Standing out

Carole Sloan, August 23, 2004

More and more, I'm hearing folks on the supplier side of the home textiles world talking about the 80 percent of their business that is done with the number of companies that can be tallied on the fingers of both hands. Forget about toes.

As one highly respected supplier explained — it's important to note, their ID's have changed dramatically from manufacturer to supplier — things are getting tighter and tighter in the world of mainstream home textiles.

As part of this quickening evolution, there are some of those retailers that are saying that there is a rapidly growing need for special merchandise, product that is theirs alone to attract the increasingly non-loyal customer.

And this is definitely beginning to have an impact on whatever limited national brand awareness and impact there is in the home textiles world.

The internal marketplace is waiting, some believe, with baited breath for the resuscitation of the Royal Velvet, Cannon, Fieldcrest and Charisma brands. Some of these could have been termed a national brand by whatever advertising industry standard could be applied; the others were merely intra-industry benchmarks for quality or a specific price-point-distribution segment.

The last half-year has seen a surge of licensing activities, most of which are targeted to specific channels of distribution. The key issue is the viability of the licensor — what does the license represent to the consumer from this business or its original marketplace? And is the image or product truly translatable to this marketplace or is it merely just a celebrity hoopla with a very short life span?

We've got private label stuff coming out of the woodwork from virtually every retailer that can put its name on a label.

How this stuff is going to be marketed is the critical issue. What company is going to put the bucks behind what a GM or a P&G would do for a product is up for discussion. The answer may well be a new retail profit center — above and beyond chargebacks, reverse auctions and transportation costs.

The answers will have a major impact on how the home textiles business moves ahead.

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