curtains, cushions and bed linen, with most of them based in China. Among our other markets, the US is struggling thanks to its current political situation, while Brexit has clearly taken its toll on the UK.

"In general, though, the industry is in the midst of a major structural change. This has seen a lot of textile production relocated to India, a development that has been driven by the rising labour costs in China."

Another to note a change in this year's visitor profile was Esra Güney, a Sales Representative with Boyteks, a Turkish upholstery business. Undaunted by this shift, however, he said: "The majority of the buyers attending this year are Chinese, with many of the European and African buyers that were here last year apparently giving the event a miss. Despite that, we have already had twice as many enquiries as we did in 2016.

"For us, the major challenge is that we cannot really compete with many of the Asian manufacturers on cost grounds. Instead, we have to major on quality and service, two attributes that have allowed us to win a number of high-profile clients, most notably Ikea."

This year, the company was primarily in Shanghai to promote its Cleanink brand. Designed to allow the easy removal of ink stains, the product was said to be well-received by many of the buyers in attendance.

Perhaps swimming against the tide somewhat, Al-ņassäj was one of the few companies to have recently relocated its production to China. Originally operating out of Syria, it shifted its manufacturing operation to the east China province of Zhejiang in 2012.

Back then, its initial facility consisted of just four jacquard machines, a number that quickly grew to 60, making it the second-largest textile factory in the region. The company currently focuses on four primary lines – embroidery, chenille, printed and plain – all of which are targeted at the sofa market.

Concurring with other exhibitors with regard to the drop in attendance, Hassan Abu Baker, the company's Marketing Manager, said: "While I agree that there are fewer people visiting this year, those who are attending are more inclined to do business. As we currently have a new 82,000-square-metre plant under construction, that is clearly good news for us."

Photo: Intertextile Shanghai Home Textiles 2017: Globally attended, but domestically dominated.
Intertextile Shanghai Home Textiles 2017: Globally attended, but domestically dominated.
Photo: Intertextile Shanghai Home Textiles 2017: Globally attended, but domestically dominated.
Intertextile Shanghai Home Textiles 2017: Globally attended, but domestically dominated.

Intertextile Shanghai Home Textiles 2017 was held from 23-26 August in Shanghai's National Exhibition and Convention Center.

Chen Rong, Special Correspondent, Shanghai

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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