Let's Get Smarter
By Jennifer Marks, Editor-In-Chief -- Home Textiles Today, 2/9/2009 12:00:00 AM
So I've finished my first day of jury duty as I write this. It's evening, my husband is blasting CNBC and fulminating at the screen about Wells Fargo, TARP money and TARP recipient salary structures.
Retailers with home textiles departments are approaching some 20,000-plus in announced layoffs in just the past 35 days or so. That doesn't even take into account the fall-out on the supplier/manufacturing side of the equation.
Thus, I'd like to address the subject of civility.
I joined Home Textiles Today in spring 2000, as I have written many times before, in what we would later realize were the waning moments of the halcyon days of domestic manufacturing and unbridled consumer consumption. The internet- and day trading-driven bubbles had yet to burst. The Top 15 U.S. Suppliers (as HTT's annual report was then defined because off-shore suppliers were well off the radar) had reached a pinnacle in terms of their market share as they scaled up to accommodate burgeoning major retailers.
As globalization began to take down less-than-fleet-footed domestic suppliers, their major accounts continued to grow like kudzu. Recent events have demonstrated (see stories pages 1 and 14) that, too, has hit the wall as consumers have awakened from the easy credit trance and decided maybe their parents were right — there's no such thing as a free ride.
Having arrived at this point after the good old days, when relationships held great value, when honesty and integrity earned over time were prized above spreadsheets, when merchants commanded the forefront and bean counters occupied the back office rather than the command center, I've heard a lot of stories about How Things Used to Be.
A few of those values hold true, in particular honesty and integrity earned over time (say, from the early aught years for off-shore manufacturers and JV-minded U.S. suppliers). Relationships are regaining currency, if only in a small way on the basis of what my colleague on this page has frequently posited as the “who eats it?” conundrum.
The bean counters? Not yet in retreat on any front in any industry.
I'm not saying that's a bad thing. It has brought great efficiencies to every business, including my little corner of the world, publishing.
But I do hope that when all is said and done, when we're past the depredation to come, we can return to some measure of civility while retaining bean counter efficiencies.
Each has its role to play. “Human capital” stands as a poor substitute as a concept for taste, judgment and experience. “Turn” can't reliably be forecast by what worked last season. “Locality” or “regionalization” will always knock against the limitations of centralized planning, as long as the latter dictates the choices the former may make.
We keep moving. Let's hope we're moving toward a smarter, better way of getting the job done.
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