Trend Report - May 2014

Asian Partners
By Wanda Jankowski

Manufacturers and importers share insights on the advantages of producing goods abroad in China, India, Pakistan and other Asian countries, as well as thoughts on the greatest challenges facing home textiles today

Journey into the global marketplace as select manufacturers and importers who create goods in Asia for sale in the U.S. and other countries explore the compelling draws of trading abroad.

Focus On India

The tour begins in India, where Surya, “employs more than 50,000 weavers in Uttar Pradesh, India, giving men and woman living in rural villages the chance to earn fair wages and a steady income within a safe working environment,” according to Seth King, vice-president of sales, Surya. “Traditional rug-making techniques have been passed down for many generations in India and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate the skill and craftsmanship found in this region.

“The ability to leverage the artisanal skills of expert weavers makes it possible for us to offer customers a wide array of high-quality rugs and other accessories in diverse materials and constructions at an affordable price,” King explains. In addition to rugs, today Surya also offers pillows, wall decor, accent furniture, lighting and a recently debuted bedding line.

J.F. Kashanian Rugs works with factories in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. “The Asian manufacturers we have are from a long line of carpet weavers who grew up mastering the art of rug weaving and manufacturing. Our overseas partners are the best in the industry because they work hard and, same as us, they want to give our customers the best quality for the best price,” explains Jonathan Kashanian, vice-president, J.F. Kashanian Rugs.

Indo Count Industries is an India-based bed linen manufacturer which generates annual sales of about $300 million in the U.S., which is 75 percent of its total sales.

“Today we are the most important sheet set supplier to key retailing giants in the U.S., U.K., Europe, the Middle East and other parts of the world,” says Jayesh Saxena, avp marketing for Indo Count Industries.

“India is very well positioned in terms of the latest textile machinery infrastructure, availability of fine quality cotton grown in India as well as what’s available from other countries, availability of skilled work force and highly qualified technical staff, and very strong business acumen,” he says. “Manufacturers in India and other parts of Asia have great vision for business growth in textile manufacturing.”

Among Indo Count’s innovations is Infinity Cotton, created from a blend of the finest cottons in a modified weave that results in a sheen that lasts through multiple washings, a very soft hand and high performance.
Nourison produces rugs in China and India. Steven Peykar, co-ceo of Nourison, notes, “Nourison has made extensive investments in manufacturing plants in China over the past 20 years. We are able to produce products that incorporate both machine-made and handmade technologies together, and we are able to create products that are virtually impossible to produce elsewhere.

“As labor costs are still reasonable in India, even when compared to China, Nourison is sourcing a lot of its handmade products from India that offer exceptional value,” Peykar concludes.

Roads From China

“China is one of the world's leading agricultural powers, and a large population country. Since the Silk Road Era, the textile industry has been a traditional pillar industry in China, and an important industry in which to manufacture export products to earn foreign exchange. In recent years, the exportation percentage is around 40 percent of the total output value,” explains Vincent Kang, vice-president, Venus Bedding USA.

Venus Bedding Co. Ltd., established in China in 1997, includes 18,000 square meters of modern factory buildings dedicated to producing home textiles. “In recent years, Venus Bedding established a USA corporation in New York,” explains Kang, “in order to build better relationships with customers and provide better service and home textile products to the North American market.”

The company currently sells goods to China, the U.S., Australia, Spain, Turkey, Brazil and the U.K. Kang notes several advantages to doing business via his company in China: “Lower labor cost than other countries, enough raw materials at lower prices than found in other countries, product diversification and management innovation (we have hired several foreigners as high-level managers in the company).”

S.L. Fashions, wholesale importer of home textiles, is headquartered in Los Angeles, CA. Artwork and designs outsourced from locations across Europe and India supplement the creations of the in-house design team. The company partners with a team based in China that is responsible for the production and quality of products.
According to Chana’a Smith, senior product development and design, S.L. Home Fashions, the advantages of manufacturing in Asia include price, lead time for production and the relationships the company has built there.

Smith notes that during the 2008 recession “our company actually thrived that year, as we were able to shift our focus from our local customers here in Los Angeles to supplying the department stores (Ross, Burlington, etc.).
“Since then, our company has been fortunate enough to be growing every year. Our target market has completely changed for the better. We are now working closely with brick-and-mortar stores not only in the U.S., but also in Canada, Europe, and Central America,” says Smith.

