September 6, 2004,
Well, it's just about a month before we begin the semi-annual ritual called Market Week.
The big guns, many contend, use Market Week more for conversation and policy enunciation than for buying product. The latter activity, they claim, is an ongoing process —taking place 12 months a year.
This is not the first time that the validity of Market Week has been challenged. But the other challenges were well before the home textiles universe turned topsy-turvy. In that other era, challenges also were made to the locale of Market Week, and what the process should involve.
Now as a number of major retail players in the home textiles arena are analyzing how they best should position this business, and the challenges resulting from the Asian supplier domination soar, new theories are emerging.
As one key retail player remarked, “It's amazing how things have changed … the lifetime of a product is shorter, the lead time to get it is longer.”
One of the most frequently discussed theories is the ready-to-wear model that has captured that segment of retailing in recent years.
Simply put, it boils down to this: bring the stuff in, sell it at regular price for a short period, mark it down, and bring on the new, once again.
Some of those who have been analyzing this approach note that the ready-to-wear model assumes that fashion changes some four times a year.
In home textiles, that would be a major assumption, even an exaggeration of what might be achievable.
But back to Market Week. Many in this industry are so preoccupied by dealing with the Top 20, then many others at the retail level are looking for newness, freshness, and a differentiation from the Marts and big boxes.
There are many suppliers making a terrific living catering to these folks. And they need a Market Week to communicate with their customers.
But with today's technology, there should be a way to deal with the various constituencies that make up the home textiles business. But the person-to-person involvement will still be crucial.