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Definitive designs

Don Hogsett, Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, April 15, 2002

As this market week begins, things seem to be on more of an uptick than last October but also significantly better than the April market last year.

A year ago, many were in denial that the economy had gone south.

And between April 2001 and this week, so much has happened in terms of retail players, the supplier side of the business, the global economy and how all of these elements are affecting specific product areas as well as retailing in general.

The changes are awesome, at minimum. And there is no sense that the changes will temper or slow down.

Just look at the world of sheeting, thread counts and how one identifies what that count is or should be, its benefits via processing, technology and the like, and what the components of what a well-made bed should be.

And in the world of bedding, the marketplace definitely has moved to "sets."

A few years ago, retailers were aghast at the concept; today it is a no-brainer.

In towels, there are still reverse auctions, but there is also the "puff" factor. Towels are being touted for quality because they puff higher than their competitors, an element that is praised for its consumer appeal without substantiation of quality and performance, but also because the puff guys will need to use fewer skus to fill a towel wall, thereby offering retailers a lower inventory purchase.

So where are we as this market opens?

Definitely at a point where the influence of off-shore sourcing moves bed ensembles from their long-held look as oversized pillow cases, devoid of thinking, fashion flair and creativity.

Definitely at a cross-roads where companies are rethinking the numbers game of thread counts, definitely where something other than superheavy top-of-bed fabrics are coming into play.

Definitely in a new world of window coverings. The big guys are being challenged by new kids on the block, and are themselves challenging age-old interpretations.

Definitely in a world of decorative pillows that move well beyond the basics into deliciously embellished treatments, multi-pieced configurations.

And definitely in rugs that offer fashion, quality, whimsy, and much good-looking design.

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