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The Thread

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

    One Saturday last spring, I was standing in line at a check-out counter in the Macy’s women’s department at my local mall. As the wait went on, I took a sweater out of my little bundle and put it back on the display table. The woman in line behind me said: “That’s how it is when you have to wait — you start putting things back. Unless you’re at HomeGoods — then you start picking more things up!” That unsolicited endorsement came to mind when reviewing this year’s H&TT Retailing Giants report on the Top 50 ... Read More
  • Millennials: Four quick things to know

    I’m in the midst of assembling a PowerPoint presentation for the Home Textiles Sourcing Expo tomorrow, and I am awash in Millennial-related data. I feel compelled to share. Did you know that next year Millennials (born between 1980-2000) will officially become the largest consumer group in the U.S.? Conservatively, their 2015 spending will hit $600 million – although some estimates put the number as high as $1 trillion. Do you know how they break out by segment? Marketing agency Barkley USA recently identified six distinct groups: Hip-ennial, Millennial Mom, Anti-Millennial, Gadget Guru, Clean and Green Millennial, and Old-School Millennial ... Read More
  • Retail Lab

    We have entered a new age of experimentation at retail, with an assortment of prototypes and new concepts opening in the coming months. You can take it as a sign retailers are feeling comfortable enough with the economy to begin testing new formulas. Or you could consider it an attempt by decades-old retailers to come up with something new. Bed Bath & Beyond: The Chelsea store in Manhattan is constantly in flux, but the big new thing opening there this month is a World Market home furnishings shop. Know what’s even bigger and potentially cooler? The 100,000-sq.-ft. store ... Read More
  • While you’re in town…

    Between the Texworld/Home Sourcing Expo, NY Now and the New York Home Fashions Market, there will a lot of home textiles folks in New York over the next three months. Aside from all the new products, there’s plenty that’s new and worth carving out time for on the retail front. Here are four that should be at the top of your must-visit list. Bed Bath & Beyond’s flagship Manhattan store on 6th Avenue at 18th Street. Check out the new World Market shop-in-shop, which is set to open in July. This is separate from the World Market ... Read More
  • Top to Bottom

    The recent raft of first-quarter financial reports brought mostly encouraging news about the performance of home departments at major retailers. In order of optimism, here’s the rundown: Anthropologie is barreling ahead with its expansion of home merchandise, and the broad category posted a double-digit comp increase. The nameplate, a division of Urban Outfitters Inc., has been building home inventory in conjunction with a dedicated home catalog strategy. The first dropped last spring and the second was issued last month. The wedding registry Anthropologie launched late last year is serving as an important feeder into home — with over 40% of ... Read More
  • The Last Mile

    It is the great cost-adder in online retailing – the price of delivering that one package from the distribution center to the customer’s front door. The order online/pick-up in store model being embraced by so many retailers is designed in part to get around that hurdle – but it’s creating some new problems of its own. On the upside, ecommerce allows retailers to offer far more product options online than they can within the confines of a physical location. But what happens when the consumer dumps that online purchase back at the customer service counter at her local store ... Read More
  • Erasure

    This is what the denouement looks like. At the Sears store in the Freehold Raceway Mall in New Jersey, the parking lot level floor was almost entirely denuded of merchandise. Huge chunks of space sat idle behind blue partitions. The barriers concealed pallets bearing unwrapped fixtures and stacks of unopened boxes of indeterminate provenance. There was a handsome and sizable run of fresh shelving in place for a shoe department. It was as-yet unstocked and it will not be filled with Sears products. Signs near the entry points read: “Pardon our dust,” and “We’re open to serve you during ... Read More
  • Keeping Up With The

    A word to the supplier community. Does your operation have an e-commerce team? Do you at least have an e-comm person? You should know that a growing number of your competitors do. The larger U.S. rug manufacturers were the first to jump on the strategy – and that was a good couple of years ago. What surprised at New York Home Fashions Market last month was the extent to which importers in other home textiles categories are restructuring internally to address online business. I wouldn’t say it’s a wave, but it’s definitely building. The most bare-bones effort ... Read More
  • The Bachelorette

    Here comes the bride – the most highly prized consumer in the home furnishings retail space right now. You want to gauge the state of competition in the War for Millennials, keep an eye on how retailers are enhancing, marketing and leveraging their bridal registries. Anthropologie launched one last fall as part of its concerted push into home. Apparently, it’s working. During the fourth quarter, 40% of the registry purchasers were first-time Anthropologie customers. (To kick-start the effort, the lifestyle retailer began rolling out bridal apparel shops last spring. Smart move.) Bed Bath & Beyond is spiffing up its registry technology ... Read More
  • Talking Points

    It’s go time. The showrooms are set. The sales sheets have been distributed. The appointment schedules mapped out. There’s a lot to see and talk about at this week’s New York Home Fashions Market. Based on previews and pre-market conversations, here’s what to keep an eye on. Better qualities. In just about every product category and regardless of pricing tier, qualities are improving. This isn’t just about lower cotton prices. (Although cotton prices have settled down, labor and freight costs have been climbing.) Microfiber constructions are better, too – getting heavier, lending fabrics a cottony hand ... Read More
  • Lucky Seven

    Snow-maggedon. Port strikes. Is there anybody who isn’t happy to have February behind us? But life goes on. There’s been a lot of interesting news coming out of major retailers lately. In case you missed any of it, here are my crib notes on Seven Things You Ought to Know. Ten million. That’s how many home shoppers JCPenney estimates it lost after it phased out catalogs in 2009 and 2010. In the pursuit of omnichannel nirvana, the retailer is getting back into paper. The new 120-page home mailer dropping in early March is designed to spur sales ... Read More
  • Countdown

    New York Home Fashions Market officially gets underway five weeks from today. Recent talks with suppliers gearing up for market week have been hitting three themes. The West Coast port delays are hurting some suppliers and direct-import retailers more than others. Suppliers who take most of their deliveries on the West Coast have been scrambling to meet their obligations – at the very least making sure enough goods make it to stores to support advertising programs. Suppliers who take most of their deliveries on the East Coast are worried that shipments diverted from the West Coast are going to start slowing ... Read More