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  • Jennifer Marks

Tis the Season

MIDDLETOWN, N.J. - Snow men, reindeer, Christmas trees, holly branches and ornaments are key holiday motifs running through home textiles assortments at this time of the year - except, it turns out, in the bedding department.
     In a still-conservative shopping environment, straight-down-the-line holiday themes are mostly confined to table linens, kitchen textiles, fingertip towels and door mats this year. Although warmthrelated bedding items have moved to the racetrack for the all-important fourth-quarter selling season, solids dominate the assortments.
     In mid-October, Home Textiles Today visited the stores of eight top retailers in suburban Monmouth Country, New Jersey, to see which was most aggressively merchandising for the season.

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     The retailers included Bed Bath & Beyond, Big Lots, JCPenney, Kmart, Kohl's, Macy's, Target and Walmart.
     We looked at three key categories for seasonal warmth products - sheets (flannel and/or fleece), throws (a heavily giftable category) and blankets - but also took note of other warmth products being highlighted on the floor, which almost entirely consisted of heated mattress pads.
     The survey did not include comforters and duvets or quilts because these items are stocked throughout the year. And during HTT's store visits, we found them unperturbed in their usual locations.
     Key take-aways:

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    • Kmart was hands-down the most promotional in the categories HTT examined, with discount pricing on most items. Kohl's came in second. Most retailers hadn't begun discounting when HTT visited, mostly notably Macy's, which shows the highest overall pricing of the lot.
     • Seasonal sheet inventories are tightly edited and weighted toward solids.
    • Snowflakes rule: To the extent that retailers offered warmth products with patterns, the snowflake was the clear winner. If an assortment included more than one pattern, the non-snowflake was usually a non-holiday lodge look.
    • Poly rules, too. Despite the year-over-year drop in cotton prices, of the 97 products that listed construction content on their packaging, 77% were made of pure polyester. Had it not been for all-cotton flannel sheet sets in the mix, that figure would have been 92%.

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     • The most handsomely merchandised assortments for seasonal warmth products were found at JCPenney and Macy's.
     • Walmart may not have been fully set for the season ... or was it? The store had three endcaps devoted to seasonal product - one in the fabric department offering a nosew John Deere fleece throw kit. Within the home textiles department, product seemed to be distributed fairly randomly, as though to fill empty space.
     The season has only just begun.

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