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Moving into a New Year

AS WE MOVE MORE aggressively into 2011, there are some things that need to be more realistically discussed.
     "It's time for this industry - suppliers, manufacturers, importers, product developers and whatever it is that any retailer deems to be ‘buyers' - to step up to the plate. "
     The first is that the home textiles world is not the only user of textiles sourced globally. The segment is very low down on the food chain.
     Next, the industry needs to be more realistic about specing and pricing product - especially on the part of the big boys. I think that 2010 finally taught them that there is no king. Yes, some will be more equal than other, but not extremely so.
     As the fiber price equation continues to roll on, retailers will have to understand the new price/value equation. Products will be de-speced to meet a price and quality goal while quality levels will be abandoned for entire product capabilities.
     Also, looking ahead to Heimtextil this week, it was only a year ago in talking about international markets and how Americans work within this sphere, an industry executive noted - as I have over the decades - that Americans are viewed internationally as fair weather friends.
     When business is good here at home, export is ignored. Come a downturn and suppliers wonder how they could have been so blind to the opportunities abroad. Now that the U.S. business is showing signs of life - albeit not so strong as many would like - it will be interesting to see how much that attitude changes.
     We have seen a realization among many suppliers that there is an American design cachet that resonates already in certain parts of the world, and there are other parts of the world that have not really been exposed to American design for the home - a facet of design that may or may not be globally translatable.
     Since the goods basically are produced in the same geographical areas - China, India, Pakistan and Turkey for mainstream product - the design factor is the key element that separates the United States from everywhere else. It's been ever thus, and probably is part of our DNA.
     Then there is the new consumer - no matter what the age bracket - who has too many ways to get product information, communicate about product specifics and make decisions that are totally out of the realm of how we did business in the past.
     Over the past year or so, the retail marketplace has been hearing a great deal about "new discoveries" on how to do business in online and in social media with today's increasingly independent consumer.
     Then there is the basic issue of newness and fashion forward-ness in the home textiles world. For entirely too long this business has been dominated by a pervasive "this was a winner last season, so we want something like it for next season" mentality.
     It's time for this industry - suppliers, manufacturers, importers, product developers and whatever it is that any retailer deems to be "buyers" - to step up to the plate.

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