Out of Synch

Carole Sloan, March 28, 2005

A number of surprises, and also some not so surprising things, emerged from the Home Textiles Today annual Market Basket report (March 21 issue).

Among the surprises was the amount of U.S.-made product still on the shelves of home textiles retailers.

And that Wal-Mart and Kmart had substantial increases in U.S.-made home textiles was astounding — especially in view of the efforts each has made in the past year for direct sourcing offshore.

Kmart, in particular, with its new Essential Home launch, took much of that program offshore.

But consistent with the overall market evaluation, the group's offshore sourcing has definitely declined recently.

In fact, when looking at the number of items evaluated in the report, of 246 tabulated fewer than 20 of the suppliers cited had produced the items in the United States. And of the 246 items, seven U.S. suppliers accounted for 108 of the items cited.

Again, not surprising in view of the trend of recent years, the move to self-sourcing is more than a trend. It is a here and now thing — and definitely not going away.

At the same time, we are hearing more than a few reports of goods not arriving as ordered — both when on a direct-buy by a retailer or via a supplier based here or offshore.

What this clearly portends is the need for more intimate supply chain relationships between retailers and suppliers.

Sooner or later, folks are going to wake up to the expense implications of getting the stuff from there to here — on-time, at the quality level presumed, in the quantity programmed, as well as at the price previously determined.

At this juncture, it is clear that all four elements are not working in synch.

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