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The Consumer of Today

The economy is a mess. Consumer credit levels are escalating. There is a war. Oil prices are out of hand. The dollar is devalued. Energy costs are rising sharply.

Does the scenario sound familiar? It should if you have a bit of gray in your hair — or hair on your head.

In reality, theses were major situations reported on in Volume 1, Number 1 of Home Textiles Today in September 1979. This week we celebrate our 30th anniversary with a separate issue that takes look back with pictures from times gone by.

Yes, the economy was in turmoil. In '79 we were just beginning to emerge from the '74/'75 recession. You could only get gas for your car on alternate days depending on the last digit of your license plate. Escalating energy costs spurred the development of lined draperies and even interlined draperies.

Consultants were advising retailers and manufacturers of home products (yes, there were U.S. manufacturers of home products then) that they should forget the past and focus on the emerging 30-somethings who would dominate the consumer base in the '80s.

Fast forward 30 years and the mess we're in is fairly, but not completely, the same. Oil, energy and consumer credit levels are again front and center concerns.

There's a new consumer who wants everything now, not in days, weeks or months.

This is the challenge that many consumer product suppliers and retailers have yet to sort out.

One thing is for sure in the home textiles world: This business will not grow and prosper doing the same old, same old of recent years. This new consumer is not impressed with what the industry has been offering in terms of quality, innovation in fabric and styling and pricing that forces all involved to follow the path to the lowest common denominator.

Perhaps the industry needs to look beyond its borders for design inspiration and product development — or at the very least, unleash the best and brightest to lead the way.

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