Based in Framingham, MA, Woven Workz specializes in the creation of throws and wearable wraps. “Our throw production is all made in China,” explains Raphael Wolf, ceo, Woven Workz. “Our first reason for selecting China back in 2004 was due to cost savings.” The main advantage for Woven Workz in working with factories in Asia today remains price.

Ebisons Harounian Imports brings in rugs from India, China and Pakistan. The greatest advantages are “affordable labor and raw material costs,” according to Michael Harounian, managing partner, Ebisons Harounian Imports.

China-based Hua Fang USA is a vertical, integrated manufacturer with in-house spinning, weaving, dyeing, printing, cut-and-sew and logistics. About 65 percent of the goods made are sold in the U.S. According to Michael Liu, president, Hua Fang USA, business has grown since the 2008 recession with 20 percent annual increases consecutively. In his view, the advantages of manufacturing in Asia are cost and quality.

In addition to producing a significant portion of its goods in the U.S., Bedford Cottage also works with several factories in China, mainly in the Shanghai area. “We are unique in that we import a fair amount of product, but also have our own manufacturing facility in New Hampshire,” says Richard Sherman, president, Bedford Cottage. “The advantage for us, and in turn, our customers, is the amount of diversity of product and design we can offer at varying price points. By working overseas, we are able to offer our customers a huge array of styles and colors that we couldn’t manufacture on our own in the States. People think that if it’s made in China, that it must be inexpensive. That is not always the case, as China manufactures beautiful and quality product. It just may not be as inexpensive as people think.”

Possibilities For Improvement

Every business relationship, whether the partners are located here or abroad, has challenges. In dealing with Asian partners, our importers note some areas where there is room for improvement.

“The communication aspect is the most challenging,” says Kashanian. For Wolf, it’s the minimum order quantity and lead times. Cultural differences, loyalty and under-selling top the list for Harounian.

Nourison’s Peykar elaborates, “Lead time would be the most challenging aspect of sourcing from Asia, as all retailers are looking to reduce inventories and are working with a lot less lead time than in the past. The transport issue becomes challenging in being able to secure orders, produce them, ship them and deliver them on time.”

“There are always challenges when working from afar, especially if you don’t have employees on the ground,” says Bedford Cottage’s Sherman. “From a quality standpoint, we are fortunate to have people on the ground that work on our behalf, so that is not an issue. Communication used to be a major factor, but with email, Skype and other resources, that has been virtually eliminated.

“I guess a few of the biggest challenges are trying to reduce the minimums and the time it takes for the actual freight to move across the ocean,” he explains. “Manufacturing domestically, we are used to quick turnaround. China may be able to manufacture the product quickly, but it still takes a minimum of 30 days to deliver, and that is if everything all goes smoothly.”

Choosing the right Asian partner to work with, whether it’s a manufacturer or importer, is the key to making your journey into the global marketplace a success.

Heavenly Herringbone Sophia from Woven Workz is a lightweight throw that blends the classic herringbone pattern with a modern color palette.
Light & Dark Contrast Venus Bedding USA introduces Cherbourg, a nine-piece jacquard bedding ensemble that presents a fresh spin on croco, with soft beige “scales” in varied sizes set against a darker burgundy background.
Painting-Like Wonder Watercolor from Surya is a medium pile, antique wash, 100 percent wool rug hand-knotted in India.
Colorful Sari Silk Handmade in India using sari silk, Fiji is a celebration of shades of blue from F.J. Kashanian Rugs.
Ethnic Inspiration The India House Collection from Nourison features 100 percent wool rugs handmade in India that bear both traditional designs in classic patterns and transitional motifs.
Bamboo Throws Greek Key and other angular and geometric patterns adorn machine washable bamboo throws from Bedford Cottage. Each design, made in China, is offered in three colors.
Classic Elegance Ebisons Harounian Imports offers this traditional, intricate rug design from the Pastel Heriz Collection.
Symphony Of Stripes The Auberge Suite from Indo Count features a 100 percent cotton engineered, yarn-dyed pattern woven with tonal damask stripes on the base, creating a timeless, iconic look.
 

What Is The Greatest Challenge Facing The Industry Overall?

“Home textile industries are evolving very rapidly and the customer is becoming more aware as well as demanding, so the greatest challenges are to keep up with the expectations of the end consumer and invest into the latest equipment, research and development, and to keep bringing the best products suited to the customer requirement at the most effective price level.”—Jayesh Saxena, avp marketing, Indo Count Industries Ltd.

