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Taking a Closer Look

Now that we've all gone beyond the "market frenzy" and into the mode of style-outs and the like at retail, it's time to take a deep breath and really understand what is going on in the home textiles world.

Actually, it's not so much different from other home worlds, especially in the furniture and tabletop arenas. The major differences are size of market and ownership — the latter being the many venture capitalists that targeted those businesses as places to make a financial killing. And in many instances they did, though the companies themselves may now no longer be in existence — or if they are, under new owners that bought on the cheap and expect to sell way high.

In the home textiles world we are seeing suppliers — in most cases, we no longer can call them manufacturers — looking at alternative avenues for distribution, as well as new ownership. For some the choice is a matter of holding on to the family's finances; for others, it truly is a survival issue.

For what seems like eons, the holy grail of the supplier community's retail quest was the top 10 or 15 of the Home Textiles Today Retail Giants annual survey of the top 50 retailers in this business.

In today's world, theses folks are not enough. There's too much in terms of "give-backs" as well as other impediments in getting timely merchandise to market. As vendor after vendor remarked during market, with some of the biggest on the Top 15 cited among the worst of the stallers.

The stall? A test of 20 to 50 stores for a couple of months. If the product moves well, expand it three or four fold, and if it really goes well, do a major rollout. What this means in time frame is close to a year on a design that is supposed to be fashion-forward or product innovative. By then, the parade has passed by for fashion, and the rest of the market has the "innovation" in its own interpretations.

The result is that in the last several months we have been in conversations with suppliers actively exploring new venues for distribution. Just this week, a seasoned home textiles rep was telling me — an internet ignoramus — about the luxury websites that are growing by leaps and bounds. Already, suppliers have their own branded or incognito websites "primarily for closeouts or overstocks" and others are actively pursuing new — for them — retailing outlets from kids stores to dollar/bargain retailers, to small boutiques and even tie-ins with restaurants, food emporia and other exotic opportunities.

It will be interesting to see what HTT's Retailing Giants lineup will be in the next couple of years. The change will be dramatic and fast!

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