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Risk ... and reward

Carole Sloan, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, November 10, 2003

It's time to dust off a column that's been written more than once or twice in the almost 25-year history of Home Textiles Today.

Many trees have been felled to make the paper that housed those columns about the kids biz.

So here goes one more time — sorry, trees.

The telling point, once again, is in the numbers — both dollars and thread counts.

What suppliers believe that the kids biz should offer in terms of sheet construction is based on the price-driven mindset of their retailing customers — many of whom spend five figures a year sending their kids to the best schools, untold dollars for orthodontia, even more uncatalogued dollars for sports activities, social events and private tutoring.

And then they put these kids to sleep at night on muslin — yes, muslin, aka sandpaper in bed. Even the family pets — with special beds costing as much as $1,000 per - sleep better. Just check an LL Bean catalog to see how much you could spend on Fido this holiday season.

Walking through showrooms during September's home textiles market, discreet questions about the construction of the sheets that were layered under the many great designs of the top of the bed drew mostly the same response.

Retailers were very price sensitive because customers tend to look at kids stuff as short lived — therefore stuff that has to be cheap enough to pitch out a year or two hence.

Asking further questions brought forth the answers that non-home textiles spending for kids notwithstanding, few retailers were adventuresome enough to market the better products with a raison d'etre.

Everyone just assumes mom in Peoria won't spring for better goods for the kids if they were told about the benefits — rather than this week's absolute lowball bottom price.

Yes, there are some in retailing who are taking the "risk" — and many are learning that the better stuff is more than viable. They're even making money on the better stuff.

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