The Thread

Jennifer Marks
Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Marks shares news and views from around the home textiles marketplace.
  • And now, a word about product

    Yes, everybody’s buzzing about the Welspun situation and what it will portend for the industry at large. The bankruptcy of South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping Co. is sending container shipping rates up, ugh. And during market previews in recent days, several people were still awaiting goods that got held up because China’s government shut down factories to clear the air for the G20 meeting in the Hangzhou area, where the summit was held Sept. 4-5. It feels like global events are swamping the nuts and bolts of the business of making attractive home textiles. But enough about the ... Read More
  • The Agenda

    There will be plenty to talk about at the New York Home Fashions Market next week, and I’m not just talking about fallout from the Target/Welspun imbroglio. But let’s start with that. In case you’ve been completely cut off from all news about the home textiles industry since mid-August, Target severed its relationship with Welspun over an Egyptian cotton sheeting program that the retailer determined did not actually contain Egyptian cotton. Vendors are braced for heavier scrutiny from retailers at all levels — not just in the matter of Egyptian cotton claims but pretty much all claims ... Read More
  • Willful Ignorance

    It has not gone unnoticed since Target dropped a bomb on Welspun a few days ago that wink-wink, nudge-nudge textile labeling is rather the norm than the exception at volume retail. This is frequently true in matters pertaining to Egyptian cotton. Egypt’s cotton production is small, not even in the top 10, and declining. Yet “Egyptian cotton” can be found on home textile labels everywhere from fine linens boutiques to Walmart. For as long as mass merchants have craved “luxury at a price” in their sheet and towel assortments, someone has found a way to accommodate them. You can ... Read More
  • Billion Dollar Baby

    A very select club in the home textiles universe just added a new member. Another point worth noting: By next year, it could very well overtake JCPenney to become the fifth largest retailer of home textiles in the country. If T.J. Maxx/Marshalls repeats its 8% growth in home textiles this year — certainly within the realm of possibility — and JCPenney’s growth falls below roughly +3%, it’s a done deal. And consider this: If you add the home textiles sales generated by parent company TJX’s HomeGoods nameplate to the sales generated by T.J. Maxx/Marshalls, you ... Read More
  • One Click Away

    I was talking to a towel manufacturer last week about the millions upon millions of square feet devoted to retail stores and what the landscape might look like a decade from now. He made an interesting observation about today’s consumer. “If they didn’t have the time [to go shopping] before, they certainly don’t have it now. And they’re only a click away from not going to a store.” One click. Another towel manufacturer shared story about looking for a replacement part for a piece of apparatus inside her commode tank. She went to the local hardware ... Read More
  • One Size Fits...None

    If you’re under 50 (yes, 50) and you work on the supplier side of the business, you’ve probably heard the most senior members of your organization reminisce about the good old days when the company sold 100 accounts, 150 accounts, even 200 accounts. Ask them how that worked. Because that’s probably what the future’s going to look like. Small and mid-sized retailers are snatching share from traditional retailers — and it’s not only about e-commerce, although the maker movement and the marketplaces are unquestionably competing against both established retailers and vendors for consumers’ attention and their ... Read More
  • Running the Numbers

    Do retail sales really shrink during presidential election years? That piece of commonly held wisdom came up recently in conversation with a utility bedding manufacturer. So let’s look at the numbers. 2004: Total retail sales up 9.9%, but this was the era of “irrational exuberance” and the country was still pumping air into the housing bubble. 2008: Up just 0.6%, but it was the year of the crash and onset of the Great Recession. 2012: Up 3.7%, which outpaced the 10-year average of 2.7% 2016: The National Retail Federation is projecting growth of 3.1 ... Read More
  • The next big idea

    Have you noticed how many retailers are wheedling their way into consumers’ homes? I mean that literally. On a variety of fronts, retailers are exploring sales opportunities that extend beyond merchandise. JCPenney will soon dip a toe into the installed carpet and flooring business through a pilot with Empire Today at its stores in Tampa, Fla., and Washington, D.C. The store-within-a-store concept will be staffed by Empire Today’s floor specialists, who will also run the installation piece of the business. What’s the lure for Penney? The retailer’s research found that consumers tend to purchase window treatments ... Read More
  • The West Coast Petri Dish

    Is the future of retailing being forged on the West Coast?  It's starting to seem that way. Out west, bricks and clicks are colliding, retailers are pushing the boundaries of what a physical store can or ought to provide, and pop-up shops are sprouting like mushrooms after a warm rain. Consider: Target’s “store of the future” pilot program is now underway in 25 Los Angeles stores. In addition to rethinking the physical presentation of key departments, the store has put product experts on the floor and created a service counter strictly for online order pick-up. This is where ... Read More
  • Purity Test

    A lot of the compliance labels available to the textiles industry haven’t quite hit retail floors in a major way, at least not in the soft home department. But people involved in these issues — and I spoke to quite a few for our May issue cover story — are mostly in sync about where they see things heading. Several executives suggested that as more of these standards become consumer-facing, the next trend will be pairing certifications on individual products. A sleep pillow, for example, might be constructed of Responsible Down Standard (RDS) fill and a GOTS-certified organic cotton shell. The ... Read More
  • It Takes a Village

    The owners of my local mall want to turn it into a village – and that says a lot about where bricks retailing seems to be headed. The 56-year-old Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, N.J., features 150 stores and 7,000 parking spaces, including a three-story garage that, frankly, I have never seen used in the five years I’ve been a resident in this area. The owner – real estate development firm Kushner Companies – recently asked for a zoning change that would allow it to convert the mall into “a 24/7 live/work/play environment.” The vision includes residential buildings ... Read More
  • The View

    So much to talk about. Let’s start with the mood at last month’s New York Home Fashions Market. Most suppliers said first-quarter business, as in the pace of orders, was flat to down slightly. Some reported a slight uptick toward the end of February. Nonetheless, the overall feeling at market was quite upbeat. Here’s what else is cooking. My bad: In last month’s column about compliance standards, I implied Downlite had not signed on to the Responsible Down Standard but instead adhered to the Traceable Down Standard. In fact, it is certified for both and was ... Read More