Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Family First, Then Fabric

Happy Monday and happy belated Father’s day to all the fathers out there! I hope everyone has recovered from what should have been an amazing day with family and friends celebrating Father’s Day.  I had a lovely day with my family and some delicious Italian food too.  It was Father’s day and I am a father so why not stuff my face with pasta, pizza and so….so much more?  My belly isn’t so happy today.

Even though Father’s day was a special day for me as a father, I have other much more important things on my mind.  For one, I am so sad that my only uncle has to battle brain cancer.  On the other hand, I was so happy that he and my aunt made the trek out to my house to spend Father’s day with the family.  It truly made it one of the most special Father’s Days and I am sure it was special for him too.  The memories will certainly last forever for everyone.

The other thing that is on my mind and eating me up inside is that my oldest son (8 years old) is going to sleep away camp for the first time. Yes, sleep away camp for 49 long days.  Time is flying too fast.  I could literally remember changing his diapers.  Next it will be college.  In any case, emotions have been high in my house of late with my wife, other son and I all struggling to wrap our brains around the void that will exist in our house this summer.  Needless to say, despite being in a little bit of denial, I am an emotional wreck.  Pass the tissues please!

Thanks for listening.  Too hard this week to write a blog about anything else.  Until next week.

Sad Scott

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Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: The Proverbial Race To The Bottom

One thing that was very clear at market and something that I have been talking about a lot lately is that competition is fiercer than ever. Everyone, including me, is fighting for customer dollars in order to be one of the survivors. This is our livelihood and why wouldn’t we fight the fight to be king of the mountain or at least be on the mountain and not in the swamp below. With that, I have come to recognize that we are in a race to the bottom that is not healthy for our industry or any industry for that matter. Do you know what I mean by the race to the bottom?

As the overhead of the business equation goes up because that is what it probably does every year (higher rent, higher wages, inflation, insurance and the list goes on), the profit margin side of the equation goes down due to decisions being made to compete.

For example, a simple race to the bottom is that the yardage on a bolt in lots of cases is getting smaller or requests are being made for them to be smaller.  The majority of fabric re-sellers want smaller bolts so they can turn the fabric faster, make smaller investments, take less risk, have more variety and so on. Some vendors are doing this and competing in the race to the bottom.  Others are holding strong whereby they will only go as low as a 10 or 12 yard bolt.

All things being equal, the shorter bolts wouldn’t be the end of the world, but for these facts.  Shorter bolts mean less efficient cutting due to the constant changing of the board for the next piece, it means more boards, it means fewer bolts fit in a box due to the fact that more boards take more space and it takes up more real estate on warehouse shelves.   Guess what this all means folks?  Yes, there are increased costs associated with the shorter bolts.  So now, not only are you selling fewer yards, but the costs to make that smaller bolt are increased too.  So this is at a minimum a double whammy if not triple or quadruple whammy.  Lower margin-ville here we come.  Oh, stop the sarcasm Scott!  You are winning the race to the bottom.  I said stop the sarcasm Scott!  Not a race I want to be winning nor should you want it either.  Please resist because once you do this, there is no going back to how it used to be.

Another example is how buyers are always pushing for lower pricing. Of course, it is their job to get the best prices possible, so why not try? Anyway, I inevitably hear the buyer say that other vendors are lower priced than I am.  Obviously, that is sucky and no one ever wants to hear that.  The thing is that I never know if they are telling the truth or just pushing my buttons.  But they are saying it and getting in my head, so I have to deal with it anyway, otherwise someone else is going to keep eating my lunch so to speak. Assuming they are telling the truth and being that I have a pretty good handle on my fabric costs, I know where I need to draw the line.  At some point it just doesn’t work for me and my business.  I sell fabric to make a profit, not a loss.  Why would someone do that?   Because they want to be the winner of the race to the bottom.  I know, I am sorry, I have to tone down the sarcasm and be happy boring Scott.  I am smiling though.  I digress.

I am sure that you can come up with many more examples of the race to the bottom unfortunately.  But, in short, the winners of the race to the bottom will probably go out of business sometime soon because they are selling too cheaply and that is no way to be successful.  Be careful folks. Use discipline and make sure you know what margins you need to make to add to your bottom line and not detract.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: What Is The Future Of Our Fabric Industry?

