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Jennifer Marks

Virtual hide 'n seek

A couple of months ago, the Internet management department at our publishing company did one of those clever things folks in such departments are always initiating without letting anybody else know about it. They raised HTT's profile on several key search engines — a well-intentioned move designed to make it easier for textiles people to find the publication.

However, it simultaneously made it easier for consumers to find the publication. And since they have, rarely a day goes by that we don't receive a query from someone out there who is desperately trying to find a supplier company — no easy task since most home textiles firms do not operate consumer-oriented sites.

You might assume that most of these e-mails are coming from disgruntled human beings who are trying to reach your companies so that they can either scream in your receptionist's ear or demand a refund. That is almost never the case. In fact, among all the consumer e-mails that have flooded into my mailbox these past eight weeks, only two have fallen into the "I want my money back" category.

The majority of our correspondents are looking for product, usually to add to or replace something they already have. Two examples from today's electronic mailbag:

"I purchased a kitchen towel from ShopKo a year or so ago and when I went back to purchase more just like them (because they match the theme of my kitchen/house), they were gone! I am so sad! They were a Prairie Home design with a barn and silo. Is there another distributor who might carry this same designed towel? Or can I purchase it directly? Or (I hate to ask), are they extinct? I will appreciate any help you can give me!"

"I hope you can help me with this one … I am searching all over for pieces to the Tommy Hilfiger Allington [sic] collection, which I know has been discontinued. I need shams and a king bedskirt. If nothing else, sheets to make them, or, if you can, the company that makes the fabric so I can possibly buy that. Thank you for your help."

It is amazing how closely consumers in need read those little tags on the merchandise and how much difficulty they have finding your companies. I've heard from people who are looking for Cat in the Hat bedding, Sleep Innovations memory foam pads and Joy & Jake coverlets, among many, many others.

I offer all this as a suggestion that perhaps some of you should raise your own corporate profiles on the Internet — even if all you do is post a list of retailers that carry your product.

However lonely the world may sometimes seem, I assure you that your end-users are out there. And they're looking for you.

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