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Anything But Routine

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, October 4, 2004

If anyone thinks the upcoming home textiles market week will play anything like “same old, same old,” they have another thing coming.

Challenges are coming from every corner, and no two companies will be able to address them alike.

And while product introductions have been the centerpiece of market weeks, it's almost certain that product now takes a back seat to the myriad issues of sourcing, distribution, marketing frequency, quality assurances, global working conditions, flammability regulations, oil prices, the world economy, etc.

There is a level of duplicity rising in the marketplace involving a number of major retail players. It has moved from what has now become a basic everyday business activity — the reverse auction — to a growing hesitancy on the part of some suppliers to make these customers privy to the newest and best of their market offerings.

Then there are the increasing demands to eliminate the royalty payment on licensed products by some key retailers who believe that a knockoff without the name but with the design would bring equivalent sales and higher margins.

What had just a few years past laughingly been called a “partnership” by these retailers now has become warfare.

The oil situation is giving retailers new opportunities for creative accounting in assessing charges to their suppliers — an unexpected bonus for their bottom lines.

Suppliers and retailers are fighting on the battleground of sourcing. Retailers are demanding the specs and identities of sources under the guise of validating that they are conforming to global health and work regulations.

And, of course, the supplier side is not totally innocent of subversive activities. Increasingly, we are seeing products that are more than remote cousins to identifiable product brought to market at the same time as the originals.

And then there is the challenge of copyright protection outside of the United States. The legal recourse to prevent knockoffs or even selling the exact item to a non-American is tenuous at best. Cases of over-production of protected designs by an offshore source with sales to a third party are increasing almost daily.

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