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Mired in the matrix

As this season's home textiles market opens today-the first in a long time where there is a high level of apprehension about the economy in general, and home textiles in particular-it also is appropriate to note that there's still an awful lot of prosperity in this country.

There are an awful lot of people who are buying things. But they are buying things that have a difference, a cachet, a fashion sense or even a new technology sense.

What they're not buying, except as commodity purchases, is just that: commodity products.

And unfortunately, no matter how some of the biggies in the home textiles market try to camouflage what they are doing, they are adding more and more commodity goods to the marketbasket. It may be disguised as this new marketing thrust or that, but the bottom line after close analysis is that the stuff is designed for the lowest common denominator segment of the home textiles business.

In contrast, there's a whole host of companies both at the Javits and through the various market buildings that will be showing some really terrific product, new thinking and updated ways of selling home textiles.

And for retailers that really want to differentiate themselves from the pack, there's a huge amount of good-looking, good-quality product out there that doesn't have to fit into the parameters of the commodity spin.

There's a whole lot of stuff that doesn't have to be identified as this count or that blend in sheets, this size or that poundage in towels, but instead as bed coverings that fit the beds and look really great, and towels that really feel good and dry well. And this just concerns bed and bath. We haven't even touched the window or table areas.

The unfortunate thing is that so many of the biggies in retailing are so locked into corporate supplier matrixes that their buyers no longer can walk the halls of the marketplace looking for that special item because the supplier doesn't have approval of corporate. So if they buy from the supplier, the supplier won't get paid unless approved.

Instead they walk Javits and some of the other showrooms, but their eyes and cameras are focused on how they can knock off what they see.

It would be refreshing to see some of the biggies wandering off the beaten path.

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