Watch for that Blank Stare
By Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, 2/10/2007 12:00:00 AM
On the eve of yet another in a close-together series of markets involving home textiles, it could well be the time to stop and reflect on what is happening in the world outside of the "big guns" — the top 10 or 20 retailers that many in this tight little world thinks can make or break their success or failure.
What many fail to understand is that there's a great big world of buyers and sellers out there nibbling away at the business of the established big guns. And those folks would just as soon have their activities nowhere near anyone's radar.
A conversation with a senior executive from a full-line retailer at the recent Vegas market pointed to one nibble. Mattress stores, he noted, are more than ever hitting hard on gift-with-purchase or special buys on mattress pads and/or bed pillows. When asked what his company was doing about tie-ins between its home textile world and its mattress world — typically on separate floors — he registered this blank, embarrassed stare.
Other big-box and full-line retailers also haven't figured out that furniture stores are nibbling away at their decorative bedding, throw and pillow sales. My Vegas retail friend figured that even if it were only 1% for all the textile nibbles, in his universe, that's big-time bucks.
Then there are the calls from the suppliers of decorative bedding, challenging the contention that furniture stores were upping the ante on their decorative bedding tie-ins as they sold multi-thousand dollar bedroom sets. The reps say no, they contend. And when asked if they as managers explored the subject — there typically is silence.
Case in point in Vegas, a company that provided sheets for mattress stores for years now has morphed into a full line sheets, bed pillow, mattress pads and now top of bed supplier. They're definitely taking business from someone.
And heaven help anyone who tries to have an intelligent conversation about the opportunities in the interior design community. Can't happen, is the retort. Too complicated to take care of the onesies and special orders and on and on.
One consistent comment from exhibitors at Vegas was the presence of Internet retailers and how many there were at the show. How many will be here could be a subject of future conversation.
This might be the time for the conventional players in home textiles on both sides of the fence to re-look at how they do business — and more importantly how customers want to shop for this stuff. It will take a revamping of process as well as mindset. But it also could be called survival.
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