Points From High Point

Don Hogsett, Carole Sloan, October 25, 2004

Having spent the last two-plus weeks immersed in markets for different segments of the home furnishings world, one thing is certain — in a spin on the old-time song “Georgia on My Mind,” the home world seems to be singing “China on My Mind.”

And the High Point market was no exception. It was not just furniture folks there who were trying to sort out what is happening and how to handle the scenario, but it was a swath of suppliers from home textiles companies, to lighting and decorative accessories, to fabrics and even the basic ingredients like fibers and yarns.

The situation was not much different from the challenges facing everyone at the New York Home Textiles Market earlier this month.

What seems to be clearing up is that nothing in this manufacturing process — whether from China, Pakistan, India, Vietnam or wherever — will be simple for the near term.

But it is here, and here to stay — regardless of the country of origin. Not everyone is convinced that China will continue to be the center of the offshore supplier base. As a number of executives have said, the machines can easily be moved from country to country.

Regardless of the future, the present is simple. Suppliers at whatever level are going to be situated wherever their customers are making product. And that is showing up from the fiber level on to the finished product — quite a radical transformation in just a few years.

Not only are we now looking at finished product coming in bed and bath home textiles, but there are more and more furniture suppliers sending in the containers of sofas, chairs, dining tables and more.

But even more interesting is the emerging development that will allow bulky products — from comforters to mattresses to sofas — to be compressed to trim back the shipping charges and bulk. It's a direction that could well aid the balance of what's left in American manufacturing.

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