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Home Alone 3

Warren Shoulberg, editorial director for HTT, always seems to have something to say about things.
  • Greetings From Shanghai

    There’s an amazing home textiles trade show this season, one where the optimism and enthusiasm for business, for new products and for new markets is off the charts. Not that most people in the American market would know about it. That’s because the trade show in question is Intertextile in beautiful semi-downtown Pudong, Shanghai, 7,386 miles, as United flies, from Fifth Avenue in New York City. And at the risk of sounding like a broken Asian record, the future of the home textiles business is here and anyone who doesn’t get that may not have much ... Read More
  • King Cotton…again

    “I was influenced a lot by those around me - there was a lot of singing that went on in the cotton fields.” ----Willie Nelson Well, if they were singing back in the days when Willie was picking cotton, they’ve got be doing the Hallelujah Chorus these days. The price of cotton is down to about the lowest level it’s been since 2008 and it is settling into the historical range of cotton pricing for much of the decade before. Given the wild ride cotton prices have taken over the past few years, this is major news for the ... Read More
  • Is the Bottom Falling Out Of the Bottom?

    We all know the economy is still not behaving the way we think it should, given the time and effort spent on the Great Recovery from the Great Recession. And while some can point to the upper end of business and declare everything OK, it’s at the other end of the spectrum where the most troubling news is. If you’re an economist — or can understand what in the world they are talking about — you know that all of the macro-numbers point to a lower-income consumer with less buying power and an increasingly dwindling share of disposable income. If ... Read More
  • Why Is Business Bad?

      With Wall Street getting higher than folks in Colorado, the housing market racing to recover and banks earning more money than ever, it’s amazing how many vendors in the home business still keep complaining about how bad business is. Not Recession-bad – much less Depression-bad – but not nearly as good as it should be given how other parts of the economy are doing. Yet nobody has a real good answer as to why this is. So as a public service I offer the following possible explanations: Much of the retail base of the textiles and housewares business has its own ... Read More
  • Middle Earth

    In a planet remarkably identical to ours in a time not all that long ago, the mid-priced channel of retailing was the single most exciting, vibrant class of stores in the business. It was where the fastest growing operations in the industry were, where the latest, greatest merchandising ideas were coming from and where shoppers were gravitating to from both ends of the retailing spectrum. Then came the Big Bang. In a matter of retail nano-seconds, the entire channel of distribution seemingly imploded. Never before in retailing history has virtually every player in a single space been so thoroughly discombobulated ... Read More
  • Damning Up Amazon

      I’ve never been a big fan of the “Just Say No” school of merchandising. You know, the one where a retailer stops carrying a product because maybe another retailer they don’t like is carrying it also. Or the vendor has done something to piss off the buyer. Or maybe they just don’t like each other. This sort of thing happens more often than you think. In the home textiles business, the classic case study is Royal Velvet towels. No, not today’s ersatz RV you’ll find at Penney. I’m talking the classic days of the ... Read More
  • Reconstructivism

    You can add one more item to the long list of things the home textiles industry does contrary to the way most American — indeed global — businesses operate. Fifteen years ago the giant monopolistic entity known as “the mills” dominated the bedding and bath industry. Then, through a combination of greed, arrogance, insularity and just general lack of imagination, the mill structure started to unravel. When the quotas came off overseas supplies of sheets and towels in the early 2000s, the system totally disintegrated. In its wake came a largely fragmented network of smaller suppliers, many based in Asia but a ... Read More
  • Vacancies

    Usually when you put the words “retail” and “vacancy” in the same sentence you’re talking real estate, square feet and leasing directors. But not this time. While there’s certainly no shortage of empty space throughout the American retailing landscape it turns out that now the true vacancies that exist are in the corner offices at those very same retailing corporations. This year, more so than anytime in recent memory, you have a lot of jobs chasing not a lot of qualified people. JC Penney has been looking for a new ceo for over a year and while it ... Read More
  • Econ Recon

    It’s time to play connect the dots: • Family Dollar announces it will close 370 stores because they are underperforming as the retailer struggles to retain customers it gained during the Great Recession. • McDonald’s reports another quarter of disappointing sales at its U.S. locations as the retailer struggles to retain customers it’s gained during the Great Recession. • Proctor & Gamble says its Gillette brand will introduce a trade-up Fusion razor as it struggles to regain its premium product positioning lost during the Great Recession. The dots don’t lie. Whether anybody wants to admit it or not, the ... Read More
  • Dollar Sense

    Don’t take the recent news that Family Dollar is closing 370 stores as the death knell either for that individual retailer or the dollar store concept in general. It’s not that simple. It never is. First off, a retailer closing bad store locations is not exactly earth-shattering news. Walmart closes stores. Macy’s closes stores. Even Bed Bath & Beyond closes stores. Those 370 units, by the way, represent less than five percent of the company’s overall 8,100-store count. Lost in the headline about the Family Dollar closings was the fact that it was also planning to ... Read More
  • Of Kings and New Princes

    There used to be a Burger King up the block on Fifth Avenue not too far from the textiles showroom buildings in Midtown Manhattan. It is now a Panera Bread. Maybe it’s an isolated fast food moment, but maybe, just maybe, it’s a pretty good metaphor for the changing of the guard that is becoming increasingly clear, never more so than at the textiles and housewares shows last month. The Millennials are not only the new kids on the block, they are taking over the block when it comes to how various home industries create product, package, market ... Read More
  • The Clicking Point

    You’ll hear lots of conversations this market week about new products, old people and pretty much everything in between. Enjoy them for what they are, but the real talking point is going to be about the retailing industry crossing a seminal threshold. The real talking point is that the business model the industry has operated under for the past 100 years is finally coming to a close. Physical, brick-and-mortar stores (steel and plastic, to be more accurate), as we know them, are on an inevitable and irreversible decline. No, we’re not talking about online replacing instore or even ... Read More