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Buyers offer high marks in spite of tough times

New York — The supplier community received high marks from most retailers who attended the New York Home Textiles Market earlier this month. Despite global conflict and economic woes, retailers reported, the vendor community stepped up with better fashion, better value and better use of global sourcing.

Wal-Mart
Dick Fish
vp, dmm, domestics

"Overall, the market looked pretty good — it was the best I've seen since spring 2001. In both bedding and bath, embellishments and other elements that added value to a product were big. It gives the customer another reason to buy it other than thread count and blend."

Bedding: "The big guys played it conservatively, while the smaller ones were doing all of the innovation, whether in embroidery, beadwork or whatever. Faux velvet was a big deal. Offshore production is also becoming more mainstream."

Bath: "The color was exceptional. And companies are looking to make towels heavier and bigger to give them more shelf appeal."

Window: "The window area stepped up a lot; there was a lot of fabric interest — [for example] sheers, denim and chenille. There was a lot of color in window this time as well. Usually it's limited to hunter green, white and such. Window hardware was interesting and added to the overall appearance. There's also an influence in purples and lavenders, driven by the world bazaar, or Marrakech, trends.

"Accessories like decorative pillows, throws and windows let the customers decorate their houses at little expense, so it's a matter of how inexpensive can you make it while still offering a great product. These types of companies will have a field day this fall; customers are responding to it already. "

JCPenney
Steve McKeever
senior buyer, bedding

Bedding: "The mix of fabrics was tremendous, including suedes, microfibers, velvets. And there was a strong move to global looks with brocade, brighter colors, beading and tassels. It was a price more than product market. "Springs was strong especially with its themed categories. The mix of fabrications at Richloom was exciting, and Pem America and Sunham were strong in quilts."

Kohl's
Chris Candee
dmm

Bedding and bath: "The biggest direction at market is the continuing amount of detailing and embroidery being added to the product, in every product category — top of the bed, towels, accent rugs, dec pillows — and it's working at retail. We even saw crochet in all categories. There were mixes in texture, and microsuede and chenille were everywhere. But there was no color direction; every color family was talked about.

"You could also really see the growth in overseas sourcing, and it either drove prices down, or added details to the products while retaining the same pricing.

"In addition, the decorative towels at Santens looked really nice. WestPoint Stevens bedding looked good, including the colors in its sheets. American Pacific continues to look good, including its Liz Claiborne launch and Dockers."

Dec pillows: Decorative pillows looked great, including the lines at Pem America. Newport looked really good. Brentwood, also — their chenille pillow program has really evolved.

Macy's West
Paul Fitzgerald
senior vp, home

Bedding: "Donna Karan was spectacular. The marriage of the new licensee [CHF Industries] and Donna is going to be phenomenal. The solid color segment of Ralph Lauren was very important. In sateen for example, they reintroduced a new price point, colors and especially important the bottom sheet depth which makes all the difference. Sheridan looked really good and with their restructuring marketing plan they mix good design and good pricing. We're doing very well with Revman's Echo program and the new items are excellent. Calvin Klein looked good.

Bath: "Except for the outstanding jacquard towels at Ralph Lauren, bath was disappointing."

Dec pillows: "We're really excited about the opportunity in designer decorative pillows. They now do seven to eight percent or up to 14 or 15 percent of an individual designer's business. We're featuring the pillows in a tower fixture next to each designer space."

Bloomingdale's
Joe Laneve
senior vp, home

Bedding: Donna Karan looked great. Waterford was just gorgeous — both in terms of the design elements and execution."

Proffitt's/McRae's
Terry Flach
gmm/home

Bedding: "Nautica looked really good, including its chino and denim ensembles. And it will cycle down its dark plaid pattern. Liz Claiborne was impressive with its offering, showing a lot of texture, but they had a lot of stuff — they had everything but the kitchen sink. The designer game is tough, and we didn't see much at Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger. However, promotional bedding looked good overall. Pem's quilt bed-in-a-bag looked fantastic."

Bath: In the bath area, the promotional area was a little soft. And the solid towel business has been really tough — no one is showing significant increases over last year. Croscill looked great — but they always look great in accessories."

