The Thread

Jennifer Marks
Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Marks shares news and views from around the home textiles marketplace.
  • The Next Supply Chain

    After years of behind-the-scenes work on sustainable and traceable sourcing, consumer-facing labels on home textiles are finally hitting retail shelves. Recent months have seen the introduction of PimaCott sheets and towels at Bed Bath & Beyond, Made In Green by Oeko-Tex towels at JCPenney, Repreve curtains at Target and a flurry of Oeko-Tex labels popping up elsewhere. There’s more to come — but that’s not the half of it. The next great thing in the sustainable supply chain involves what happens to textiles after consumers are done with them. The “make, take and dispose” product cycle is poised to be ... Read More
  • A New Role for Stores

    You may have seen the recent IHL Group report debunking the widely reported “Retail Apocalypse” meme created by their year’s wave of store closings. I confess to being among those caught up in the wave. Per the IHL’s research, U.S. retailers are opening 4,080 more stores this year than they are closing, and for every door that goes dark another 2.7 units open for business. In addition, plans call for 5,500 new stores next year. IHL president Greg Busek joined National Retail Federation execs in a press conference a couple weeks ago to further ... Read More
  • It was never easy

    Crazy. If you’re looking for a word to describe what’s going on at retail right now, that would fit nicely. But from the time Sears-Roebuck launched its first catalog in 1886 and began undermining the fortunes of locally owned general stores across the country, retailing has experienced and survived and adapted to several generations of flux. I happened onto the retail scene in the early 1990’s. Walmart and Target were not yet national retailers. Kmart was king of the discounters. All three were growing at a rapid clip, invading territory occupied by regional discounters like Ames, Venture ... Read More
  • The Bright Side

    So many national business stories about retailing in recent months read like a bad news buffet — store closings, bankruptcies, dead malls, indifferent consumers and, of course, the awesome destructive power of Amazon. As this issue was going to the printer, USA Today’s home page featured an article titled “These 5 retailers may not survive 2017.” Four of them are in the home furnishings business: Sears Holdings, Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores, Bon-Ton Stores, and Conn’s furniture and mattress stores. Two of them appear on our annual Top 50 Retailing Giants ranking: Sears and Bon-Ton. The fifth goner, per ... Read More
  • The Grass Is Always Greener

    Here’s a number that should make any solidly established retail entity quail: 78% of consumers would like to see more pure play retailers open physical stores. So even as some 5,000 name brand store locations are in the process of going dark, shoppers would like to see more etailers emulating Warby Parker and Bonobos. The GPSShopper survey that turned up the result also found that 86% of consumers would prefer to shop “experiential-based stores.” They want to test products in person, then buy via mobile or online. Pure play bedding and bath retailer Parachute is obliging. A few ... Read More
  • 2018: The Year of New Retail Formats

    At the moment, bricks & mortar retailing looks to be burning away in a conflagration of store closings. Something on the order of 5,000 doors will disappear over the coming months across a range of channels: department stores, apparel specialists, sporting goods, drugstores and others. It’s hard to see for all the billowing smoke, but new concepts will soon arise from the ashes. If 2017 is destined to go down in history as The Year of Retail Store Closures, then 2018 is shaping up to be The Year of New Retail Formats. A couple of them are new concepts ... Read More
  • The Through Lines

    With a few exceptions, home seemed to hold its own at many major retailers during the first quarter. In some instances, it was a star. The recent round of first-quarter analyst calls and strategic announcements turned up some common threads among store-based retailers grappling with a rapidly shifting landscape. Reduced store inventories. Several retailers discussed efforts to pare in-store stocks – some simultaneously expanding online assortments. From a vendor perspective, this portends fewer up-front orders for goods and more turn-key fulfillment of merchandise the vendors will be responsible for keeping on hand. For consumers, the best-case scenario is more thoughtfully edited ... Read More
  • Tell us about your new products!

    The summer trade show season is about to start – and we want to hear from you. H&TT will be distributing issues at the Atlanta, Las Vegas and NY Now markets this summer, featuring new home textiles introductions at the shows. Here’s what you need to know. Atlanta Market. The deadline is Wednesday, May 31. Submit your new product images and information to Las Vegas Market. The deadline is May 31. Submit your new product images and information to NY Now. The deadline is Friday, July 7. Submit your new product images and ... Read More
  • Yes, It's Real

    Anybody who believes eco-friendly talk in the industry is a mere sop to Millennials and tree-huggers hasn’t been paying attention. Here’s what’s gone down in just the past four weeks. Walmart wants to clear the air. Walmart launched a new program to eliminate greenhouse gases by one gigaton in a little over a decade. The retailer’s new “Project Gigaton” includes the launch of an online toolkit for suppliers joining the effort. The project, with a goal date of 2030, takes aim at manufacturing, materials and/or use of products and encompasses energy, waste, packaging, agricultural practices ... Read More
  • Gobbling up Niche Markets

    There appears to be a spending spree underway among bricks & mortar retailers. Yes, mid-tier department stores are shuttering some doors and apparel specialty chains are suffering from the “no-more-stuff” attitude exhibited by post-Recessionary consumers. But bricks retailers are showing a powerful appetite for niche online sites, some of which have less to do with merchandise sales than their community building. Consider what’s happened in just the past few months: Walmart recently snapped up vintage-style apparel site ModCloth, outdoor gear specialist MooseJaw and online shoe site ShoeBuy. This after its acquisition in late 2016 of It’s now ... Read More
  • The Big Tier

    You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. Colonel Jessup, “A Few Good Men” Deep down in places suppliers don’t normally make a fuss over in their showrooms, there is the business being done with off-price retailers. The so-called “third tier” of retailing is now the fastest growing channel in bricks & mortar. While the power of e-commerce cannot be under-stated, the physical store is still where the vast majority of home textiles purchases are completed: 70% for ... Read More
  • To invest or divest, that is the question

    It’s been an eventful first quarter, filled with some surprising initiatives and some not-so-surprising store closings and layoffs. It’s hard to decide which came as the bigger bombshell, Target’s announcement that it will become a radically different retailer over the next three years or TJX Cos.’ decision to launch a new home furnishings chain. Apparently TJX hasn’t heard the country is overstored. Neither has Ross Stores, which will add another 90 units this year. Nor Dollar Tree, which plans to open 650 new units on top of the 14,000-plus it already operates. Then there were ... Read More