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The Thread

Jennifer Marks
Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Marks shares news and views from around the home textiles marketplace.
  • 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
  • Away we go

    The year 2015 is just a few weeks old, but you’ve likely been to at least one trade show already. Depending upon what part of the business you’re in, you may have been to three or four by now. And more are on the way, the big ones for home textiles being NY Now this month and New York Home Fashions Market next month. Between talking to suppliers about their show preparations, sorting through new product photogarphs, walking the halls at Heimtextil in Frankfurt recently and just absorbing what’s in the wind about trends in home, here ... Read More
  • 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