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Stability Plus Vision

This could well be a watershed market for the home textiles community. It could well be the crossroads for full-line and multi-divisional specialty stores to reallocate real estate and capital.

We're looking at a wide range of retailers with brand spanking new management — or recently anointed management — heading these critical operations.

Just look at Wal-Mart, Target, JCPenney, Kmart/Sears, Kohl's, Luxury Linens and more, with newcomers to the industry or just new management — and the issue clearly is stability plus vision.

And we're also looking at a potential — and radical — shift in the structure and pricing of the off-shore supply base.

Then there are the consolidations, mergers, and the upcoming grand programs designed to set each retailer apart from the pack, as in the Vera Wang collection of apparel and home at Kohl's, the Martha Stewart Collection at Macy's, and the '08 debut of apparel and home under the American Living banner created by Polo Ralph Lauren for JCPenney.

With all these headliner programs eating up space at more and more retailers, a key question is how much other stuff do they want or can they use on their floors.

That brings us to the mainstream of the market.

Granted there's some romance for consumers with a celebrity name, whether it is design driven or propelled by Hollywood or TV. But the question quickly rises about the longevity of the particular name, especially if it is attached to the umpteen-piece room in a bag for the lowest price of the week.

This business, for too many years, has given consumers little reason to buy our products except for price. And though some are mouthing the potential opportunities for design, upgraded pricing, better quality and the like, when it comes down to the nitty gritty, it looks like the mainstream market will focus on room in a bag at the lowest price of the week.

From conversations with suppliers prior to this week's market, it doesn't appear that this will change.

Until we get customers identifying with buying a bed ensemble for the same price they pay for their handbag or shoes — which they buy in multiple quantities — we're going to be mired in the lowest price of the week syndrome.

Could be that this is a conversation of survival for the week ahead.

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