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Random notes

Jennifer Negley -- Home Textiles Today, April 16, 2001

To anyone who has already combed through all their notes from the recently concluded market, followed up on all the phone calls they promised to make and dutifully Rolodexed the fresh heap of business cards they toted home, hats off to you.

A week after shuffling out of 295 for the final time in seven days, I'm still catching up with the e-mail backlog. In the meantime, a few stray thoughts cropped up in the aftermath of market …

Let's call the whole thing off: Now that Sferra Bros. has trumped everybody in the escalating thread-count war by introducing its 1,020-count Mellesimo bed, can we acknowledge once and for all that thread count signifies very little? If not, it becomes difficult to explain why Kmart's 250-count Martha Stewart Everyday Five Star sheet retails at $34 (queen) while Calvin Klein's 220-count "Rhythmic Stripe" sheets retails at $90 (queen).

Ah, but they don't target the same customer, you say. No, they don't. Which makes it especially ridiculous for the industry — on both sides of the aisle — to persist in flogging thread count as a selling point. Painful as it may be to abandon the shorthand, it's time to cede this thread-count folderol to the marts. All others should move on to training consumers to appreciate quality by explaining in clear terms why better fabrication is a) more important, and b) worth the money.

P.S. A lot of people have asked how Sferra Bros. managed to jam more than 1,000 threads into one square inch. According to the lab that conducted the testing and certification of the sample at the International Fabricare Institute in Silver Spring, MD, the fabric is constructed of four-ply yarn on one side and two-ply yard on the other.

The grass is always greener … Whoops! Scratch that. As uncertain as the outlook appeared to be when spring market got under way, at least home textiles vendors didn't face the kind of sour news that the furniture industry was treated to just before heading to High Point. The announcement by Heilig-Meyers that it had applied to the bankruptcy court to liquidate the inventory in its remaining 375 furniture stores marks the end for one of that industry's top furniture retailers.

The liquidation serves as a valuable reminder that the retail malaise is not restricted to home textiles.

That didn't hurt, now did it? The pleasant surprise of market was how relatively upbeat it was. In general, retailers said they were pleased with the level of color and innovation they were seeing. In general, vendors said they were pleased with the number of retailers they were meeting with.

More than one home textiles veteran has remarked that when the economy gets clunked, home textiles is the first to feel the impact. And, heaven knows, this industry has taken its licks over the past six months. The events of the past two weeks may suggest that the struggle is now moving along to other areas of the home furnishings industry and that for textiles, the worst may be over.

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