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Jennifer Marks

Turn, turn, turn

I would guess there are only a handful of people in the industry who've previously had the experience of discussing new trends in home textiles and an American war abroad simultaneously.

Surprisingly, though, throughout a series of previews and conversations over the past two weeks, the drumbeat of war has sounded as an echo to the larger global issues with which the industry is grappling.

Probably the greatest challenge facing retailers and vendors this year is the disconnect between the demand for value-enriched goods to begin cycling through production more quickly, and the intricate global supply network it requires to hit such product specs. Although the industry has been steadily moving toward this goal, it has become a blazing front-burner issue now — war or no war.

This is a huge initiative for the retail industry's momentum leaders — particularly so at Wal-Mart, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and Linens 'n Things. Some are already showing an ability to execute it well (i.e., Bed Bath & Beyond), and some that have yet to strike the correct balance between elongated supply chains, decision-making by committee and faster inventory turns (i.e., nearly everybody else).

Taking a global view, and with the knowledge that no one can predict how deeply the conflict with the Middle East — and now, Iraq — will impact global sourcing, the ripple effects have already begun coursing out across the supply chain.

Some Pakistani companies reported even before the U.S. invaded Iraq that U.S. companies were beginning to divert business away to other countries because of potential political volatility in the region. Asian and Middle Eastern home textiles sellers trying to make appointments for the New York Home Textiles Market are grappling with visa issues.

State-side home textiles suppliers preparing for market are still sweating out the delivery of goods from several corners of the globe as the clock runs down for the market to get under way later this week. And, as promised earlier this year by the U.S. Customers Department, importers are confirming that small errors in paperwork are keeping their containers from moving off the docks.

On the positive side, as this page goes to press (about eight days before market), none of the major suppliers HTT has spoken with have reported appointment cancellations in reaction to the war. God willing, nothing will happen in the meantime to make anyone reconsider a trip to New York.

So let's all cross our fingers and hope for a swift resolution to conflict, for the good of the industry and the good of the world.

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