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Old Dogs Must Learn New Tricks

Jane Kitchen, Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, May 10, 2010

While researching several major projects in this issue, it became very clear that the challenges for the home textiles industry are not just a matter of who will pay what price from China, India or wherever.

More to the point, it is now a matter of understanding how the new world of instant communications is having a major impact on all elements of business.

In talking with suppliers to the hospitality market — many of whom have decades of experience in this arena — it is clear that what was top of the list in popularity just a year or so back, now has little value among that world's home textiles leadership.

A case in point: the “hotel” bed that has been emulated almost to extinction by retailers of varying degrees of quality over the last decade. As more than one home textiles supplier commented, getting rid of that “rag” at the foot of an all-white bed in a hotel room would be a major step forward.

Then there is the issue of the bevy of pillows per bed. In many cases, six to eight pillows per bed are not unusual. And as more than one supplier noted, “I throw most on the floor and put my suitcase on the white bed.” So much for the white bed syndrome, which is pervasive not just in four- and five-star hotels but significantly further down the ranks.

Any discussions of water savings and laundry efficiencies clearly go out the window with these treatments. And while this is one of the most frequently cited overdone hotel decorations, there are more that need exploring — and fixing.

On the residential side of the business, it's amazing how well-defined the generation gap is in relation to in-store selling versus the ever-expanding opportunities that have been spawned by the internet.

It seems that many of the high-end specialty retailers in the home textiles world are far removed in age from the generation that blogs, Facebooks, tweets, texts and all the other communications opportunities that are far beyond one's home phone line.

For a consumer to pick and choose among them is a given; it's also a given for them to reject the newcomers. But for any retailer that wants to hang around for another couple of years, getting with the program is nothing if not critical.

Suppliers also have a responsibility to support their retail partners. It may require a new approach to inventory management, pricing, pick and pack, and other business elements that infrequently see the light of day.

Hearing some of the responses to this challenge — many of which were not included in this issue's feature — makes one wonder about their longevity and that of many of their competitors that were not included.

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