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Home Alone 3

Warren Shoulberg, editorial director for HTT, always seems to have something to say about things.
  • Operation Retail Operation

    With all due respect to Benjamin Braddock in “The Graduate,” I have just one word for you…at least when it comes to retail ceos these days: operations. If you’re looking for the common denominator in the latest round of big-time retail executive appointments, it’s that virtually every one of these guys – and they are all guys – comes from the operations side of the business. Not one is really a merchant. The de-merchandising of the corner office at American retailing is nothing new. We’ve seen this gain traction for years, but up until very recently it was ... Read More
  • September Song

    We all know the song lyrics: “It’s a long, long while from May to December But the days grow short when you reach September. One hasn’t got time for the waiting game.” The September New York home textiles market week (sorry, I just can’t call it Home Fashions) is now in the books, but exactly what happened — and more importantly, what happens next —is subject to much interpretation and even more speculation. Certainly, it has been a long, long time from those heady days of spring when everyone eagerly awaited the fourth quarter where the economy and ... Read More
  • Casablanca

    A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to the textiles market this week: Business at all the usual suspects just is not getting better. It’s why at this market week more than ever, whether you’re a vendor or a retailer, you need to get some Letters of Transit and get out of town. The fundamental things don’t apply anymore. For most of the past two or three textiles lifetimes, the business has relied on a handful of increasingly larger retailers selling their wares to a targeted demographic group of Baby Boomers. It was a rather simple formula ... Read More
  • 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