Expo Design
Alan Holland
global product manager

Window: "There were more accent embellishments, rather than all over, full coverage effects. It was nice to see more companies trying different things.

"Park B. Smith's new Roman shades make it possible to do undertreatments for the Magic Pleats program. Brentwood's window program showed how much China is escalating in quality and styling, and the lower price points reflected the better quality look.

"CHF, especially with its Peri header treatments, and Croscill were a notch ahead of the market. Croscill looked strong and they filled in price points and looks. Lichtenberg's Xanadu was interesting as a stripe with spaghetti straps and pearls."

Hanover Direct
Jim Whitehead
vp, merchandising

Bedding: "Everyone was playing it safe; it was not inspiring. It was one of the weakest markets we've seen. We're geared more toward novelties and unique items, but nothing really played into that. We saw a lot of texture, and a lot of browns and blacks. We really liked the non-mill mills — Croscill, Veratex, Hollander; they looked very good. Veratex took their design to the next level, and we liked their adjustable bed skirt and covered ottoman. Hollander had good basic items. Martex's reversible bed-in-a-bag was also nice. We were disappointed in the number of foreign sources that — because of the war or visa issues — didn't make it to market. The Fieldcrest/ Cannon reintroduction was well done. The sheets with Lycra were interesting, though at its price points, we're not sure if we would do it, but we thought the concept was unique."

Lowe's Home Improvement
Robin Gelly
merchandiser, soft window

Window: "We saw lots of things we like. The biggest was continuation of sheer programs for curtains. I think CHF had a really, really broad program and Beacon Looms had a lot of new sheer additions. Everyone had a lot to offer.

"Sheers caught my eye. I was glad to see it's a trend that is not slowing down one bit. We were very impressed with CHF, Beacon Looms and Corona. Everyone we saw looked great.

"Florals [in sheers] are still very popular, also solids and textures.

"Red is still a hot color, and I'm thrilled for that. And we saw some great new colors we weren't aware of before market that we liked — like a cocoa/chocolate brown."

Strouds
Anne Fahey
vp, merchandising

Bedding: "People were showing a lot more than usual, and playing it less safe than before. There was a stronger variety at market. I was surprised at how much brown there was — I loved it. I also saw a lot of olive with copper or clay colors — carpet-friendly colors. It was also interesting to see silk is becoming a basic in the industry overall.

"The Javits show was small but good, and I wish I could have spent more time there. Sferra's Tommy Bahama's new prints had great colors. They took their best sellers and recolored them.

"Croscill was nice, with very traditional looks such as Portrait Floral. It also had nice Southwest looks that would be good for us. Sheridan looked great, including one green/coral woven bed ensemble. Veratex's adjustable bed skirt was great also, since we show a lot of double skirting.

Bath: "Veratex's bath line had a lot of texture, and a nice variety of basic items along with glamour, including mirrored accessories, called Art Deco. I loved Christy's new Medici towel, as part of Veratex's Medici bedding. And since we've done well with the bedding, this will be a natural for us.

"Kassetex's Platinum low-twist towel had nice colors and a fantastic mat. Bianca's towel line looked gorgeous, including a denim group with a cabana strip coordinate.

Table: "In table, it was nice to see all of the beading and embroidery — mats and runners are very important.

"The Nautica table linen line looked very good; it was more casual, and with suede trim or wood tile.

Window: "In window, CHF's Peri line always looks good. Croscill also had the patriot valance, which was nice."

Ballard Designs
Terry Handelman
Buyer, fabric, linens, window and upholstered furniture

Bedding and window: "The market was exciting. It was wonderful to see that resources had stepped out, both in direction and color. Since consumers have responded to color, it was very nice to see that manufacturers were offering even more. Whether a retailer chooses to embrace it and to what extent, it will be their decision.

"I was pleased to find items and design direction that fit our needs. Columbine Cody is a strong resource for us, and they had some great bedding designs.

"Oxford House had a great window pane that we will purchase in the near future.

"Creative Home is always directional in color and looked great in all categories.CGG Home Fashions had several bedding opportunities for us.

"Thomasville Home Fashions has embraced color and design and retailers have recognized this; the showroom was packed. Overall, it was a very strong market."

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