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The Thread

Jennifer Marks
Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Marks shares news and views from around the home textiles marketplace.
  • Market Wrap

    Was it really just three weeks ago? The New York Home Fashions Market was hopping and remarkably gripe-free. Showrooms were slammed Monday and Tuesday, and many suppliers I spoke with had at least one or two weekend appointments, as well as a few early drop-ins the Friday before the official kick-off. Bed Bath & Beyond was like the thousand-headed snake god. Everywhere I went a BBB team seemed either to have just left or was expected to soon arrive. Despite the oft-noted softness in the middle market tier of retailers, suppliers continue to design largely for the middle and up. And ... Read More
  • Common Threads

    First, a mea culpa. In last week’s column, I wrote that Dollar General was trying to decide whether it should be purchased by Family Dollar or Dollar Tree. It is, of course, Family Dollar that is up for sale, and Dollar General has been arguing that its buy-out offer is better than Dollar Tree’s. Big apologies for screwing that one up. Now to the matter at hand: New York Home Fashions Market week. A quick look at some of the factors bearing on the market: Internal brand building. Many suppliers this market are buttressing their own house brands ... Read More
  • The Tip Sheet

    New York Home Fashions Market is one week away from kick-off — even sooner for suppliers taking early appointments. With so much frenzied activity taking place in the weeks preceding the market, you might have missed some of the interesting insights that spilled out as retailers recently reported their quarterly earnings. Consider this your Cliffs Notes on what some of the key retailers revealed about their home operations — and what their buyers will be looking for when they hit showrooms next week. Big Lots: The colorful back-to-college assortment cranked out double-digit comp increases during the second quarter – meaning that piece of ... Read More
  • The New Competition

    Walking around the NY Now show at the Javits this week, one can’t help wondering: How can there be so many companies in business that don’t live and die by selling container-loads of merchandise to Macy’s, Walmart and Bed Bath & Beyond? Yet, there they are. And two exhibitors worth noting: Etsy and The Grommet. Both are there this week debuting their services as wholesale providers. Etsy, founded in 2005, is an online direct-to-consumer seller of handmade, vintage and uniquely manufactured items. The Grommet, established in 2008, is a product launch platform for the Maker community. At NY ... Read More
  • A Few Nuggets Of Gold Beyond The Top 50

    Here’s the good news: 70% of the Top 50 home textiles retailers added sales in 2013. And among the 15 companies that lost ground, there was only one (JCPenney) that dropped double-digits. Here’s the less good news: In last year’s ranking, only six of the 50 logged sales declines. That the number of retailers losing ground basically doubled speaks to how tough it was to make headway in 2013. There were also fewer retailers posting double-digit gains, which 15 did in last year’s report. The lucky 10 grabbing a bigger piece of the pie: • Restoration Hardware ... Read More
  • T-Minus 8 weeks and counting

    Yipee! It’s the middle of summer. Depending on where you live, that means your tomatoes are already coming in or are just about to. Summer fruits are reaching their succulent peak. And if you’re a Mid-Atlantic beach goer, the ocean temperature is finally tolerable. If you are a home textiles sort who swims with the sharks in the volume retail business, today marks eight weeks until the opening of the New York Home Fashions Market in September. Sorry to burst your bubble. But then again, I’m sure this isn’t news. You’ve already been busy previewing ... Read More
  • Word Play

    Woody Allen once said that 80% of success is just showing up. It’s amazing what did — and did not — show up when we combed some 800 basic textiles and housewares products across the ecommerce sites of 10 top home furnishings retailers to determine to what extent quality figures into their product pitches. It must be noted that this was largely an evaluation of marketing. How much effort was put into romancing the product? Among the textiles collection, the most misapplied word was “luxury” (and its variants). I’m talking about you, Amazon, with your “luxurious,” “1,500-count,” “Egyptian,” microfiber ... Read More
  • From the notebook

    I spent last week talking to a lot of utility bedding suppliers for the annual database report that will appear in our July issue. Conversations have a habit of wandering off topic, or turning down tangential side streets, of course. Here are a few of my takeaways from those meanderings. How much is too much? On the upside, ecommerce allows retailers to vault the constraints of physical store locations and balloon their assortments. carries over a 100 cookware sets, for example, and offers more than 1,400 comforter sets. Challenge: What does the Target store in ... Read More
  • People Who Need People

    I saw something amazing during a recent visit to the Bed Bath & Beyond flagship store in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood: store associates helping customers. In three areas of the store (housewares, utility bedding and window), I saw a store employee walk a customer over to product and explain to them what they were looking at. And this was done without reading off of the packaging — a practice that in this era of self-service has come to represent customer assistance. I’m not sure if it was a fluke, a new policy or a matter of people at that store being ... Read More
  • Spring Awakening

    The bottom line wasn’t so pretty for many of the retailers that recently reported first quarter results, but there was a spate of welcome news coming from the home department. Most importantly, home is on the rebound at JCPenney both in-store and online. But it’s worth noting (as Penney execs did) that during last year’s first quarter 70% of the floor space in home was off-limits to shoppers as the retailer undertook the ultimately unsuccessful “transformation” of the department. If Penney hadn’t shown improvement against such a lousy comparison it would be time to break out ... Read More
  • It’s Still China

    There’s been much ink spilled over the concept of the so-called “next China” as a sourcing destination, a magical land where we can all relive the heady price deceleration that characterized the early aught years and delivered 800 thread count sheets to the country’s discount store shoppers. There is a case to be made along those lines in the apparel world. Bangladesh continues to expand its footprint in the garment industry (safety troubles notwithstanding) and Cambodia is making inroads. But in home textiles, China still rules the roost. In our annual Market Basket report, which appears in this ... Read More
  • Store Shaming

    The dumpy aisles. The glaring out-of-stocks. The merchandising trolleys abandoned along the racetrack. Each is a hallmark of a nascent online genre I call store shaming. A few weeks ago, posted a story titled “24 Pictures From a Walmart That Make Sears Look Classy ” – the result of a visit to a Walmart in Southern Los Angeles. Where shelves weren’t half empty (or worse) they were heaped with a jumble of merchandise that appeared as though it had put in place via dump truck. The Sears mention in the Walmart headline served as a tip of the cap ... Read More