Windows Show Growth
Jill Rowen -- Home Textiles Today, 6/25/2012 2:00:00 AM
NEW YORK - Sales of soft window treatments are showing signs of growth, but as with all home textiles categories, the overall story is much more complex.
While some makers are reporting stellar increases with new programs and new customers, others are only cautiously optimistic given the slow recovery for the economy and increased costs. But across the board, there are two truths that everyone can agree on: the impact of JCPenney's future plans will be felt deeply in the window category and the ecommerce sector of the business is still growing by leaps and bounds.
"Business is picking up and we saw an uptick during tax refund season," said Sandy MacNeil, svp, sales and merchandising, Beacon Looms.
Acknowledging the slowly rebounding economy, MacNeil nonetheless noted that consumers are becoming used to a "new normal" and beginning to slowly spend. In particular, MacNeil said its kids' business - the industry's "cheap and cute" category - was good. "People still spend on their kids," she said.
For Beacon and others, new looks in sheers including textures, embellishments and embroideries are trending, as are linen and faux linen "dry looks."
"Anything with bling and shine. A lot of linen and dry looks and ikat prints is what we are seeing," said Jason Carr, principal, Softline Home Fashions.
According to The NPD Group's Consumer Tracking Service, all drapery lengths saw dollar sales increases in the past 12 months, though ceiling to floor options saw the most significant increases compared to last year.
Solution-based offerings such as black-out curtains, energy efficient constructions and all-weather offerings are still strong contenders. "We're having a good year, and are ahead of last year," noted Carl Goldstein, vice chairman, S. Lichtenberg. "Our blackout business is especially good."
"Business is very good. Spring was great. There's tentativeness for the next few months, but we're happy and going full ahead," noted Barry Goodman, vp, Commonwealth Home Fashions. Winners for the company include its thermal sheers and its outdoor business which is "exceptionally strong."
The tentativeness comes from the rising price of everything. "The price of cotton - which didn't impact our business as much as others - has come down, but freight, electricity, water, packaging, labor is up," said Goodman.
Carr seconds the concerns. "We're very cautious about our inventory; and we're cautious about our Chinese partners," he noted. "The recovery we were hoping for is coming much more slowly."
At retail, there is also understandable turmoil in the category. Michael Francis, JCPenney's president of only nine months left abruptly last week and the retailer's still unfolding marketing and merchandising plans are not boosting sales as yet. Suppliers noted that a revolving door of buyers and executives made it difficult to know how it would all work out.
"No matter what happens with Penney, the result will be felt by the entire industry," noted Christine Bolton, president, Corona & Robertson, a division of Natco Fabrics. "It's unlikely that a 100 million dollar business will shift completely. A large part of that will just be gone."
On the plus side, Bolton reported that Natco's home center business was good and the company overall was "on a steady roll."
One retail sector that is not in turmoil is e-commerce. In HTT's results, e-commerce was up by 7%, the highest gain of any sector.
"The growth in e-commerce is staggering," according to Budd Goldberg, ceo, Ellery Homestyles. While the industry overall is up in the single digits, the e-commerce portion is in the double digits in some cases, he noted.
According to Interactive Media in Retail Group (IRMA), total internet sales in the United States will grow at an annual rate of 10% to 15% in the next few years.
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