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Jennifer Marks

A Trip Through Time

When Home Textiles Today published its debut edition 25 years ago this month, department stores were the emperors of retailing and the mills decided what they would make and for whom.

It goes without saying that times have changed.

But the transcontinental flights, transoceanic shipping schedules and real-time electronic interfaces that have become a routine part of doing business are really beside the point. At bottom, the job is still about getting the right product to the right consumers at the right time and the right price.

We realize HTT is celebrating its anniversary at what is not a particularly celebratory moment in the shadow of 2005. Everybody seems to have decided they don't need a middleman — the domestic fabric finisher that used to buy from the domestic greige producer; the domestic cut-and-sew operation that used to buy from the domestic fabric finisher; the domestic retailer that used to buy from the domestic supplier; and the domestic consumer, who once had to physically walk into a store to do her shopping.

Yes, the coming 24 months are going to be among the most challenging the business has faced. But the industry is not going to evaporate. Smart companies will make it. Those that fall behind won't.

It has ever been thus. The pages in 25 year's worth of HTT issues are littered with the names of suppliers and retailers that no longer exist. Folks, they weren't all killed by Wal-Mart and overseas manufacturers.

People talk a lot about the “old-fashioned mill mentality.” Believe it or not, there's still plenty of that mentality at work among manufacturers in China, India, Turkey, Brazil and Pakistan.

Yes, there are manufacturers overseas that are ambitious enough to target the U.S. market and to find ways to reach out to grab their share of it.

There are many, many more that have been and will be pulled into the U.S. market by aggressive trading houses, retailers and domestic suppliers looking to leverage what the offshore sources have to offer. If your company isn't out there pulling in fresh resources, too, the time to get on the plane is now.

As HTT raises its cup to thank the industry for the past quarter century, we recognize the business is moving in directions and to parts of the world once unimaginable. HTT plans to move right along with it.

Thanks for 25 years of letting us ride shotgun with you. We've got our boarding pass in hand, and we're ready to share the journey with you for the next 25.

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