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It's a Wrap: Market week robust

Retail Editor 4 -- Home Textiles Today, September 27, 2013

New York - The mood was strongly positive during the New York Home Fashions Market this week and attendance appeared to be healthy. Some suppliers reported full schedules running through the end of the day Thursday and a few even have appointments today.
Retailers continue to talk about cautious consumer spending and forecasters are predicting a modest holiday season, but in a notable departure from recent markets, suppliers are moving to address an improving economy.
With an eye on the recovering housing market, some suppliers here this week added better goods to their assortments and bumped up price points, albeit selectively. This up-specing signals a break from the steady post-recession period of relentless down-sizing and product deconstruction. The introduction of better goods is occurring across a variety of product categories and in constructions as diverse as linen and, of all things, microfiber.
Will retailers bite? We'll know in a few weeks.
One trend that seems destined strengthen is Made in the USA. The industry has grown more comfortable with the idea of slapping an America flag on products that are only partially assembled in the country from fabrics produced off-shore. True, there is some capacity being added domestically, but it tends to be highly automated.
Wal-Mart's Made in the U.S. commitment no doubt is helping to fuel the action, but suppliers say bringing back a small portion of manufacturing is beginning to make financial sense. Emphasis on "small." Expect announcements about new initiatives and expanded capacities over the coming months.
In bedding, we may be on the brink of another quilt era. The category has always been cyclical - exploding at retail only to be quickly down-speced and driven into the shadows again. Enough vendors brought quilts to the fore here this week to suggest the product is again in ascent. Designs are largely print-driven with embellishments as opposed to pieced - or pieced-looking prints.
In terms of which motif is just beginning to peep up, the nod goes to modernized toiles. The new iterations are less heavy than classic toiles, they're printed on more open grounds, and they tend to feature more contemporary subject matter than the pastoral European imagery of old.
Digital printing is gaining traction as seen in window and shower curtains in particular. The looks are predominately novelty, but not entirely. Abstracts made from manipulated imagery tend to be the non-novelty direction for the technique.

Color abounded along with medallions, Spanish tile-like looks, grassy greens, orange with fuchsia a la Marrimekko, Scandinavian-type lines, and bistro-inspired cloths. At the same time, there was broad use of gray as a nuetral. Embellishments were more textural and embroideries were used more often as accent notes rather than all-overs. While sheet specialists put a lot of focus on performance fibers, HTT also saw some interesting play with new forms of hem-stitching and inserts where sheets were part of fashion bedding sets.
A noteworthy amount of new merchandise was introduced for outdoor use. More manufacturers of pillows, pads, curtains and rugs are getting into the game. Where a lot of outdoor product has consisted of treating an existing floral or leafy print to stand up to the elements, this week saw a few companies creating designs specifically for outdoor settings. In addition, kitchen and table linens producers are jumping in, promising to bring a higher element of style to the backyard barbeque.
JCPenney's recovery remains a cause of concern for many suppliers, but the re-transformation opens opportunities for vendors who were frozen out of the unsuccessful reconceptualizing of the home department that rolled out three months ago. So does Ralph Lauren's decision to exit the opening price point business at department stores. In addition, TJX, Stein Mart and Pier 1 have recently or are about to get into ecommerce, creating more selling space - if only virtually. And while online remains a small part of the overall retail business, suppliers say it's still the fastest growing channel out there.

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