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Home Alone 3

Warren Shoulberg, editorial director for HTT, always seems to have something to say about things.
  • 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
  • The Next Not Thing

    Well, it’s that time of year again. The time when everyone walks around at shows and says there’s nothing really new this season. At the housewares show this week in Chicago (and later in the month at textiles in New York) you will no doubt hear reasonably sane and semi-smart people lamenting the lack of big new product trends. To which I gladly respond: Is this your first rodeo? How many shows have we all been to where we said nothing was new, only for the latest, greatest thing to show up on retail shelves six months later ... Read More
  • Home Tech Home

    If there was ever a moment for the home furnishings industry to take its turn in the technical spotlight this is it.Coming out of the huge Consumer Electronic Show last month, the talk was no longer about hi-def, 3D or how big your screen was.Instead everyone was talking about wearable tech and the Internet of Things.... two trends that play perfectly into the hands of the home textiles and housewares industries.The wearable tech talk had to do with devices you could put on your body - on your wrists, your head or various points in between - that would ... Read More
  • The Haves and the Have-Nots

    If you mentioned the phrase "supply chain management" to most people a decade or two ago, they would have told you it had to do with S&M or something along those lines.But these days, everyone knows the term...even if not everybody gets how important it has become to running a successful business.Let's face it, most suppliers can come up with a pretty nicely designed product and even more will match just about any price a retailer throws at them just to get the business.But it's the execution of getting those products from the ... Read More