Two weeks ago, I talked about the knowledge I gained at quilt market and this week I wanted to continue discussing the buzz at the show. I am still angry that I can’t write angry blogs.  Am I allowed to still be angry about not being able to write angry blogs?  This is harder than I thought.

Ok, let me get happy boring Scott back.  One second, here he comes.  So back to quilt market.  I am amazed about how fast the world is changing. It is just astonishing and a little scary to be honest.  Well, a lot scary.  So many conversations at market were about what would bring future success when it comes to the fabric business.  Was it digital printing? Technology? Online sales?  Direct to consumer?  Stay the course?  Too bad that no one has a clue at this point, but it looks like the Amazon effect is kicking in allover the place and freaking everyone out.  Will the world ever be the same again?  Not a chance!  Sounds like a good time to retire if you ask me, but unfortunately I am a little young for that.

If I could only see where our business would be in 5 or 10 years, it would be so helpful. LOL.  Will we be in business still?  I must say that the odds are in our favor that Jaftex will be in business since we reached the 4th generation for which the odds of that are less than 1% and that’s a fact.  In any case, I sure hope so, unless we sell out for 100 billion dollars or something close to that.  You are supposed to laugh for, with or at happy boring Scott.  Will we have more companies under the Jaftex umbrella? Will we make it to the 5th generation?  Will the kids (5th Generation) want to work in fabric when it’s not sexy like working at a start up?

What’s the future of the industry?  I wish I knew.  I typically like to make suggestions on my blogs and I am almost always right…oh relax, I am kidding.  Don’t forget that this is happy Scott and all is good in the hood, all the time and everywhere….so get used to it.  I just don’t think I can make that prediction yet.  I need more time.  The future is still unclear, but as soon as it becomes clearer to me, I will be sure to let you know.  If you know or think you know, please share.  It will be insightful to hear where you think this industry will be….I was going to say in 5 or 10 years, but I think I need to be more concerned with the next 5-10 hours.

Have a great week folks!

 

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Something To Think About & Act Upon This Memorial Day Weekend

Last weekend at the quilt market, I had a lunch date with a customer. Immediately after, I met up with my brother Greg who was eating at a pizza restaurant called Pi, but it was spelled with the math pi sign. You know that thing that means 3.14159…..

I sat with him while he chowed down on this funky looking pizza with so many odd things on it and so much cheese that my heart was hurting to watch him eat.  It looked something like this, but so much worse.

The pizza place was pretty full.  I did notice that one particular gentlemen was in army fatigues eating with his wife and two kids.  When I noticed them, the random act of kindness Scott was thinking, “wouldn’t it be nice to buy that guy and his family lunch?”  Some time passed, I ran to the restroom, my brother finished and I never did buy them lunch.  Scott Fail! I need to do better.

As we left, Greg went over to the soldier’s table and said to the gentlemen, “Thanks for your service.”  I thought to myself, that was a nice gesture. Dang it, I should have bought them lunch.

Then we headed back to the convention center chatting about business when Greg just blew my mind.  He told me that he paid for the family’s lunch.  WOW!  Not only that, but he didn’t tell the family or anything.  It was a complete and total surprise. A total random act of kindness.  It was an absolutely selfless act.  I imagine that Greg felt really good about what he did.  I was super proud of him, but truly amazed that we had the same idea in our heads.  The one difference was that he acted and I didn’t.  Silly me.

The point here being, as we approach Memorial Day weekend, think about how a small gesture on your behalf will go a long way to show appreciation to those that protect and serve our amazing country.  As my readers know, I am totally a fan of random acts of kindness.  So if it isn’t a soldier, it never hurts to surprise someone who looks like they could use a little help or cheering up.  That’s something for you to think about this Memorial Day weekend.  No one even needs to know about the good deed except you and the recipient.  That is when it feels the best.  With that, be safe and enjoy the long weekend.  Next week I will continue to discuss quilt market.

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: So Much To Learn At Quilt Market

Each quilt market is a life experience in and of itself.  I always learn so much about this industry, business, life, people, social media, the world, selling, buying and the list goes on.

Here are some things I learned while speaking with customers, co-workers, competitors and sages of the industry…..you know, those guys that have been in the fabric business for a lifetime and are a wealth of knowledge.  Kind of like my dad who has worked for over 50 years in fabrics, or like so many others that I spent time with at market chatting about all the changes taking place, the challenges and how fast everything is happening.   It is remarkable how fast things are moving.

