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Material world: Fabric trade gets e-marketplace

Fine textiles are going online in one of the biggest old economy B2B exchanges and markets.
Written by Ron Coates, Contributor

Fine textiles are going online in one of the biggest old economy B2B exchanges and markets.

Dutch blind and textiles company Hunter Douglas yesterday launched Tapestria.com, an e-marketplace for fabrics, initially representing about 40 US and European mills, offering 5,000 fabrics. The new company will handle all of the distribution based on its existing fulfilment network. The market will go live in the US next February and be extended to Europe in July. David Sonnenberg, CEO of Tapestria.com, said: "For the first time, design firms will be able to select and order from a comprehensive online catalogue of interior fabrics, receiving samples and orders more reliably and conveniently." According to Sonnenberg, the textile industry has been plagued with a complicated and antiquated distribution system which has made fabric-buying an ordeal. A major problem is the fact that designs are often out of stock - with as many as 10 to 15 patterns unavailable for lengthy periods of time. "Currently, it can take eight to 12 months to bring a design to market. Now it could be done within weeks. Our end-to-end system will give a real advantage and put an end to out-of-date sample books," he said. Parts of the $25m start up fund have been invested in technology which will clearly show the true colours and texture of the fabrics. Tapestria expects the range of mills and fabrics to increase five-fold over the next two years - by which time it expects to hit profitability. The company believes prices will be 20 to 50 per cent lower than through traditional channels and will protect the anonymity of the mills to safeguard their traditional routes to market. Hunter Douglas is one of the top 50 Dutch companies and is 48 per cent owned by the Sonnenberg family. Last year it made E116m (£71m) profit on turnover of E1.36 bn (£830m).
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