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The Thread

Jennifer Marks
Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Marks shares news and views from around the home textiles marketplace.
  • One Click Away

    I was talking to a towel manufacturer last week about the millions upon millions of square feet devoted to retail stores and what the landscape might look like a decade from now. He made an interesting observation about today’s consumer. “If they didn’t have the time [to go shopping] before, they certainly don’t have it now. And they’re only a click away from not going to a store.” One click. Another towel manufacturer shared story about looking for a replacement part for a piece of apparatus inside her commode tank. She went to the local hardware ... Read More
  • One Size Fits...None

    If you’re under 50 (yes, 50) and you work on the supplier side of the business, you’ve probably heard the most senior members of your organization reminisce about the good old days when the company sold 100 accounts, 150 accounts, even 200 accounts. Ask them how that worked. Because that’s probably what the future’s going to look like. Small and mid-sized retailers are snatching share from traditional retailers — and it’s not only about e-commerce, although the maker movement and the marketplaces are unquestionably competing against both established retailers and vendors for consumers’ attention and their ... Read More
  • Running the Numbers

    Do retail sales really shrink during presidential election years? That piece of commonly held wisdom came up recently in conversation with a utility bedding manufacturer. So let’s look at the numbers. 2004: Total retail sales up 9.9%, but this was the era of “irrational exuberance” and the country was still pumping air into the housing bubble. 2008: Up just 0.6%, but it was the year of the crash and onset of the Great Recession. 2012: Up 3.7%, which outpaced the 10-year average of 2.7% 2016: The National Retail Federation is projecting growth of 3.1 ... Read More
  • The next big idea

    Have you noticed how many retailers are wheedling their way into consumers’ homes? I mean that literally. On a variety of fronts, retailers are exploring sales opportunities that extend beyond merchandise. JCPenney will soon dip a toe into the installed carpet and flooring business through a pilot with Empire Today at its stores in Tampa, Fla., and Washington, D.C. The store-within-a-store concept will be staffed by Empire Today’s floor specialists, who will also run the installation piece of the business. What’s the lure for Penney? The retailer’s research found that consumers tend to purchase window treatments ... Read More
  • The West Coast Petri Dish

    Is the future of retailing being forged on the West Coast?  It's starting to seem that way. Out west, bricks and clicks are colliding, retailers are pushing the boundaries of what a physical store can or ought to provide, and pop-up shops are sprouting like mushrooms after a warm rain. Consider: Target’s “store of the future” pilot program is now underway in 25 Los Angeles stores. In addition to rethinking the physical presentation of key departments, the store has put product experts on the floor and created a service counter strictly for online order pick-up. This is where ... Read More
  • Purity Test

    A lot of the compliance labels available to the textiles industry haven’t quite hit retail floors in a major way, at least not in the soft home department. But people involved in these issues — and I spoke to quite a few for our May issue cover story — are mostly in sync about where they see things heading. Several executives suggested that as more of these standards become consumer-facing, the next trend will be pairing certifications on individual products. A sleep pillow, for example, might be constructed of Responsible Down Standard (RDS) fill and a GOTS-certified organic cotton shell. The ... Read More
  • It Takes a Village

    The owners of my local mall want to turn it into a village – and that says a lot about where bricks retailing seems to be headed. The 56-year-old Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, N.J., features 150 stores and 7,000 parking spaces, including a three-story garage that, frankly, I have never seen used in the five years I’ve been a resident in this area. The owner – real estate development firm Kushner Companies – recently asked for a zoning change that would allow it to convert the mall into “a 24/7 live/work/play environment.” The vision includes residential buildings ... Read More
  • The View

    So much to talk about. Let’s start with the mood at last month’s New York Home Fashions Market. Most suppliers said first-quarter business, as in the pace of orders, was flat to down slightly. Some reported a slight uptick toward the end of February. Nonetheless, the overall feeling at market was quite upbeat. Here’s what else is cooking. My bad: In last month’s column about compliance standards, I implied Downlite had not signed on to the Responsible Down Standard but instead adhered to the Traceable Down Standard. In fact, it is certified for both and was ... Read More
  • Trust…But Verify

    We have entered an era when the industry’s long practice of turning a blind eye to suspect product claims is running up against a new crop of socially conscious consumers who are vociferously opposed to fakery. Happily, there are solutions. Some of them originated in the apparel space and are now moving into home. Others are of recent vintage. Companies that care about not bamboozling their customers – or getting snookered themselves – ought to know about them. The Egyptian Cotton Gold Seal. Part of a new DNA-based authentication program designed to rid the supply chain of falsely labelled goods, the ... Read More
  • Zeroing In On Gen Z

    To explain the kind of interactive relationships members of Gen Z expect to have with their favorite brands, trend expert Melanie Shreffler tells the story of a 16-year-old named Connor. When his beloved Seattle SuperSonics decamped to Oklahoma, he went in search of a new team to support. He wrote personalized letters — by hand, no less — to each of the NBA’s 30 franchise presidents, asking them to make the case for why he should shift his loyalty to their team. “He’d researched the teams. He drew their logos on the letters. He talked about particular players on their ... Read More
  • Free Your Mind

      I’m going to keep this short and sweet. A word to product developers: They won’t know they want it until you create it. A word to merchants: They won’t know it exists until you present it to them. A lot of tax refund money headed to consumers will be going into savings or to pay down debt. What they do spend, they are increasingly putting on travel and dining. And yet, they’re still researching product online and pinning up wanna-haves. Social media networks – including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google and YouTube – are working hard to become ... Read More
  • Future Shock

    Have you heard? Brick-and-mortar retail stores are kaput, passé, doomed. They are about to become, as Monty Python would have said it, ex-parrots. You would think the annual gathering of the National Retail Federation would be the last event to foster such a point of view, but it emerged as a key theme during last month’s NRF expo in New York. Steve Barr, a partner and the US Retail and Consumer Sector leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told online outlet Retail Dive this year will bring “more store closures, more bankruptcies and restructurings, and increased shareholder activism that will either lead ... Read More