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A Good Feeling Ahead of Market

Jennifer MarksJennifer Marks EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
THERE'S A GOOD feeling going into market this week.
     Yes, cotton and feather prices are still troublesome. The economic news does little to elevate one's spirits, and heaven only knows where the consumer's head will be eight months from now. Hopefully, a few more of them will be employed and thinking about redoing their interiors.
     But, as I noted in last week's column, a surprising number of suppliers have a reasonable amount of their new products in ahead of market - perhaps a reaction to the container shortages earlier this year. So far, the mood seems upbeat.
     We've got another round of brands new to the home textiles category, and most that I've seen or been told about so far make sense.
"We've got another round of brands new to the home textiles category, and most that I've seen or been told about so far make sense."
     We're also seeing some category expansion as suppliers look to reach into new channels of distribution. More suppliers are waking up to the outdoor living market, especially for cushions and window, but also kitchen and table. Suppliers are also creating items that can comfortably service the travel market - kits with eye masks, slippers, throws, etc.
     And there is growing interest in the new online membership club channel, where "luxury at a discount" is king. One supplier who plays in that arena told me while the discounts are steep, the margins are much better than the average. The channel embraces brands ( was featuring Tommy Hilfi ger Home last week), but also offers made-up brands (e.g., The Versailles Collection) if the quality level and moniker are right.
     From early looks around the market, there appears to be an effort going on to reinvigorate the quilt category as a better/best fashion segment. This is further borne out by Bloomingdale's new home book, which provides a robust offering of top-of-the-line fashion quilts from a variety of countries.
     I'm also starting to see, here and there, a few companies that had previously fl own below the radar who have decided the time is right to raise their profile. Several offshore manufacturers have begun adding capacity this year and others have outlined plans to follow suit. In the United States, American Textile Company recently opened a new offi ce down south for R&D, staffed with veterans from the U.S. mill world. So while the immediate health of retailing is still a bit uncertain, a lot of companies seem to banking on the idea that improvement lies ahead.