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The Thread

Jennifer Marks
Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Marks shares news and views from around the home textiles marketplace.
  • 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
  • Trust…But Verify

    We have entered an era when the industry’s long practice of turning a blind eye to suspect product claims is running up against a new crop of socially conscious consumers who are vociferously opposed to fakery. Happily, there are solutions. Some of them originated in the apparel space and are now moving into home. Others are of recent vintage. Companies that care about not bamboozling their customers – or getting snookered themselves – ought to know about them. The Egyptian Cotton Gold Seal. Part of a new DNA-based authentication program designed to rid the supply chain of falsely labelled goods, the ... Read More
  • Zeroing In On Gen Z

    To explain the kind of interactive relationships members of Gen Z expect to have with their favorite brands, trend expert Melanie Shreffler tells the story of a 16-year-old named Connor. When his beloved Seattle SuperSonics decamped to Oklahoma, he went in search of a new team to support. He wrote personalized letters — by hand, no less — to each of the NBA’s 30 franchise presidents, asking them to make the case for why he should shift his loyalty to their team. “He’d researched the teams. He drew their logos on the letters. He talked about particular players on their ... Read More
  • Free Your Mind

      I’m going to keep this short and sweet. A word to product developers: They won’t know they want it until you create it. A word to merchants: They won’t know it exists until you present it to them. A lot of tax refund money headed to consumers will be going into savings or to pay down debt. What they do spend, they are increasingly putting on travel and dining. And yet, they’re still researching product online and pinning up wanna-haves. Social media networks – including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google and YouTube – are working hard to become ... Read More
  • Future Shock

    Have you heard? Brick-and-mortar retail stores are kaput, passé, doomed. They are about to become, as Monty Python would have said it, ex-parrots. You would think the annual gathering of the National Retail Federation would be the last event to foster such a point of view, but it emerged as a key theme during last month’s NRF expo in New York. Steve Barr, a partner and the US Retail and Consumer Sector leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told online outlet Retail Dive this year will bring “more store closures, more bankruptcies and restructurings, and increased shareholder activism that will either lead ... Read More
  • Ah, l’amour

    You’ve heard the advertising adage – “Sex sells.” It’s rarely used in the marketing of bedding, at least not in the U.S. And a mattress topper, so utilitarian and always out of sight, would seem to be the un-sexiest textile product of the lot. Not so fast. At Heimtextil earlier this month, Austrian bedding manufacturer Hefel Bed and Sleep was promoting the “Hefel Romance Mattress Topper” with language that promoted its ability to enhance…the mood, shall we say. “The Hefel Romance mattress topper sets the scene for a truly romantic bedroom – in a completely natural way. Microcrystals ... Read More
  • Agenda 2016

    One thing you can say for the home textiles industry, there’s no time for post-holiday blues. As quick as you can sing “Auld Lang Syne” it’s trade show time. In addition to all that yummy new product to look over, most events will be packed with educational sessions about color trends, sustainability, leveraging social media and looking at ways to do better business. Here are a few of the things I’m going to be keeping an eye on this year. Smart fabrics: Google “wearable tech” and the first non-ad to pop up is Amazon, with a shop ... Read More
  • Bamboozled

    Apparently, quite a few companies still don’t get it: The Federal Trade Commission is going after products with fiber content labelled as “bamboo.” In the same week that the FTC announced four retailers are paying a collective $1.3 million in fines over the matter, I was sorting through new product submissions for our January trade show coverage and was astonished to see a number of them described as being made from bamboo. It’s been nearly six years since the FTC alerted the industry that it would start cracking down on bamboo labelling – with penalties of up to ... Read More
  • Fit to Print

    Every year at Heimtextil, we see more and more of them — fabulous digital prints, almost entirely coming from European manufacturers. During each Home Fashions Market week in New York, we saw a few more of them — a digitally printed duvet cover program here, a digitally printed dec pillow program for ecommerce there. And over the past year, it does feel as though digital print is finally gathering force for home textiles products in the U.S. market. With the machinery getting faster and the cost of inks coming down, digital printing capacities are also expanding here at home. Several of ... Read More