On the blogging front I received so much constructive and valuable feedback. For example, I was challenged to make up my mind about who my blog audience really is.  Is it consumers or shop owners?  Hmmm, that was an excellent question.  Well, I didn’t consider my audience as much as I considered my blog brand name:  Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive (TOAFGTE). That is my mantra and I am sticking to it.  Am I being selfish?   It’s always about you Scott.  You sound like my wife.

Anyhow, these are my stories, 50 or so a year, take them or leave them. Read them or don’t read them.  I will just continue to kick that can down the road for now.  Selfish again? I just can’t please everyone. I do acknowledge the suggestion and appreciate the constructive criticism, but I am sticking with my guiding (TOAFGTE) force.

Another suggestion I heard was that I should avoid the grinchy and negative blogs.  I can live with that suggestion because no one cares to hear about my problems, but maybe on the other hand they do.  Usually my most grinchy blogs stimulate the most comments and discussions. That being said, the lawyer in me wants to retort that I am just not happy with everything all the time and I like to tell it how it is without sugar coating. Unfortunately, life is not always filled with rainbows and ice cream, although that would be fantastic.  If you want happy boring Scott, I guess I will have to give in to that one the best I can.  I am going to need to order more happy pills.  I freaking hate happy boring Scott and I am not sure that you will like him either.  Anyway…I guess we will have to wait it and out see.

Another suggestion was to write shorter blogs and newsletters.  (I write those too for SE & BQC in case you were wondering).  You want shorter? You got it.

TO BE CONTINUED……….

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: What Can I Do To Help You Sell Studioe Fabrics?

The clock is ticking down until yet another Quilt Market.  With market in mind, I have been thinking a lot lately about the business environment and trying to wrap my brain around what the future might have in store for this industry.  The conclusion, I have no freaking clue and to be perfectly honest and that makes me a little nervous.  So what’s a textile executive to do or anyone in our industry for that matter?

Here are some simple answers in no particular order:

  • Work hard.
  • Keep designing beautiful prints.
  • Stay on top of technological advances.
  • Be active on social media.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Plan for the future and not just today.
  • Have a plan.
  • Take care of customers and continue to work under the mantra that the customer is always right. (Customer service)
  • Be aggressive.
  • Be kind all the time.
  • Focus on what has worked and maximize its potential.
  • Think a lot and try to think outside of the box.
  • Be different and innovate where possible.
  • Take calculated risks.
  • Be surrounded by smart and creative people.
  • Question things that don’t add up.
  • Crunch numbers.  They can be your best friend.  They do not lie unless you have a crappy calculator.
  • Be willing to change when the circumstances dictate.  Don’t be satisfied with status quo or mediocrity.
  • Ship as quickly as possible.
  • Offer competitive pricing.
  • Hire knowledgeable sales people.
  • Don’t give up.
  • Care for those around you.
  • Be respectful.
  • Be compassionate.
  • Be patient.
  • Share with others who are less fortunate than you.  Donate fabric.
  • Help customers succeed.

Today, I do want to focus on the last item on the list:  help customers to succeed.  Hence the title of this blog, What Can I Do To Help You Sell Studioe Fabrics?

I am vowing right here and right now to help Studioe as well as Blank Quilting, Henry Glass & A.E. Nathan customers succeed. You might be thinking, damn Scott, that will be a huge undertaking. What are you thinking?  The thing is that I am not afraid.  I am in an 87 year family business and I am part of the fourth generation with my very capable brother and of course my wise father too.  I am going to be 45 this year.  I can handle this and I will handle this. What do I have to lose?  We didn’t make it 87 years in the business having family members that were scared and we aren’t starting now with me….that’s for sure.  And with that, I am not going to slack, but rather I am going to embrace this situation head on and take the bull by the horns.

So where do I begin?  Starting right here and right now, I am going to start spreading the word that I, Scott Fortunoff, am on a mission to help you, however I can within reason, sell fabrics from family of companies. Essentially, I am now transferring the burden on to you and asking you to challenge me.  Yes, I am talking to you. How can I help you today, tomorrow or next year?

Get in touch with me asap with your ideas.  I promise not to disappoint you.  BRING IT ON!

