Where are we headed?

Carole Sloan, February 9, 2004

Is the home textiles world really coming to a massive rupture?

We've all seen the Asian invasion, and there are those that are still in denial on that subject, while others are attempting to bring the positives and negatives to a meeting point.

Now we have some major changes in the retailing world that should make the supplier base in home textiles sit up and take notice.

First and foremost was the announcement last week by Federated Department Stores that it would be combining all its buying functions for home in a new division based in New York called Macy's Home Store.

Depending on how the company executes the plan, it could be as stereotyped as the May Co's with its lowest common denominator for products.

Or it could be like JCPenney which has moved back to a central buying system with some semblance of product differentiation and direction.

Or it could be what seems to be an exuberant approach to differentiation on the part of the Sak's Department Store group. These folks seem to be pushing the home furnishings card more than most.

Then there's Dillard's, which we understand is trying to extricate itself from the doldrums it has been in with new product — now mostly in apparel, but expected in home.

And as we look on the supplier side, the big kahuna is the group of brands from Pillowtex, and how, why, to whom, and when they will go.

There is much conversation about the viability of these brands, the aging of them and the need for top-flight marketing.

It appears there has been too much gossip about these brands, about who might have the exclusives on which, and on and on. So far, in total, there is zip.

In a parallel situation, there is an auction upcoming this month for Leslie Fay. It seems there are a lot of folks interested in these longtime apparel brands.

These are parallel scenarios — wonder who will come out ahead?

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