Watch out. Something that feels strangely like optimism may be insinuating itself into the industry.
There is a growing sense - one we first caught wind of in January at Heimtextil - that it just might be possible to make a little money this year.
The sentiment has floated through successive first-quarter trade shows. In preview appointments for the New York Home Fashions Market over the past couple of weeks, the scent of it has been in the air as well.
Here's what we've been seeing that I think could point to impending growth.
• Several companies are building out staff - especially in sales.
• A number of manufacturers are adding capacity - especially in India.
• U.S. based suppliers are adding or expanding to their domestic supply chain and fulfillment structures - especially in terms of servicing ecommerce.
• We're starting to see a few new companies - especially with some familiar faces running them.
• A few companies that have flown under the radar now feel themselves positioned to raise their profile and grab market share - especially in the better/best segments of the business. (Caveat: that definition is relative by channel.)
• A few other companies have in recent months made acquisitions - especially targeting suppliers outside the rigid corridors of big-box home textiles retailing.
• Where higher raw material and production costs are concerned, everyone seems to have reached the final stage of grief: acceptance. Especially on the subject of cotton.
After three long years of speculating about what "the new normal" might look like - from the question of consumer behavior to the matter of open-to-buy - we may at last be getting a look at it.
What's been most gratifying is talking to supplies who have put a lot of thought into how to restructure their businesses, much of that internally. And as much as we all like to joke about the industry's penchant for shooting itself in the foot the moment an opportunity presents itself, I've been very impressed by a lot of what we're hearing.
Quick. Somebody pinch me.