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Doin' the real estate rag

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, November 3, 2003

With all the hoopla over new designers and companies entering the home furnishings arena, one wonders where all their stuff is going to go.

As is typical, much is earmarked for the department store channel, based in large measure on the amount of real estate these folks have from top-to-bottom. Think 10 to 15 departments before you get to the home world — and then it makes sense for the limited distribution.

Unfortunately, store walls are not elastic. So something has to give, and at this point it seems that those who lose are the small guys, some of whom have innovative product — but no vendor number and little open-to-buy for floor space and other required perks.

"Something's Gotta Give" was a long ago tune, and the question is who will lose out as the denizens of department storeland embrace the new Kate Spade collection — and a number of other initiatives that are coming into the home textiles world.

Ralph Lauren is intensifying its Lauren Ralph Lauren program with new bath accessories, CHF is exploding its bath accessories with more Nick Munro and other collections, Springs has taken on bath accessories as a major focus, and Croscill and Veratex are hot and heavy in all these arenas. Joseph Abboud is moving hot and heavy with bed and bath enhancements.

Then there are the programs upcoming like the Oscar de la Renta bedding at Rose Tree and a host of others — announced and rumored.

Where they all are going to find homes is the critical issue. The department stores and big boxes are pitted against one another in a survival mode — to the point where a premier licensed program will not allow its retail customers to photograph the product in case the photos migrate to a vendor and to a competitive channel.

Then we look at the mass merchant channel and even there it's getting a bit crowded. The marts are tripping over each other to pick up exclusives — and with challenges that each faces, whether in presentation, marketing or simple follow-through, it will be a tough thing to keep up with.

And then we have the ultimate situation of the competing divas — Chris Madden and Colin Cowie at JCPenney — Wow!

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