“Consumers’ consumption mindset is changing all the time, along with rapidly growing demand for product variety and individuation. We need new products to meet the individuality and diversity of customers.”—Vincent Kang, vice-president, Venus Bedding USA

“Lack of innovation and design interest from the young generation.”—Michael Liu, president, Hua Fang USA
“Keeping things unique and constantly delivering newness to the market. It seems everyone is in everyone’s business and eventually everything looks similar. At some point there will be a saturation point where the customer says, ‘Enough, I want something different!’”—Richard Sherman, president, Bedford Cottage

“The changes in trends are coming much faster than they have ever been. Identifying trends in design and color in a timely manner and controlling inventories of items that become outdated faster than before are big challenges. Some of the larger retailers are especially hurt by this phenomenon, as it takes them longer to react and change assortments.”—Steven Peykar, co-ceo, Nourison

“The ability to create something new every season.”—Jonathan Kashanian, vice-president, F.J.

Kashanian Rugs

“Increasing raw material costs, modernization costs and labor flight.”
—Michael Harounian, managing partner,

Ebisons Harounian Imports

“With the ever-growing government regulations in this country, the textile industry will face enormous challenges keeping up. It will start with additional fire retardant issues and grow from there. Price increases are certain, but it will affect all segments of life.”—Raphael Wolf, ceo, Woven Workz

“Making sure that manufacturers and wholesalers are ‘in synch’ with designer and retailer customers. The increasingly rapid introduction of new products, combined with large volume of products, makes it imperative to provide regular training for customers so they have tools and information to support and grow their home accessories businesses.”
—Seth King, vice-president of sales, Surya

“The increasing demand of innovation our customers are looking for daily. Our industry is growing tremendously with more competitors than ever…These department stores have numerous resources to choose from; the textiles industry as a whole must stay up-to-date on fashion to fulfill the needs of these buyers, something that is easier said than done.”
—Chana’a Smith, senior product development and design, S.L. Home Fashions, Inc.

 
Intricate Design & Texture Power loomed in China and made with 30 percent polypropylene and 70 percent acrylic, the Graphic Illusions Collection from Nourison presents hand-carved, high-low textural details in a contemporary color palette.
 

Towel Innovations In India

Though pricing factors are often primary considerations when partnering with Asia-based companies, it should be noted that frequently state-of-the-art technologies and environmental advancements originate there as well.
One example is Trident Limited, which is expanding its loom capacity by 300 looms to make it the largest manufacturer in the world of terry towels. This vertical manufacturer uses a variety of materials in towel manufacture, including cotton, cotton-Modal, cotton-Tencel, cotton-rose, cotton-silk and cotton-milk. SCafe is a new material made from mixing used coffee grounds with cotton.

The company has developed towels with inventive new characteristics, such as heat retention properties that change in reaction to the user’s body temperature. SCafe towels emit a Cappuccino scent that lasts from 20 to 23 washes.

Creative weaving techniques are used to create Air Rich, Low Twist, Slub Yarn and Thick ‘n’ Thin towels.

Trident not only produces a GOTS Certified Organic Collection of towels, but also incorporates a range of sustainable practices into its manufacturing production.

 
Traditional Beauty Antique from Surya is a low pile, antique wash rug with a lustrous sheen hand-knotted in India with 100 percent New Zealand wool.
Ikat Inspiration From Indo Count, this ethnic-inspired ensemble presents machine embroidered motifs rendered in classic ikat design. Coral blends with grey, black and white neutrals, accented by soft red.


Resources

• Bedford Cottage, 800-242-1537, bedfordcottage.com
• Ebisons Harounian Imports, 800-966-6666, ebisons.com
• F.J. Kashanian Rugs, 201-330-0072, fjkashanian.com
• Hua Fang USA, 646-490-2721
• Indo Count Industries Ltd., 646-469-6517, indocount.com
• Nourison, 800-223-1110, nourison.com
• S.L. Home Fashions, Inc., 323-587-0800, slhomefashions.com
• Surya, 877-275-7847, surya.com
• Trident Limited, 212-684-6342, tridentindia.com
• Venus Bedding USA, 212-685-6880, venusbedding.com
• Woven Workz, 888-675-1000, wovenworkz.com



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