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Homogenized Hometextileland

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, June 18, 2007

It all starts with the design and fabric in hometextileland. At least, that's the way the whole product development cycle was supposed to start, and move progressively forward through the production cycle to the retail store floor.

More and more in this combative market atmosphere, it's not even a matter of choosing sides in terms of design direction and product development. Retailers, with or without credentials for these activities, are making demands on suppliers that many times have nothing to do with the reality of design world direction — nor of the reality of product development and production.

It seems that in today's highly competitive market scene, creativity is taking a back seat to having a similar thing that a competitor has that supposedly is moving out of the store. In this era, emulation — or dead knock-off — is the highest form of flattery.

Listening to the corporate cop-outs on monthly or quarterly reports, the honchos have consistently pointed to the lack of direction, design and innovation in the home areas as the reason why their home businesses either are in a slide or just plain stink.

As the key retail players have built up their "product development and design teams," they have brought with them enormous ego situations. A design-driven supplier's blue "isn't the shade we want" or the "flower is turned the wrong way" are among the many critiques that derail more programs than keep them on track.

Yes, price points are important — but there is no statistic that says that the American consumer will not pay a bit more for something she really likes in terms of design and quality. Much of this price point focus is largely an internal function at retail. And much of today's home textiles product is delivered to Mrs. Jones as the result of what retailers see as their competitive challenges.

Showtime in High Point earlier this month certainly was a platform for seeing this direction. The roster of retail home textiles players was significantly down from prior Showtimes, and the ones attending were typically trying to emulate what a competitor had already brought to the forefront.

It's no wonder home textiles is not the favored kid in the retail world.

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