The Thread

Jennifer Marks
Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Marks shares news and views from around the home textiles marketplace.
  • Where things stand

    The expression “merchant prince” doesn’t get used much anymore in the era of allocation software, nor does it get tossed around lightly. Allen Questrom certainly merits the title. He engineered JCPenney’s turnaround in the early aughts, repositioned Barney’s as a leading luxury specialty retail in the ’90s, and once helmed Neiman Marcus Group as well as the company now known as Macy’s Inc. back when it was Federated Department Stores. The man knows a thing or two about stores, especially department stores. Which is why his recent remarks to CNBC about what department stores need to ... Read More
  • Weather-Proofing

    It’s cold today in huge swaths of the U.S. – the first day for hats, scarves and gloves. Arriving right on cue ahead of the kick-off to the holiday season, it’s the kind of weather that should put people in the mood for shopping. But it wasn’t cold, or nearly cold enough, during the holiday 2015 shopping season. That left a lot of retailers sitting on a pile of unsold coats, jackets and other cold weather goods. They vowed in the aftermath they would not make the same mistake this year. Many of them put a name ... Read More
  • The Aggressors

    While a sense of caution seems to pervade some of the largest home textiles retailers, it’s worth noting several companies continue to move very aggressively — regardless of consumer uncertainty. Let’s start with the one that’s positioning itself to become the Amazon of the home furnishings world: Wayfair. As of Nov. 1, it has launched 21 initiatives involving new products, category expansions, new services and additional customer support operations. Those were just in the U.S. market. Its newly announced monthly installment financing option takes aim at consumers loathe to use credit (especially, Millennials) as well as, one ... Read More
  • 53 retailers saying ‘no’ to Thanksgiving Day hours

      Probably the most pressing question in retail: How much do stores matter in the online age? Weighing in on the side of “not as much as they used to,” at least 53 retailers will not be opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day this year. The tally, amassed by Forbes, ranges from TJX’s powerhouse off-price nameplates to upstairs department stores and includes several home furnishings stores. (Macy’s, bucking the trend, recently announced it will open even earlier on Thanksgiving this year.) How do the numbers stack up? Last year, among the 151 million people who shopped in stores over ... Read More
  • High on Holiday

    Home textiles suppliers exhibiting at last month’s New York Home Fashions Market generally agreed that business at retail is, at best, uneven. In a trend that been in place since the country emerged from the recession, whether sales are brisk or blasé varies by retailer. And within each individual retailer, the performance in home textiles rises or falls by category. Certainly, the roster of quarterly reports that arrived just prior to market reflected that. Of 25 leading retailers of home textiles who reported results in August and September, nine saw total sales slip. Those included Top 10 retailers Bed ... Read More
  • And now, a word about product

    Yes, everybody’s buzzing about the Welspun situation and what it will portend for the industry at large. The bankruptcy of South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping Co. is sending container shipping rates up, ugh. And during market previews in recent days, several people were still awaiting goods that got held up because China’s government shut down factories to clear the air for the G20 meeting in the Hangzhou area, where the summit was held Sept. 4-5. It feels like global events are swamping the nuts and bolts of the business of making attractive home textiles. But enough about the ... Read More
  • The Agenda

    There will be plenty to talk about at the New York Home Fashions Market next week, and I’m not just talking about fallout from the Target/Welspun imbroglio. But let’s start with that. In case you’ve been completely cut off from all news about the home textiles industry since mid-August, Target severed its relationship with Welspun over an Egyptian cotton sheeting program that the retailer determined did not actually contain Egyptian cotton. Vendors are braced for heavier scrutiny from retailers at all levels — not just in the matter of Egyptian cotton claims but pretty much all claims ... Read More
  • Willful Ignorance

    It has not gone unnoticed since Target dropped a bomb on Welspun a few days ago that wink-wink, nudge-nudge textile labeling is rather the norm than the exception at volume retail. This is frequently true in matters pertaining to Egyptian cotton. Egypt’s cotton production is small, not even in the top 10, and declining. Yet “Egyptian cotton” can be found on home textile labels everywhere from fine linens boutiques to Walmart. For as long as mass merchants have craved “luxury at a price” in their sheet and towel assortments, someone has found a way to accommodate them. You can ... Read More
  • Billion Dollar Baby

    A very select club in the home textiles universe just added a new member. Another point worth noting: By next year, it could very well overtake JCPenney to become the fifth largest retailer of home textiles in the country. If T.J. Maxx/Marshalls repeats its 8% growth in home textiles this year — certainly within the realm of possibility — and JCPenney’s growth falls below roughly +3%, it’s a done deal. And consider this: If you add the home textiles sales generated by parent company TJX’s HomeGoods nameplate to the sales generated by T.J. Maxx/Marshalls, you ... Read More
  • 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