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Standing Out

The buzzword in retailing sectors today is “differentiation.”

But when one looks around, the key question is what do these folks see as their perceived differences from one another.

One of the current poster products seems to be an item or collection of home furnishings that is derived from the offering that high-end hotels afford their customers in bedding and bath as well as accessories — and even mattresses — throughout their rooms.

This sector is typified by — from the top — the Ritz Hotel in Paris with its vast array of bedding, bath, decorative fabrics, trims, lighting, tableware, glassware and flatware. It's hard to top this plus-ultra-of-the-ultra world — along with its well-oiled marketing initiative.

Just last week, press items abounded regarding the Marriott hotel chain and its various subsidiaries. It seems that this corporate group has become aware of the plus factor in marketing and is unveiling new amenities for its rooms from robes to towels to even the way beds will now be dressed. Gone are bedspreads or even comforters.

Upcoming are duvets and duvet covers — the latter to be changed with each roomies departure. Not a bad thought overall, but certainly not one to be emulated by hotels down the price ladder.

As we look over the more mainstream and even the upper-end home textiles world, we see more and more stuff that is repeated from one retailer to another — with just another nameplate or color statement to make it different when Sally Jones comes into the store.

It seems that the problem of “differentiation” stems from the fact that most retailers cut off the supply system of developing home fashions directors better than a decade ago. There are few in the pipelines that are able to come out from behind their computer screens and actually work in developing the ability to see emerging trends.

So today's “differentiation” is merely a corporate buzzword for having an item or collection as an exclusive.

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