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What's in a Name (Brand)?

Martha, Vera, Nina and soon, Ralph. These are the headliners that are expected to bring new vigor to the home business at retail in the months to come — not just home textiles but across the board in housewares, tabletop, rugs, and even furniture.

The energy and expenditure that these retailers — Macy's, Kohl's, Stein Mart and JCPenney, respectively — are expending is awesome in terms of developing the products, expediting production flow, and bringing them to market.

But the key for each in terms of success is execution. And for some retailers, execution is often illustrated by the lesser of the two definitions. The stakes are too high for each of these retailers in terms of needed results to be a failure at any level, in terms of execution on the sales floor or in their marketing efforts.

The breadth of these programs in several instances is so extensive that other market-viable products in each of the home areas are potentially being abandoned. After all, the walls of the stores are not elastic.

From early reports, consumers will be given only the option of this design maven or that one and little else on a category-by-category basis, since the reach of the collections is so broad.

What used to be one of the key roles of a buyer — finding the next hot item or category — now seems to be relegated to a secondary slot on the floor: filling in the holes left by the big corporate brand name effort.

It's one thing to have an exclusive and make it work. But there's also a lot of stuff out there in the market that is in danger of being ignored in the interest of funding these headliner programs — and along the way, diluting buyer attention and interest.

While designer-specific programs are not new to retailing, the current wave of all-encompassing product offerings and domination of classifications will provide a new read on the trend.

To those involved, here's hoping it delivers the salvation anticipated.

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