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A Vast and Diverse Disconnect

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, March 7, 2010

Looking back, it seems that many markets of recent vintage have had unofficial themes.

We've had “partnerships” as a market buzzword — and look what happened to that concept.

Then we discovered “organic and Egyptian cotton” and virtually everyone knew there wasn't enough land mass for the former, and the Nile certainly didn't circle the globe.

Then there was the “hotel look” and virtually every showroom looked alike — mostly boring.

This market, it appears that the buzzword is “brands.”

This is an interesting phenomenon, in that the variety of “brands” spans decades from introduction in some other product world, to new faces on TV or in the nouveau celebrity ranks.

Some of the brands that once had high levels of credibility with a generation that now is looking at retirement, are being touted as “powerful fashion at a price” brands for a customer that probably has but a scant idea of what the brand once represented. And when the brand is resuscitated, it is occasionally handed back to the one who brought it down with the new mission to restore it to its former glory.

And for some of those brands, the current life phase is all about mass distribution. If the product can't be placed at a “better” or “best” level, there are few qualms about sending it downmarket.

Then we have the celebrity brands that have an all too familiar face as the front, with little or no involvement with the product except to collect the licensing fees. The product mix can be as varied and diverse across the home universe as the licensor desires.

A quick, occasional and tightly scripted public appearance is all that the celebrity needs to do; the rest is up to the licensees to make it happen.

Then there are the brands that have been mainstays at the “better” and “best” levels of retailing. In today's world of retailing and supply base, the world of Wall Street which governs their activities by demanding higher financial results each quarter has virtually precluded an important brand with a significant individual look and quality remaining at the leading point.

There are significant examples in the home textiles world where this is currently taking place, leaving those “better” and best” retailers destined to share their marketing efforts at the higher levels of the business with downmarket competitors. And in this scenario, we all know who will win.

There are also the major retail players themselves, who are demanding more and more “exclusive” private label brands that can range from suppliers' discards to a made-up name “inspired” by the name of a well known brand.

And just recently, we are beginning to see that publications and TV networks are licensing their names, network logos and show hosts to the home world — often without any apparent knowledge of the quality level or distribution of the licensee.

As with most everything in today's marketing, it's all about the money.

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