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The Thread

Jennifer Marks
Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Marks shares news and views from around the home textiles marketplace.
  • 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    Welcome to 2014 - the Year of the Internet.Does that sound a bit out of date?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
  • Dinner (Isn’t) Served

    Next month marks the 100th anniversary of a revolutionary event that was one of many important steps toward moving American workers into the middle class. In January 1914, manufacturing titan Henry Ford decided to start paying his workers $5 a day, more than doubling their wages.Ford was no saint. Some of his decisions over the years, both professional and personal, were profoundly wrong-headed, others were appalling. (He was a big Hitler fan.) While the story is commonly told that Ford raised wages so his workers could afford to buy the autos they were building, the actual reason he boosted ... Read More
  • Brave New World

    The keynote speaker at last week's Home Fashion Products Association meeting hails from sparks & honey, a "next-generation cultural identification agency," which in old-fashioned parlance means a strategic advisory firm that identifies emerging trends and helps companies tap into them.He gave the kind of presentation that both jazzes the listener about the breathtaking possibilities that could arise from technologies now in development ... and at the same time makes one feel fairly blinkered and out of the loop. (By way of example, I refer you to "next-generation cultural identification agency" above.)Speaking of occupations you never heard of, sparks & honey ... Read More
  • Chapter Two

    Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia got a new ceo several days ago, a gentleman named Daniel Dienst who hails from the metals recycling industry. If you're wondering what that has to do with fashionable home furnishings, it became clear from his remarks during the company's third-quarter conference call last week that the thing he's aiming to pretty up is MSLO's balance sheet.Dienst said he plans to put operations on a more cost-effective footing and will be making "tough decisions" in order to "run this thing like a business." In other words, housecleaning and tighter budgets.MSLO ... Read More
  • Food For Thought

    So what was someone from the home textiles world doing at a conference of housewares executives in Chicago earlier this month? Surprisingly, I wasn't the only one. Owners of two home textiles companies were also on hand for the annual Chess (Chief Housewares Executive Supersession) confab - and I met a few housewares people who began their careers in our corner of the home furnishings business.Very little of the two-day event was housewares-specific. The agenda focused on the broader retail landscape and digital in particular. One message rang through loud and clear: It's all about mobile. As Dale ... Read More
  • Clicks, Bricks & the Sales Mix

    ShopperTrak put out an interesting statistic recently. Despite the explosive year-over-year growth of e-commerce, more than 90% of holiday sales still take place in brick-and-mortar stores.I would have expected that number to be the neighborhood of 75%, or maybe even 80%. Even so, what happens online and in-store are vitally linked, regardless of which format scores the final purchase.Here's another eye-popping number: Some 55% of retail-oriented Internet time starts on smartphones or tablets, outpacing the 45% that originates from desktop computers, according to a report released last week at Shop.org's Annual Summit.The report, produced ... Read More
  • Here We Go

    Has it been six months already?A lot has gone down since the industry gathered here last March for the New York Home Fashions Market - some good, some bad, some pretty ugly.Topic A: Would the highly anticipated revamp of JCPenney's home floor revive its fortunes? The answer, as we've since learned, was no. It looks spectacular. Interim ceo Mike Ullman justly described it as the best-looking home department in the industry. Unfortunately, it turns out to be less profitable than the set that preceded it.That, of course, means more upheaval - but more opportunity to get in ... Read More
  • Don't Make a Face, Darling

    I remember my first home textiles heartbreak, a shower curtain from Saturday Knight Ltd. Boldly colored, over-scaled flowers printed on a gorgeous white cotton cloth. Scarlett O'Hara would have yanked it off the rod and had it made into a gown.Several months later, I encountered the piece in the real world - Kohl's bath department. The scale of the print had been knocked down a bit, the clean cotton swapped for a textured poly with something of a yellowish tint. I was horrified.I was also being educated. Right now, boxes are arriving every day in showrooms on ... Read More
  • Yes, but…

    There has been much cheer following Walmart's announcement in January that it will buy an additional $50 billion in U.S.-made products over the next decade. Walmart has long set the pace for the domestic retail industry, both in pricing and in practice.There's also a fairly large nit to pick with the kudos attending the policy. That $50 billion represents a sliver of the approximately $900 billion Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will generate at its U.S. stores over the decade. And as several critics have noted, a goodly amount of that U.S. buying will involve ... Read More