Scott Fortunoff

800-294-9495 x218

scott@jaftex.com

I will be at booth 2915 at market and will be waiting for your challenge.

 

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Quilt Market Is Quickly Approaching, Here’s What You Can Expect From Studioe

Happy Monday To All,

The countdown is on until we start to pack our bags to head to St. Louis, Missouri for what will be something like my 25th international quilt market.  As usual, I am pretty psyched because I will have the great opportunity to show off all the new things that Studioe Fabrics and our other companies (Henry Glass Fabrics, The Blank Quilting Corp. & A.E. Nathan) have to offer. I will be at booth 2915 and I still have time slots available if you would like to set up an appointment with me.  Feel free to email me at scott@jaftex.com to set something up as I would love to show you all the new lines or just chat and catch up.

As you probably know, I have been pretty aggressive about putting out the open invitation to just about anyone in the industry who wanted to have a free dinner with me and a great crew of “quilting” people on Friday night at Ruth Chris.  We started with a small room and have since had to upgrade to a much larger room to accommodate all the additional requests. This is definitely a good thing!  That being said, it is time to rescind the invitation because if too many more people come, the night will lose its importance and just be a big mish mosh.  You could go to someone else’s party if you are looking for something like that.  I want to be able to try to talk to everyone attending and if more people come, it will be too impersonal and no fun.  I am really pleased with the mix of people that we have coming and I look forward to a great evening.  If you missed out this time, you will probably have another opportunity to join me at a future market.  I hope to have a couple of future blogs about the evening.

I wanted to let you know about the exciting Studioe Fabrics schoolhouses that we are planning for this market so that you can start marking up you calendars.  You aren’t going to want to miss these.

First up, Heidi Pridemore of The Whimsical Workshop will be talking about fabric book panels as well as other easy project ideas.  She will be in room 261 from 2:35-2:50.  Heidi and her team are our go to for all of our free projects needs.  She is very knowledgeable and creative and her schoolhouses are always invaluable for shop owners.  In fact, the last time she spoke, several people went out of their way to find me and tell me how great she was.  You can’t make this stuff up.  Anyway, you should make sure to come see Heidi perform. I am sure that she will be talking about the ever-popular Huggable & Loveable books that Studioe creates in conjunction with esteemed author Sandra Magsamen.  I have spoken about these books many times, but I call them books “on steroids” because they have appendages that hang from the top, bottom or side of the soft fabric book.  For example, we have hats, antlers, tails, feet, tires and so much more.  We can’t reorder these fabrics fast enough, so if you don’t know about them, you should certainly check them out and Heidi’s schoolhouse too!

Next up, we have Pepper Cory.  Need I say more?  No really!  Everyone knows Pepper and we are so proud to have her on our team.  She helped to put Studioe on the proverbial map with her Peppered Cotton shot cottons and we can’t thank her enough for that.  This time Pepper is mixing it up a little school housewise and not only talking about the Peppered Cottons. This time around Pepper is going to demonstrate a marketing campaign to help you sell fabric. That sounds like a must see if you ask me.  She too will be in room 261 and will be speaking from 2:55-3:25.  I am sure that Pepper will impress you with some fresh ideas.

Finally, we have Janice Pope of The Anything But Boring pattern company. In addition to being a pattern designer, Janice is one of our top fabric sales reps. Janice will be speaking about creating projects with non-traditional fabrics.  She will be in room 261 from 3:30 to 4:00.  I don’t know the entire agenda, but I know that Janice will be demonstrating ways to use gauze fabric and yarn dyed flannels to name a few.  I am sure that she will have a lot more up her sleeves.  So come on down to check it out as I am sure it will inspire you to step out of the box of just using 60×60 construction cottons since most everyone knows what to do with those by now.

That’s all that I have for you this week folks.  I hope that you take advantage of all that Studioe and the other Jaftex companies have to offer this quilt market.  I look forward to seeing you real soon.  And listen, it would be awesome if you came up to me and introduced yourself.  I love to continue to meet customers and people who read my blogs.  Safe travels.

See you soon!

