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Selling to the other side

Gary Evans -- Home Textiles Today, September 8, 2003

Someone's finally getting it.

"It" is the concept that home textiles can be a prosperous business outside the narrow confines of conventional home textiles retailing.

It's been a decade or so that many suppliers of home textiles have been bemoaning what they consider fact: If you don't sell the Top 10 on Home Textiles Today's Top 50 retailers, you basically can't succeed.

For that period of time, my response has been "Poppycock" or — to those who know me better — something not printable in this publication.

The people who are getting "it" are the folks interviewed by HTT's Andrea Lillo at last month's Gift Show in New York, each of whom has found strong sales and profit potential outside the basic realm of what we now refer to as conventional home textiles retailers.

These are folks that have discovered of all things the retail furniture community, which now has a formal liason with home textiles from Sferra via the Drexel Heritage license for the book and movie "Under the Tuscan Sun." And just consider this, there's no need to plead for vendor matrix status.

This program, while formalizing a relationship and theme, is not unique for home textiles in the retail furniture community. There are dozens of suppliers, big and small, targeting this segment of the retail community.

Formal home textiles involvement in the furniture retailing community goes back several decades to when Fieldcrest tried to bring a bedding program to market, but failed for a number of reasons — delivery being among the most critical.

So far the approaches are as fragmented as the furniture industry itself. But at least there are those suppliers that are looking to differentiate with more than conventional home textiles retailing.

Then there are those joining companies already involved in producing proprietary home textiles used by marquee hotels. These textiles are then sold by them at quality levels that have inspired home textiles retailers and suppliers to introduce "hotel" collections that emulate — not duplicate — the products' quality levels.

And quietly, but with increasing clout, specialty retailers in the kids arena are making themselves felt. And they too do business differently from the home textiles mainstream.

Yes, creating programs for non-conventional home textiles users requires rethinking how one does business, and what needs to be done in marketing to each segment.

And yes, again, there are additional people needed to cater to them.

But there's definitely life outside of slotting fees, reverse auctions, and the like of conventional home textiles retailing.

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