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Facing the Challenge

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, April 25, 2005

As the retail landscape continues to evolve, one thing becomes certain — there are increasing challenges in terms of distribution, product development and sourcing.

And more than ever, the home textiles marketplace appears to be feeding off the same pundits of design, color and fabric direction.

What is happening is that the extremes between companies like Wal-Mart and Neiman Marcus — and all the others that fall in between — are looking at the same places for inspiration.

And as the global sourcing scenario levels the playing field, it will become ever more difficult to quantify the quality of products at the upper end.

Increasingly, the look of the upper end is being emulated — not necessarily replicated in technique and quality — by more mainstream suppliers and retailers.

Both in New York at the home textiles market and in High Point, N.C., at the International Home Furnishings Market in the past weeks, home textiles products followed similar, but not the exact same, looks and quality constructions.

But it was enough to cause a pause as retailers walked the showrooms and aisles of the open show spaces in terms of what to buy, what quality levels and price points.

And as the confinement/distribution issue becomes as critical as it is today, the elements of product development, innovation, design and forward thinking could well take a back seat in this business.

Even with the Zara's and H&M's in the apparel world snapping at the heels of the fashion and quality leaders, there still is a separation of time and product.

Hopefully the home textiles world will not morph into the lowest common denominator syndrome of marketing.

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