Thread Count TKO
April 7, 2011,
Jennifer Marks EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
It was a big, freaking deal. Luxury sheets at Kmart (Martha was the first out of the gate, natch), Target (perish the thought Kmart would out-sophisticate the "upscale discounter") and, finally, Walmart (the fat kid who always arrived last to the party).
It was around market time in spring 2001. HTT had a big story: Sferra Introduces 1,020-Count Sheets.
It was a big freaking deal. Consider that at the time discounters started putting in 250-count sheets, luxury suppliers were doing a lot of business in 350-count. Sure, they were using much better yarns and much better finishing, but all the customer saw was a number on a label. So, something over 1,000 threads? Wow!
It was around spring market 2002. HTT had a big story: 1,000-Count Sheets now Available for a $99 Retail.
It was a big freaking deal. At that time, Sferra's 1,020 sheet was tagged at $500.
I called up the sales director for the supplier who had pulled off this feat and asked him how the sheets felt. "Awful!" he said, "Like cardboard. But if a department store wants to do an endcap promotion on a 1,000-count sheet for less than $100, we can do it."
(You want a real laugh? All the afore-mentioned sheets were being sold open stock. Ah, history. It seems so ... ancient.)
That's how fast it all changed. And it's changing again - just as fast.
For the foreseeable future, cotton will rarely travel into a product unaccompanied by poly, Tencel, Dacron, Ingeo or another alternative fiber. At some point, I imagine the same bright minds who figured out how to spin yarns out of plant life and plastic bottles will be hard at work trying to do the same thing with nice, cheap dirt.
We are living in an inflationary era where the new "fabric of our lives" looks to be microfiber.
Ever since the thread-count wars exploded, suppliers and manufacturers have been searching for a path out of the insanity. Sferra ultimately launched a "Lose Count" marketing push to get out the message that thread counts had become meaningless. Mass market suppliers got behind solutions positioning for their products.
Now that 220 looks to be the new 600, except to see thread count identifications drop into obscurity on sheet packaging.
We are about to come full circle.