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A Fresh Focus

Carole Sloan, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, March 23, 2009

It was an interesting New York Home Fashions Market earlier this month.

For one thing, there were quite a few more smiling faces on the supplier side than in recent past markets — even though both the macro and micro market conditions wouldn't have forecast anything of the kind.

For at least a half dozen suppliers in a very preliminary spot-check, this was the best market in terms of response in a number of years. Of course, this mood now has to be translated into actual orders. Therein lies the rub!

On the supplier side, there was an appreciable awareness that focus, not scatter shot marketing, was the new operating mantra. It was apparent in many showrooms that a tight focus was the key. Define what we are presenting, execute it to the nth degree and work out the marketing and statistical details on a one-on-one basis with specific retail accounts.

On the retail side, there was a quiet — yes, very quiet — recognition by some of the star players that they have been caught up in the retail frenzy of rationalizing inventories, facing customer reluctance to buy because of the economy.

The result, for almost a half year, has been a drastic, radical cutback in new product on retail floors. The result — consumer apathy at looking at the same old, same old whether it be home textiles, housewares, tabletop or whatever.

Consumers didn't want the stuff when it first was put on the store floors, and even with the incredible discounts that followed, they were not enticed by price.

As one senior merchant was saying, "We had nothing fresh and new to entice her as we were preoccupied with getting rid of 'safe' inventory and letting our floors get stale-looking."

This month's market in New York reflected some of this recognition of what partially contributed to the retail debacle that has been with the market for a half year. It won't turn around overnight, but this month seems to have been a beginning.

Some of the potential hot spots include embroideries as a fashion statement for window and bedding, organic when matched to fashion looks and quality, color vs. no-color, and most interestingly — energy savers that are fashion- and quality-right as well.

Let's hope some of this optimism turns into reality.

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