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The Thread

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

    I spent last week talking to a lot of utility bedding suppliers for the annual database report that will appear in our July issue. Conversations have a habit of wandering off topic, or turning down tangential side streets, of course. Here are a few of my takeaways from those meanderings. How much is too much? On the upside, ecommerce allows retailers to vault the constraints of physical store locations and balloon their assortments. carries over a 100 cookware sets, for example, and offers more than 1,400 comforter sets. Challenge: What does the Target store in ... Read More
  • People Who Need People

    I saw something amazing during a recent visit to the Bed Bath & Beyond flagship store in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood: store associates helping customers. In three areas of the store (housewares, utility bedding and window), I saw a store employee walk a customer over to product and explain to them what they were looking at. And this was done without reading off of the packaging — a practice that in this era of self-service has come to represent customer assistance. I’m not sure if it was a fluke, a new policy or a matter of people at that store being ... Read More
  • 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, 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