WORLD FABRIC OUTLOOK

What will 2020 bring to the world of top-end furnishing textiles?
Just like in past years, this fair season starts in January with the Heimtextil in Frankfurt. We were there too, to see how the firms that will exhibit at Proposte have tackled the first exhibitions of the year and how they have set up the activities for the year 2020 in terms of product trends and offer intended for the big buyers of the sector.
First of all, let us state that the guiding theme for all of our interviewees, and encompassing all product categories, is a single word: ‘Sustainability’. An absolutely correct refrain that, much more than in past years, has appeared real and not staged merely to justify marketing approaches. More than a theme, therefore, it has become an indispensable premise that has taken on various shapes according to the segment of application: the use of recycled yarns, the sustainability of textile materials and processing procedures, the decommissioning of plastic from the packs.
We have interviewed about thirty Italian and foreign exhibitors who we will meet again on the shores of Lake Como in April, and the gist of their answers can be summarised in the word ‘caution’. Each one has plans and projects for expansion – namely in markets and clientele segments, the introduction of new product and research areas – but all are proceeding with great caution because what the new year will bring is almost unanimously undecipherable. All this starts from the not entirely negative numbers of 2019. Last year was definitely not a fantastic one, but the enterprises who declared a drop in turnover can be counted on the fingers of one hand, while most of them reported marginally positive results. The impression we got, except for a few single cases, is that the Italian textile manufacturers will tend to tighten up their ship in order to consolidate their business, possibly by introducing new procedures for making service quicker, by exalting the range of products, by improving focus on the Contract area – while the foreign firms seem to be a little more enterprising in research and in expanding towards possible new sales and marketing areas. The most comforting aspect, although perceived with lightning speed within the Fair context, seems to be the fair amount of activism shown by everyone: no grumbling, acknowledgement that the market is in a complex situation that can be tackled, however, and that can even be profitable if the strategies are right. This is a positive attitude that was missing in the past.
All this is confirmed also by a certain clarity in the short-term fair strategies: being present at Proposte means to take the opportunity to reach out, in a relaxing and sophisticated environment, to the entire top-end and exclusive sector of international buyers within a defined logic of market segmentation and client targets. It may seem banal, but to have a clear idea that the fair-related investment must be built up according to the specific characteristics of each event, is a practice not to be taken for granted, at least not in these recent years. Instead, or at least in our sector, this issue is clear-cut, and Proposte is the proven leader in the global top-end home furnishing textile business. It is an event that also allows exhibitors to present their products specifically to designers, architects and textile printers, and to interpret with clarity the requests and the stimuli of the buyers. Our interviewees have confirmed that this function is being carried out even better since the shift in opening dates in order to dovetail the closing of the Salone del Mobile of Milan. This feeling is common among non-manufacturers too. As you will read in the interview with an illustrious Proposte visitor collected “on air” in the corridors of Heimtextil, the buyers too have highly appreciated the new strategies of the Italian fair.
In short, we can say that the year 2020 is off to a fairly good start. Now come three months of work and then the test at Cernobbio, from April 27th to the 29th, to get an even clearer idea, if possible, of how short-term business will fare.