Needed: A Design Revival at Retail

Carole Sloan, December 19, 2005

More than once — in fact a whole lot of times — in the past few weeks, conversations have gotten around to the increasing sameness that appears to have invaded the world of home textiles retailing. Last week I did a retail run in High Point, N.C., and I spent a recent Saturday doing the stores in New York, to get the idea about what's doing in home textiles.

God, what a bore!

The level of sameness from retailer to retailer is overwhelming and appears to have accelerated over the past year. It certainly must be playing a growing role in the general lack of consumer shopping enthusiasm in this business. It seems that with the emergence of retailers as design mavens, the self-sourced product is getting to look alike across the board. Everyone appears to have the same inspiration or design muse that is replicated over and over again, and at any price point, with the last rendition out being the cheapest.

Now that the holiday gift and decorating times are upon us, heating bills are coming due and other factors are impacting buying, home textiles are likely to slow down even more.

A recent story in USA Today detailed the spending Americans do on holiday decorating. No, they weren't referring to holiday bedding or towels. But yes, included were table linens among the lights, lawn décor, banners and wreaths. The study compared 2004 with 2003; the grand total — some $13.4 billion — began with Christmas/Hanukkah racking up the lion's share at $7.9 billion. The list was detailed down to Cinco de Mayo at $100 million: nothing to sneeze at even there.

There's something wrong with this picture, when we see that a holiday lawn decoration can cost as much or more than today's pricing on a queen-size comforter set, and when the holiday décor total equates to about half of the home textiles industry's total sales.

Perhaps the retail pundits in home textiles need to step back, re-evaluate and begin anew.

The New Year would be a good time to begin. Have a great one!

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