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Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

Just a Little Despec, Just a Little Bit

January 26, 2011

 

"What you want,
Baby, I got.
What you need,
Do you know I got it?
All I'm askin'
Is for a little despec when you come home, just a little bit.
Hey baby, just a little bit."


Aretha, you had it right, baby. All this home textiles industry wants is just a little despec. As in, despecing the product to within an inch of its very life ... and then maybe a few micrometers more.

With raw materials costs approaching the national debt level and no end in sight to future increases - I've replaced the illegal substances I was growing on my terrace with a fresh window box planting of cotton - every supplier from the Carolinas to Karachi is trying to figure out a way to take something else out of their products and cut their manufacturing costs.

"D-E-S-P-E-C,
Find out what it means to me. D-E-S-P-E-C,
Take care, TCB"

The reasons for this activity are of course obvious. Everyone is terrified of being the first to raise prices in a nightmare game of textiles chicken. This for a product that the consumer buys once every three to five years - at best - and for which she isn't exactly keeping count of prices the way she does for a gallon of gas, a loaf of bread or a Starbucks mochachino.

 

 

"I ain't gonna' do you wrong while you're gone
Ain't gonna do you wrong, ‘cause I don't wanna' ,
All I'm askin is for a little despec when you come home, just a little bit."

But there's another reason for all of this and it's got nothing to do with fear. It's all about ignorance. As in ignorance on the part of the consumer who doesn't know any better about what makes a good textiles product and what makes a piece of garbage.

And that's because there's been nobody out there telling her. As the industry slowly but surely cuts back on marketing, advertising and virtually any kind of direct informational contact with its end-users, she gradually became conditioned to buy based on some vague understanding that more threads were good and low prices even better. It was kind of a variation on the old light beer pitch: More filling, less cost.

So now she goes into a store and sees a wall of towels and hasn't a clue why one costs $3.99 and the seemingly similar one next to it is $9.99. Carded? Combed? Pima? Dobby? You might as well be talking Martian (as in the planet, not the stores.) So, you could give her a bag of tissue paper and as long as it was a big bag, with a lot of stuff in it and had a pretty picture on the package she will buy it because she doesn't know any better.

 

"I'm about to give you all of my money
And all I'm askin' in return, honey
Is to give me my profits
When you get home."


This is the profit margin scenario the home textiles industry has adapted: make crap and sell it for less. Mind you, it's a not a bad model and lots of companies in lots of industries have gone the same route. It works.

But there comes a point where you just can't despec any more, and that's about where the industry finds itself at now.

There is nothing else that can be taken out of the products - no more picks, no more threads, no more hems, no more stitches. Nothing. Something has to give and it has to be prices.

 

"Oh, sock it to me, sock it to me,
Sock it to me, sock it to me."