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New York: Fount of Fashion

Wal-Mart: Welcome to New York — fashion capital of the United States.

With the recent news that gigantic Wal-Mart, despite its challenges in the world of apparel fashion, will locate its new apparel maven in New York, and is expanding its presence in terms of bodies and space with a newly reorganized fashion office, the city gets another powerful acknowledgement of its impact on the retailing community.

It's another colossal vote of the impact in home as well, not just from a product development perspective, which is key, but also as a critical venue for watching trends in fashion and retailing.

Virtually every retailer coming to shop the home textiles showrooms in New York sets aside time for shopping — not just their competitive retailers, but those up and down the price and fashion leadership ladders.

More than ever, my pre-market calls are from retailers wanting an itinerary for store shopping. It's been a standard market-time request for years.

It's not just the design talent that becomes scarce when the retail fashion centers migrate to faraway places. It's the support systems — all the myriad elements that go into producing top flight product, no matter what the price. Computers can do only so much.

Just look at what has been happening in recent years. Kohl's expanded its presence in New York, including in its home area. And Sears joined sibling Kmart in moving its fashion office to New York from the corporate home base in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

One only has to look back to when JCPenney went south to Plano, Texas in the '80s, and how that impacted what was then a burgeoning "apparel fashion initiative" developed in its former New York headquarters.

Even today, JCP's newest product development blockbuster statement — American Living — is being planned and programmed in New York under the very intense supervision of the Polo Ralph Lauren group.

And for those with long memories, think back to the days when the rug guys moved to Dalton, Ga. but took along few of their design/product development teams. That did not bode well for the industry, which later revisited the metro New York area for design leadership.

It's a fact of life, and hopefully we'll see more fashion-driven home products emerging from each of these major retailers — as well as from their suppliers that are based here.

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