Going to the Dogs

Carole Sloan, May 5, 2008

Item … Orvis is featuring a therapeutic memory foam dog's nest for older dogs with a cotton canvas cover at $159 for the small dog size.

Item … Pierre Deux is tempting dogs and their owners with Le Petite Settee, a French provincial bed covered in Pierre Deux fabric for a mere $695.

Item … JCPenney highlights a patchwork quilt for people — all sizes on sale for $39.99; for the same price you can give Fido a place to sleep on the same patchwork quilt-covered dog bed.

Item … In its promotional circular for the weekend ending today, Macy's is featuring a 24-piece queen or king complete bedroom for $149.99, and a seven-piece jacquard comforter set for $69.99, as well as sheets as low as $39.99 twin sets for 300-count Egyptian cotton.

When the retails for home textile products for humans sink dramatically lower— or even match the price points — than those for dogs, there definitely is something wrong with the equation.

Yes, this business — like most others including even the vaunted Starbucks — is suffering from what now clearly is the first global recession. But the tales of product degeneration and price slashing definitely are not proving to be the solution to the problem. All across this market, stories about what retailers are looking to do to create business seem to be more a move of panic than one of rational thought and action.

The Nirvana that was supposed to be China with its infinite workforce, low, low prices, and highly automated, spanking new equipment that would bring home textiles products to a price level never before achieved — has proven to be a short-term fix.

But in the few years that the fix has been in, home textiles as an industry has managed to brainwash the American consumer that these were real, long-term price levels. Instead of adding more product benefits and quality details to the products, the focus this decade has been on driving pricing down. It's largely been a function of key retailers, but aided and abetted by suppliers that were virtually giddy with their prospects for immediate prosperity.

Now the challenge for this business is one of reeducation — at all levels — of suppliers, marketers and retailers. Hopefully this won't turn out to be an industry that went to the dogs — literally.

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See the May 2017 issue of Home & Textiles Today. In this issue, we discuss our annual Market Basket survey, which finds higher prices and more polyester at leading retailers. See details!