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The Thread

Jennifer Marks
Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Marks shares news and views from around the home textiles marketplace.
  • 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, TheStreet.com 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
  • Market notes

    The fourth quarter? Not so hot for most retailers. January and Febuary? Stinko. And yet, suppliers were remarkably upbeat during the recent New York Home Fashions Market. Apparently enough retailers have been shaken by tepid consumer response to their offerings, not to mention their efforts to fully exploit omnichannel retailing, that they were open to new ideas and new products. Appointment rosters were bursting. In part that was because big retailers send various buying and product development groups back to their key suppliers multiple times. (The size of individual groups from major retailers was said to be substantial — often 20 ... Read More
  • JCPenney's Re-Boot

    First you have to give the current JCPenney management team credit for delivering the recent home floor makeover on time — as promised — in March. (Last year’s March overhaul didn’t arrive until June.) Then you have to give the previous JCPenney management team credit for providing the beautifully renovated store departments into which the new sets were dropped. When it officially opened the new home floor March 13, JCPenney wrapped its second reorganization of the space and re-assortment of brands and merchandise in nine months. The new set combines the best of last year’s renovation (modern signage and ... Read More
  • TJX's Next Act

    So a lot of retailers said they had a pretty decent holiday season, and the fourth quarter was humming along until the no-good, very bad, incredibly awful month of January came along and dumped snow all over their results. But as fourth quarter reports rolled out recently, TJX Cos. was the rarest of entities: a retailer decidedly not singing the blues. Yes, net income during the period dropped 3.7% and sales ticked up only 1%. A mere blip, apparently, on the path into a new fiscal year for which the retailer has some very ambitious plans. Among them: • A ... Read More
  • An Admiring Word About Sears

    There are a lot of things one can dink Sears for. And I'd wager every opinion piece coming out of H&TT in recent years that had "Sears" in its title has done just that. Not today. Today we give Sears a tip of the hat for its recently announced In-Vehicle Pickup service. If the process works as advertised, Sears has really raised the bar on ecommerce-to-local-store integration. Here's the deal. Members of Sears' Shop Your Way loyalty program can download an app that lets their local store know they're on their way to retrieve merchandise they ... Read More
  • Snip, Snip, Snip

    Take one seriously brutal, margin-crushing holiday season, stir in the ongoing growth of e-commerce and what do you get? Blood in the water for brick-and-mortar.Holiday 2014 was crazily promotional, as all holidays seasons are. But what ensued in the aftermath throughout January was even nuttier. Retailers flooded inboxes with Last Chance, Truly Last Chance and Extra Super-Duper Last Chance (We Really Mean it This Time) clearance offers right on down to the end of the month.Morgan Stanley retail analyst Kimberly Greenberger in a mid-month research note said 40% of the 26 retailers she follows were more promotional in ... Read More
  • Six Takeaways from Heimtextil

      While I did not get to every one of the nine exhibition halls at Heimtextil earlier this month, I spent a fair amount of time in those devoted to trend, European design, and the major Asian manufacturers. Here's what jumped out at me:A return to quality - Manufacturers said retailers are up-specing product. Did you fall off your chair? Please take a moment to right yourself. Said up-specing revolves around the idea of "affordable luxury" as opposed to true luxury, but it's a sign of growing confidence in consumers' willingness to spend a little more again. Portugal - Who ... Read More
  • The Heat is On

    Welcome to 2014 - the Year of the Internet.Does that sound a bit out of date? A surprising number of major retailers in the home space are only just getting into the business, while several longtime players are investing in mobile platforms and integration of in-store and online strategies. The battle for market share in the virtual world is hot - and getting hotter.TJX is the biggest potential game-changer in this arena. The company quietly launched an ecommerce site for TJMaxx in September, primarily with apparel and related accessories. It added a few housewares and gift items for the holidays ... Read More
  • The Year in Retail

    We've been talking to a lot of suppliers in recent weeks in the run-up to winter trade show season, and I've been surprised by the number of industry execs who are declaring the recessionary era a thing of the past.This is especially true among rug manufacturers, who point to improving conditions in the housing and construction sectors, and suppliers serving the luxury end of the business, which has been fine for a while now.Bear in mind, all these conversations were taking place during the herky-jerky holiday shopping period (which has a couple days left in it ... Read More
  • Low-Budget Retailers Take a Harder Line

    As more middle-class consumers are sliding into lower middle class status (or worse), the retailing formats that have long served the most cash-strapped consumers have taken a page out of the Walmart playbook circa 1995 and are ever more heavily relying on consumables and other fast-turning hard lines to drive traffic.And it seems to be working.Dollar General, which now operates more than 11,000 stores, is experiencing its highest levels of growth from tobacco, perishables, candy and snacks.Family Dollar's third quarter velocity was strongest in consumables, particularly frozen foods, health aids and tobacco. A basket with ... Read More