Stop, Halt, Desist the Redundancy

Carole Sloan, Staff Staff, June 19, 2006

If nothing else emerged from Showtime in High Point, N.C., earlier this month, it was that redundancy continues to overpower the home furnishings product introductions.

Once again — and these introductions are supposed to be forward-thinking — there was more of the same stuff. Just like the home textiles market in early April, the furniture and accessories market later that month and tabletop a bit later.

The proliferation of product paralleled the redundancy issue. There was more of everything, and most everything looked like it had twin siblings or at least close cousins.

Perhaps the pithiest summation was this overheard remark: “It looked like most of the product came off the same Xerox machine.”

But pithy or not, this is an ever-increasing problem across all home product areas, and especially in the soft side of home — decorative fabrics and all the stuff that uses fabric, from furniture to sheets.

The home textiles business has about Wal-Marted itself to death. When the ceo of one of the largest retailers says there is little on the market in home textiles for his stores to differentiate themselves, so they have to do it themselves – it's a sad time for the business.

And of course, there's no way anyone will beat Wal-Mart at the price game. A dollar or two reduction on any item in this business doesn't even add up to petty cash for them.

But at the same time, the retailers that are so-called designing their own stuff are mainly feeding into the sameness syndrome.

Retailers are going to China and elsewhere, working with factories that have been blessed for one reason or another by their off-shore colleagues. But what most are getting is a variation of what that mill can produce.

The stories now are coming back about retailer-originated product that is badly speced, poorly constructed and dying on the shelves. And with direct imports, there's no fall guy to send the stuff back to. As we've asked before, who's going to eat it?

But even more important than the dollars and cents of the transaction, turning this business into something more than a price-driven activity is critical.

Too much of redundant product is not going to make home textiles sales increase.

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