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Opinions

HFN editors have years of experience covering products and retail for housewares, tabletop, floor covering, furniture and textiles. They share their opinions here.
  • The Educated Consumer

    Duke RatliffThe now-defunct, New Jersey-based Syms clothing store had an unusual, but memorable tagline: “An educated consumer is our best customer.” The off-pricer’s message was that smart consumers would recognize the bargains they could find at Syms. Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, educated consumers might not be the best customers for home furnishings in the foreseeable future. This fact is not due to these customers’ intelligence level. Rather, it’s because most educated, young consumers have paid—and are still paying—for their education. As has been well documented, millennials were hit hard by the Great Recession. Statistics show that a ... Read More
  • Blog: Small + Small = Big for The Grommet

    Allison Zisko There's been a bit of a love fest going on during the winter gift show circuit, I'm told, between small, independent retailers and the small manufacturers represented on The Grommet's new wholesale platform. The Grommet is a web-based product launch hub that enables small or just-getting-started entrepreneurs (often called "makers") to sell their goods directly to consumers, and, more recently, to retailers. It's where "the little guy meets the little guy," explained Joanne Domeniconi, who founded The Grommet in 2008 with Jules Pieri. The Grommet focuses on under-represented entrepreneurs, and pays special attention to people under ... Read More
  • What a Crock (Pot)

    Duke RatliffWay back in the early '90s when HFN was called HFD, I traveled to visit small appliance manufacturers in the Kansas City area.I met with top executives from three companies: Rival, maker of the famous Crock-Pot slow cooker; Toastmaster, credited with the first automatic pop-up bread toaster; and Dazey, which specialized in appliances such as apple peelers and skillets.Looking back on it, the trip serves as a reminder that the world of home furnishings is constantly evolving. Yet while everything changes, some products, if managed and marketed correctly, can stay fresh and relevant.My Kansas City trip would ... Read More
  • The Ghost of Christmas Future

           Permit me, if you will, to do a little time travel and take you on a small trip into the future ... 365 days to be exact.Welcome to New Years Day 2016.We've all made it through another holiday shopping season and while there was the usual tinsel and general merriment, the retail landscape of the home business sure went through a bunch of changes compared to the year before. Some were predictable, but some were pretty much surprises totally out of left field.Omnichannel becomes Everychannel. The online/in-store playing field got about as level as we've ... Read More
  • Blog: Happy Holidays from Amazon

    Duke RatliffLike getting a pink slip during the holidays or a lump of coal in the stocking, retailers must be feeling that Amazon is giving them a not-so-fine present this season as the nation's largest online retailer announced today that it is testing a one-hour delivery service in Manhattan.Called Prime Now, the service promises to deliver tens of thousands of items including paper towels, shampoo, books, toys and batteries delivered right to the customer's door in an hour or less. Amazon said that Prime Now--exclusive to its Prime Members (who pay annual membership fees of $99 a year ... Read More
  • Blog: Ma Lauded, Lampert Dissed

    David GillHANOVER, N.H.-This year's list of best and worst CEOs has come out, with Jack Ma of Alibaba finishing on the positive side and Eddie Lampert of Sears Holdings among the negatives.The two lists are provided each year by Sydney Finkelstein, professor of management at Dartmouth University's Tuck School of Business and author of "Think Again: Why Good Leaders Made Bad Decisions and How to Keep It from Happening to You." According to a statement from the Tuck School, Finkelstein has studied business failures and leaders' mistakes for more than 20 years.Ma was cited as ... Read More
  • Physical Graffiti

           There's a big reason why the Internet has come along and so easily taken 10 - maybe 20 - percent of overall retail sales in many individual product categories, including a whole bunch in home.Because traditional in-store retailers let them.You can offer all sorts of reasons why online has been so successful and why many people predict it will account for as much as a third of all retail sales by the end of the decade.But the real reason is the one nobody wants to talk about: if physical stores had been doing a better job of retailing ... Read More
  • Raging Bulls

    Duke RatliffLadies and gentlemen, in the blue corner, hailing from Seattle--American champion online retailer Jeff Bezos of Amazon. In the red corner, traveling all the way from Hangzhou, China--Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba.This future heavyweight retail contest of epic proportions is not farfetched, at least not for the distant future, as Ma flexes his muscles after steering Alibaba through the largest initial stock sale in U.S. history.Alibaba, which has raised around $25 billion, is a hybrid of sorts with Chinese versions of businesses similar to Amazon, Paypal and eBay all rolled into one corporate entity. Bezos/Amazon, the ... Read More
  • Blog: Grand Finale

    David GillYesterday was an occasion in which the textiles industry honored a person whose coming departure will make the business quite a bit poorer, and a lot less fun.Mark Grand, who will retire as of president of Peking Handicrafts at the end of this year, received the Carl Goldstein Lifetime Achievement Award from the Home Fashion Products Association for his 40-year career, 36 of which were spent in textiles. He was honored twice--first, at the HFPA's annual meeting in the morning; and second, at a special roast thrown by Home & Textiles Today in the evening.Mark spent the first ... Read More
  • Fourth Quarter Touchdown?

    Duke RatliffBy Duke RatliffAs I've mentioned here before, HFN has an editorial policy prohibiting the phrase "cautiously optimistic."The phrase is such a perfect description for our recent, cautiously optimistic times that it could've been used way too often to describe far too many things: Retailers were cautiously optimistic heading to trade shows; vendors were cautiously optimistic heading to trade shows. Trade show organizers were cautiously optimistic about the traffic expected at the very same trade shows.The phrase became particularly ubiquitous following the Great Recession. Retailers and vendors were usually cautiously optimistic about the economic turnaround. Retailers ... Read More
  • Blog: More New York Tabletop Show Discoveries

    Allison ZiskoNEW YORK-The New York Tabletop Show ends today, wrapping up what several vendors said has been a satisfying show.Gibson outlined some of what it considers the key trends going forward: Au Naturel, a catch-all phrase for handcrafted pottery looks that display the hand of the artist; black and white; global blue (the key hue is indigo or cobalt); a new romanticism, filled with soft pastels and flea-market type looks; and Bohemian Forest, which encompasses both forest and woodland creatures as well as more eclectic shapes. Gibson also introduced a Liberty-like print in Isaac Mizrahi; a melamine dinnerware assortment ... Read More
  • Blog: More News from New York

    Allison ZiskoA second day at the New York Tabletop Market unearthed plenty of new products and marketing plans.Libbey is referring to its new marketing strategy as "owning the moment," reflecting a new emphasis on cultivating consumer experiences rather than focusing solely on product. It launched a new brand, Just Indulge, which is based on home entertaining. Among the groupings in this new brand are Modern Bar, Vintage Bar, Cafe (addressing the coffee and tea trend) and Be Social, with an emphasis on appetizers and small plates. It also introduced the premium version of its Perfect drinkware brand, which is all ... Read More