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Changing Times Ahead

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, June 1, 2009

There's an interesting set of what could be called contradictions taking place in the world of home textiles.

As the economic recovery begins to take place both globally and within this marketplace, certain things are beginning to become clear. The first is that things in the home textiles business will never be done the same way as they were even just a few short months ago.

One of the clearest is that many of the big players are looking to format their home textiles world as they do in apparel. It's a trend that has been percolating a bit here and there over recent years. But talking with a broad cross section of suppliers indicates that more and more of the biggies are looking to fashion goods as in and out programs with no replenishment — or very little.

This could be a plus for suppliers who in recent years have been plagued with not only chronic retailing misses on needs, but also enormous costs in terms of replishment challenges.

But then here are the negatives. Unlike in apparel where Ms. Jones will buy an outfit or put together one from a number of options — and do it at the same time — there is the strong likelihood that Ms. Jones may buy part of a bed ensemble and come back a month or more later to buy another piece or two, only to find it no longer exists.

Next is the challenge of defining what is meant by "fashion bedding" when used in the same breath as value, promotional, and basics. It appears that these terms are being co-mingled to the point that confusion will certainly be part of the equation.

On the plus side is the hint that we may be moving away from the more-pieces-the-better formula in decorative bedding. Whether from a price perspective or the realization that customers need a wheelbarrow to get the humongous packages out of the store, there seems to be a trend toward 12 pieces or less. Of course, this also is a reflection of how retailers can champion lower prices, aka value.

Interestingly, from the suppliers' viewpoint at this time, back-to-school may be the key turning point, with a number forecasting a strong BTS period.

As we move into 3Q it will be interesting to follow these forecasts into reality.

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