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Back-to-School Fail

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, September 3, 2010

BY NOW ANYONE with access to the myriad forms of contemporary communications must be aware that the highly anticipated surge in back-to-school business has just not happened. Even in a cave, anyone with one of multiple forms of communications now can tuck this vital piece of information into their memory banks.
     Back-to-school has been touted by retailers, Wall Street and other eminent seers of retailing as the "bird in a mine signal" of health in the U.S. economy. Unfortunately the bird is in a major health crisis.
     When you analyze the promotional efforts of the key retailers in home textiles, with few exceptions are there efforts that speak directly to this very short-windowed season. Remarkably, there have been few product promotions featuring twin/twinXL, a fast disappearing size primarily designed for college dorms.
     But looking at today's offerings, there seem to be a paucity of products geared to the college crowd in home textiles particularly, and throughout the home world specifically, in general.
     And this leads to a bigger observation about the way home textiles are perceived at senior retail management levels and all the way down that food chain.
"Anyone with access to the myriad forms of contemporary communications must be aware that the highly anticipated surge in back-to-school business has not happened."
     Just running through a couple of week's worth of major retail newspaper ads, circulars and the like, there seems to be no rhyme or reason for some of this stuff to be advertised and featured, other than space needed to be filled.
     Without embarassing those participating in these activities, the companies will remain unidentified.
     Can anyone possibly explain how a customer is to feel that the 16- or 20-piece bed ensemble at $69.99 for the queen will make her dreams come true, when in the same circular a 6- or 8-piece bed ensemble is $74.99? All the ad reveals is a canned bed ensemble with just those bare bones pieces of information with specs as to the specific pieces included in this great price bonanza.
     Then we have another major retail powerhouse whose recent circular featured three different sheet sets - at price points from $12.99 to $14.99 to $49.99 - the first two in twin sizes, the third in queen - the first two hailed as easy care, the third as wrinkle free. Any guesses what these words mean?
     Maybe this economy should serve as a call to reanalyze how - or whether - this business is marketed and merchandised, two words that seem to have evaporated from the home textiles lexicon.
     Remember spring 2011 is a mere few weeks away.

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