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The Thread

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

    In case anybody was wondering, The Big Three textiles producing countries maintain their ownership of the biggest chunks of key category goods imported into the U.S. I bring this up because the industry will soon be headed to Heimtextil, where the subject of emerging new sources of production always seems to rear its head. This is borne out by the most recent data from OTEXA – the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of Textile and Apparel – which records imports year-to-date as of October. China, India and Pakistan collectively provided 87% of the cotton sheets imported into the U.S ... Read More
  • Put a fork in it

    In a few rapidly passing days, we will bid adieu to 2014. Before we do, a look at some of the most significant events impacting the retail environment this year. Changes at the top: The year saw a heightened amount of C-suite activity, including the installation of new ceos at Target, Walmart U.S., Walmart Canada, Home Depot, Bon-Ton, Hayneedle, One Kings Lane and Gordmans — not to mention the arrival of a successor to take over next year from outgoing JCPenney ceo Mike Ullman. There was a fair amount of shuffling at the presidential level as well, with new appointees ... Read More
  • Holiday 2014’s Big Test

    There’s something happening this year that could redefine the holiday shopping experience. It’s not whether stores do or don’t open their doors on Thanksgiving, which of them will or won’t match prices or who wraps up the season with the cleanest inventories. This is the year of The Omni-Channel Holiday – the first time a considerable number of major players have invested in creating a seamless shopping experience across online, mobile and bricks. One of the big keys to the season’s efforts is the buy online/pick-up in store initiative. It not only addresses the dreaded ... Read More
  • No mercy

    There are two ways of getting into political office —by winning or by winning ugly. It already looks like whoever emerges from the fourth quarter with the biggest top line growth will have climbed to the top of the heap by winning ugly. An astonishing number of forecasters are projecting a decent holiday season. The National Retail Federation, the International Council of Shopping Centers and Deloitte all believe the total sales gain ring up at 4.0% higher than 2013 or slightly above. (So far, Price Waterhouse Coopers is the lone pessimist, forecasting a 6.9% slump.) To get there ... Read More
  • Anthropologie Joins the Fray

    While traditional retailers of home furnishings are still trying to figure out how to woo the Millennial shopper without alienating her mother, Anthropologie is preparing to make a major run at the business. Think of it as Pottery Barn for Millennials – plus clothing. How serious is this effort? Very. Executives from parent company Urban Outfitters Inc. last month said the nameplate will cut apparel from 71% of the assortment to 53% to blow out its home assortment, which now accounts for just 17% of sales. The company is also preparing to roll out new larger format stores, which at 30 ... Read More
  • 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