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Jennifer Marks

The Match Game '03

Matchy-matchy. Great expression. Hideous decorating concept. Well, no. Not as far as a lot of American shoppers are concerned.

As noted in this space previously, HTT receives email requests on daily basis from consumers trying to run down a particular piece of merchandise to match a pattern they've already bought. A curtain to go with the bedding. Slipcovers to go with the window panels. Decorative pillows to go with the slipcovers. Chair pads to go with the tablecloth. Cloth napkins to go with the chairpads.

It's a matchy-matchy world out there.

And no wonder. For a lot of people, it's just too challenging to coordinate a bunch of disparate stuff — especially when shoppers are forced to run from one department in the big box to another. Many of them have neither the time nor the confidence to pull it all together themselves.

Shop concepts, as students of retailing know, don't always serve the purpose. The short-lived Dekor chain that launched in Atlanta three years ago was fabulously merchandised by lifestyle concept across a range of product categories. It survived only a few months.

When it comes to shops, unless a retailer has a fully realized Nautica-style hit on its hands, it's got a whole lot of unproductive space creating a dead zone on the floor.

Ironically, the one department where chain retailers are doing the best job of presenting fully coordinated merchandising statements is in juvenile. Consider Linens 'n Things' LNT Jr. department, which offerings bedding sets, small furniture and storage pieces, wall décor and games.

Kids "R" Us makes a similarly cross-merchandised department the centerpiece of some of its stores. Wal-Mart's Home Trends for Kids encompasses bedding, bath, and wall borders. Target's Restore and Restyle department marries small pieces of ready-to-assemble furniture with accessories such as hooks, knobs, rugs and decorative pillows.

Most of this simply boils down to a smartly assorted, vertically merchandised and well-coordinated display strategy. The heart sings to behold it.

Which begs the question of why we grown-ups can't receive similar guidance.

Suppliers, bless their avaricious hearts, have really stepped up to the plate on this score. In recent months, more suppliers have spun off more new coordinate product categories — hard and soft — than could ever be enumerated here. Most of it won't get picked up, of course, but the industry deserves points for trying.

There are no easy answers. For every consumer who would benefit from a top-to-bottom ensemble presentation, there's another who really just wants to see as many sheet sets in as many colors as possible.

Coded coordinate tags salted across departments might help. So would "May we suggest?" handouts that point shoppers toward coordinate possibilities. This type of thing is already being done on many retail Web sites. So far, little of it has migrated to the store.

Which leaves the befuddled consumer with but a single mantra to shop by: matchy-matchy.

Other Home Furnishings Sites

Casual Living
Gifts and Decorative Accessories
Home Accents Today
Kids Today
Home & Textiles Today