Scott Fortunoff

Studioe Fabrics President

 

 

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Interesting Concept About Quilt Market

Hello All,

Hope you had a nice weekend.  My weekends are just insane these days with sports, sports, more sports and some birthday parties peppered in. Not only do I attend the sports, but I coach both of the kids and scream like a lunatic, so it’s just like work (minus the screaming), but with employees that are the most challenging ever….5 & 8 year old boys.  If I could tell you how excited I was to start my weekend today (Monday), you wouldn’t believe it.  That all being said, I do get a vicarious thrill watching my boys in action and it’s awesome to see them grow up and mature.  I just wish the clock would slow down a bit.

Alright, so what does Senor Scott have to say about Quilt Market this time around?  Hmmmm…..   Let me start off by saying this is going to be a constructive blog with a point, so everyone could stop tensing up.  This one will be clean and gentle.  Anyway, most of last week I was in the Carolinas making my rounds filming the Studioe Fabrics May release Youtube video, visiting customers and our warehouse.  During one of the sales calls a very interesting commentary was made to me about quilt market and I thought I would share it with you.

Rumor has it from the Fabric Yenta that the fabric vendor quilt market roster is getting smaller.  Yes, I heard that a handful of suppliers will not be attending market and I am not totally surprised, but upset to hear that nonetheless.  This is not good and I hope more don’t follow suit.  Here is the gist of the comment from the person I spoke with:

The word on the street is that many quilt shop owners aren’t writing a lot of business, if any, with the fabric vendors at their booths at the show. The customers usually say that “they will wait for their sales rep to visit or that they already saw the lines.” They are spending more time in the school houses and with the smaller vendors who they don’t get a chance to see more regularly.  That all makes sense and is well and good.

However, here is the counterargument that I feel is way stronger than the latter point.  If customers don’t write business with the fabric vendors, the vendors will stop coming to market.  This is a vicious cycle. The result of that will be that the quilt market won’t survive, the smaller guys won’t have a place to show their products, there will be no more schoolhouses and there will be no inspiration for the shop owners to utilize in their own shops.  Not a good result if you ask me.  Don’t you agree?

In closing, if you want to continue to reap the benefits of what market has to offer, make sure to save some time to sit down with some fabric vendors and write some orders.  And don’t let me forget to tell you that if you want to make an appointment with me at market, email me scott@jaftex.com.

Until Next Week,

This is Scott, the Fabric Yenta’s alter ego.

Scott is MIA Today

MIA – Yes, Scott is “Missing In Action” from the blog today. Pay careful attention to the word ‘action’ though. He is so busy preparing for the launch of new fabric lines on May 1 and Quilt Market in St. Louis May 19-21 that today he missing from his space on this page. Believe me though, he is still in action.

Comment below if you missed him today. (It will make him feel guilty.)

 

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: You Can’t Keep A Good Yenta Quiet!

APRIL FOOL’S blog readers!  You can’t keep a good yenta down.  Did you really think that I was going to end my blogging career like that?  I think not.  When it is time for me to go, when I have nothing more to talk about with respect to our industry, that is when I will pull the plug.  In the meantime, see that picture below?  You know what that is?  That is the pile of irate letters that I received from people protesting that I was going to stop blogging.  It’s crazy!  Who knew?  Not to mention all the phone calls and emails I got too.

That is the crux of what I wanted to report this week especially since we are in high gear at our offices preparing for the ever-important May Quilt Market release.  Speaking of Quilt Market, I continue to hear that more and more vendors and shop owners won’t be attending.  This is very disappointing and unfortunately there appears to be no end to the troubles that we all face with quilt market, its future and its importance.  When is the downfall going to end?  In addition, with the couple of mergers & acquisitions and companies going out of business, that won’t help market either because that too will reduce the booth counts.  Anyway, I will be there with a smile on my face, ready to show our newest lines and to take orders. I will look forward to seeing you too.  If you want to set up an appointment, please email me at scott@jaftex.com so we can get something on the calendar.  You can also email sales manager extraordinaire, Cliff Garfinkel at cgarfinkel@jaftex.com.

Speaking of mergers and acquisitions, I continue to hear that a lot of companies are looking and talking.  They are kicking the tires around. Lots of rumors.  So you should expect to see some more deals coming in the future because where there is smoke, there is fire. Unfortunately, at this time we haven’t found another company to bring in to our organization, but that it not to say that we are not looking.

Hope you had a nice Easter and/or Passover.  Have a great week.

Sincerely,

The Yenta Is Back, Scott