Moving Ahead, but With Same-old, Same-old

Carole Sloan, October 19, 2009

As this week's market in High Point, N.C., gets underway there is a stronger sense of hope about business than has been expressed by both buyers and sellers throughout this year.

This is all well and good. Better to have a positive attitude than constantly moan and groan about the state of whatever — and goodness knows, there has been a plethora of whatevers all through this year.

But at the same time, there is a strong mood of caution on both sides of the fence. Suppliers are faced with a multitude of challenges from the still-awesome amount of distressed goods sitting around to the tightening of open to buy belts to increased demands from retailers to supply side issues including pricing, lead times, direct import versus U.S. based supply and the ever challenging issue of quality.

And on the mainstream retail side there is the ever constant pressure to lower prices. It seems in many cases this is a self-inflicted problem. One retailer decides that product X must retail for a certain price; it gets on the floor and the entire mainstream market follows suit like lemmings.

Of course, what these folks are unwilling to accept is that the quality of that product declines proportionately with the pricing.

Along with the fixation about lowering pricing, there is an apparent continuation of same-old, same-old in product selections. It may not be the exact same look in configuration, but in so many cases, the new one is a second cousin to the old one. This is hardly the way to convince Ms. Jones to dash into the store to buy the newer version of the bedding, towel or pillow.

And today there is an epidemic of direct to retail licensing programs. The brand owners see their products — and as they are today, they are products — are a money tree. Increasingly the brands are confined to a single retailer with little or no oversight involved in product, marketing, presentation and — more important — on-going updating in all areas. And more retailers are swelling the ranks of their product mix with theses brands that may or may not have relevance to today's customers.

Without mentioning names, how often have you seen on-going marketing efforts for some this industry's classic iconic brands? For the brand owners, in many cases, it appears that if the royalty minimums are achieved, all is well.

There's a whole lot more that is working behind the scenes in terms of obstacles to a full fledged recovery. But at least, there seems to be a beginning.

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