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One to grow on

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, May 20, 2002

It's finally setting into the brains of some moguls in the home textiles world. Kids are worth more than the sandpaper-finished sheets the industry has been putting them to sleep on for decades.

As we have mentioned before, parents spend thousands of dollars on their kids' health and education, but this marketplace has been focused on selling them the cheapest and bottom-quality stuff for bed and bath. And until recently, the parents have bought into the program. It has to be a contradiction of viewpoint or something.

And even more interesting, the breadth of product for kids in home textiles is ever-expanding in terms of not just the practical stuff, but also the fun stuff — the accessories, the rugs, the sleeping bags, the lamps and picture frames, the tote bags and the whatever.

Just recently two key specialty retailers — Linens 'n Things and Toys "R" Us — unveiled new and upgraded kids home areas. They're offering a plethora of product — and Mervyn's also has joined the new wave of kids merchandising.

After the most recent home textiles market, a number of retailers pointed to CHF Industries and the Disney program at WestPoint Stevens that dramatically expanded the reach of product beyond typical bed and bath, in addition to the Dan River bedding and the upper end Peacock Alley program as really important moves that will accelerate the exposure of better kids home textiles stuff on the marketplace.

This is not a "pick on the department stores" column, but not one of the key executives I've talked with since the home textiles, furniture and tabletop markets have expressed any special feelings about the kids arena.

There's lots of turf issues involved, and until senior management — like the gurus at the corporate headquarters or the divisional level —- step into the fray, kids at home in department stores will be underserved and put in tiny pieces in the back of whichever department the specific product relates to.

Kids is an opportunity waiting to happen for home textiles merchants. Someone will grab the opportunity.

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