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Not just child's play

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, June 4, 2001

In case some of you didn't catch it, let me refer to the story in last week's Home Textiles Today about the new Kids "R" Us prototype launched in several nationwide locations with stuff to dress the kids' rooms as well as their bodies.

In case some of you general merchandise retailers out there don't get the significance of this move, think about turf feuds and who gets to buy and sell what within your own spheres. It's been one of the biggest deterrents to the growth of the decorative kids business in your channel of retailing.

But the problem also extends to the big boxes, a genre that has the above noted general merchandise retailers as its historical base.

Until now the kids retailing sphere has been highly fragmented in terms of projecting a lifestyle or some sort of related product statement for decorating a kid's room.

We're not just talking about licensed product, which of course is a major force within the home textiles world as well as other products related to the home furnishings business.

Then there is the news that twin teen girls, probably unknown to most adults, have expanded their program of apparel and accessories launched this past January at Wal-Mart, and now will launch a back-to-school home textiles program at Wal-Mart with merchandise produced by WestPoint Stevens.

The twins, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, the subject of a four-page feature in The New York Times Magazine a week ago, are the catalysts for a brand that's pushing $1 billion in sales with stuff ranging from fashion to videos to dolls to a nameplate magazine.

If that isn't something to be reckoned with — internal retail turf wars aside — I don't know what is.

But more important, we're also talking about stuff that moves beyond the nom du jour of licensing and into designs and products that have longer lifetimes.

This is a significant piece of the home textiles — and home furnishings — business that so many talk about, many license, and few market to advantage. Primarily because no one at the top can decide whose business it really is. It's really time to make an executive decision at the retail level.

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