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What's In a Name?

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, January 31, 2005

Brands!

What are brands today, especially as they are perceived by the owners and bidders for rights in the world of home textiles?

In the past, brands were national or international in scope — and, believe it or not, stood for something.

To consumers back just a decade or so ago, a brand stood for something — like perceived quality standards, a quirkiness of design, an avant garde fashion statement or any number of other things.

In fact, the irony of brand marketing keeps bringing the Cannon brand on or near the top of the consumer brand hit parade — even though there hasn't been Cannon product on the market for eons.

Many years ago, people could go to a store and ask for Brand A, and know what it was they were getting. And owners supported their brands with quality control, design control and even more important — intense marketing efforts that cost mega-bucks.

The key was a wide distribution base of like-minded retailers marketing the product under its parent's umbrella.

Fast forward to 2005 in the world of home textiles.

Today, we're looking at brand managers that are picking a retailer or two to market their brand. Yes, the distribution is pre-determined, but the reach of the brand, even with a 2,000-plus store retail giant, still doesn't give any brand a national identity — much less one that can be exported.

And as the retail “partners” become more and more demanding in terms of what they want in a product versus what the product may stand for, we are seeing the beginning of a de-specing of product quality to achieve what the retailer perceives as its needed price point and quality level.

It's an open secret in the home textiles world that some folks in remote U.S. locations are not especially concerned if all the blue towels from different suppliers come in slightly off-shade. Their customers are more concerned about price, says the industry gospel.

Looking at the tack taken by some major brand suppliers and licensors vis-a-vis retail outlets, there's little in the way of budget that can support a major brand campaign.

Looks like, once again, we're going to be talking to ourselves about brand. Customers will buy price.

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