Tying the knot with customers

Carole Sloan, February 5, 2001

Over the years, we've been writing about some of the no-brainer things retailers can do to communicate with potential customers through efforts other than coupons, and every other promotional gimmick known to mankind.

But through some other efforts, it's finally beginning to happen.

Years ago, the home textiles world-and especially the many mills-had specialists responsible for bringing the world of bed and bath and window to those very receptive customers-the bridal market.

But as mergers and the like prevailed in the last decade, any attention to this awesomely lucrative market segment virtually disappeared.

Well, it seems that little by little the retailing community is beginning to include home furnishings-and specifically home textiles-in their wedding extravaganzas.

The most recent example of this was a week or so ago in The New York Times Wedding Supplement, where retailers from ABC Carpet & Home to Bloomingdale's and sibling Macy's to Target to Fortunoff to Gracious Home all featured noted home textiles along with the more standard tabletop fare.

And over the years we have been noting the ritual called home improvement/home furnishings fairs across the country and noting the singular lack of involvement of any non-home improvement retailer.

What really drew the wow! factor in The Times' bridal supplement was the furniture-specific participation by Skully & Skully, E.J. Audi, ABC Carpet & Home, Gracious Home and even the upscale discounter Target, which promoted its Club Wedd and offers designer chairs and a host of home furnishings among its thousands of skus of home stuff.

Turning to the Albany, NY, Home Show, a few more home furnishings retailers joined the activities, but the big guns, including the very event-savvy Boscov's, Macy's, JCPenney, Bed Bath & Beyond and Filene's, were noticeably absent from the activity.

A handful of smaller retailers joined the event, including a few that rarely advertise or participate in community activities.

The roster was not abundant, but at least there are more retailers who understand that communicating with customers at these critical points in their lives offers opportunities for long-time relationships, not just a quick sale.

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