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HFN editors have years of experience covering products and retail for housewares, tabletop, floor covering, furniture and textiles. They share their opinions here.
  • Home on the Rise

    Maureen AzzatoThings are certainly looking up in the home furnishings industry after a long hard row since the recession and an anaemically slow recovery over the past several years. The good news is the economic winds seem to be finally at the industry’s back with many indicators pointing to a strong 2015, which some industry players predict will only get stronger through 2019. Last year’s industry results—as indicated by HFN’s 2014 State of the Industry Report, beginning on page 16—were hardly cause to roll out the barrels, but it was marked by modest single-digit gains across ... Read More
  • Stories … Not Just Stores

    Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTORBack in the dark ages when I was a cub reporter–and no, I didn’t wear a fedora with a press card sticking out above the brim–one of the first big retail stories I did was with the head of home for Bloomingdale’s. This was during the height of Marvin Traub’s Bloomies, when the store was the most talked about retailer in America and the concept of retail as theater was really taking hold. Bloomingdales was the very personification of that trend, with its famous model rooms, country-themed promotional events and the Saturday’s Generation buzz ... Read More
  • China’s Currency Devaluation Could Have Hidden Costs

    Bill McLoughlinChina’s announcement last month that it would devalue its currency through a managed float, on its surface appears to be good news for U.S. consumers. In the week following the announcement, China’s renminbi dropped over 4 percent compared to the U.S. dollar, the largest decline in two decades, effectively gifting American consumers a discount on their future housewares purchases. However, a deeper look at the Chinese economy and some of the factors that may have underpinned the currency decision could be cause for concern as housewares suppliers evaluate their future sourcing options. The recent slowing of ... Read More
  • Sear-ing

    David GillMounting doubts about whether Sears Holdings will survive have reached a crescendo thanks, ironically, to a release from the company earlier this week announcing it would post a second-quarter profit. Now before you in the home products manufacturing community stand up and cheer—and you certainly would feel an impulse to do so, given that the last time Sears reported positive net income was 12 quarters ago—take a good look at the fine print. When you do, you’ll see that the reason Sears expects to make money in the quarter is due to the proceeds from the sale ... Read More
  • Sink or Swim?

    Maureen AzzatoAs human beings it’s important to know who we are and, more importantly, be true to ourselves. Let’s face it, people who are self directed and prepossessing—clear about their likes and dislikes, and their goals and aspirations—are compelling. If they are clear communicators to boot, that makes them even more attractive. Well, the same holds true for retailers. They must be true to their culture, strategy and brand identity, while allowing themselves enough flexibility to employ winning tactics against emerging trends so that they can anticipate consumers’ changing needs. But it certainly is a fine balance ... Read More
  • Of Outlets and Outages

    Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTORWelcome to the retail format du jour: outlets. If you’re getting a little taste of déjà vu here, it’s quite understandable. The rush for full-line stores—mostly from the department store world—to move into the outlet and off-price channel is a veritable feeding frenzy these days, capped off with the news that Macy’s will be the latest entrant into this world. Upscale stores like Nordstrom, Saks and Neiman have been playing this card for years. Macy’s sent its kid sister, Bloomingdale’s, out there first a few years ago to test the outlet waters ... Read More
  • In Praise of Knockoffs ...

    Bill McLoughlinPlagiarize. Webster’s dictionary describes it as, “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another as one’s own: use (another’s production) without crediting the source.” Anyone who’s been in the housewares industry for more than a few years knows that if it weren’t for knockoffs a significant portion of many retail shelves would be empty. Few successful products go uncopied and even patent protection is only as powerful as a company’s financial and logistical ability to enforce it. And while I would not advocate copying the work of others as a business ... Read More
  • Your Total Home and Housewares Resource

    Maureen AzzatoIt is a privilege to join the team of such an iconic business-to-business brand as HFN. In the month I have been on the job, it has been so gratifying to hear from and speak to readers and clients who have such a strong affinity to HFN, and who rely on it so fully for their on-trend business decisions across the home and housewares categories. We thank you for your readership and trust, and we plan to build on that wonderful legacy in the future. There are few media brands that have been around as long as HFN (we will ... Read More
  • Blah Blah Blah On the Retail Blahs

    Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTORSo, The Gap is closing 175 stores. Radio Shack closed more than half its thousands of locations. Anna’s Linens is liquidating. Dollar stores, office supply stores...the list goes on and on. And at the end of every list is the kicker: America has too many stores, we’re overstored and the Internet is going to kill brick-and-mortar. Well, try telling that to Uniqlo, H&M, Zara, Amazon, Warby Parker—and more retail start-ups than you can imagine—that America has too many stores. America has too many stores that don’t work anymore, aren’t in touch with ... Read More
  • It’s Nice to Share . . . It’s Better to Be Shared

    Bill McLoughlinWe live in an age of digital communication and reaching consumers on their laptops, tablets and cell phones has never been more critical. Housewares marketers looking to navigate this digital maze must recognize that the rules of the game have changed. Traditional advertising methods and messages don’t apply. The Internet user is a content consumer. Whether it’s information on a potential purchase, news or quirky videos, digital devotees devour content. The term “sharing economy” has emerged in recent years to define the use of technology to facilitate the sharing of goods and services, much like Uber’s ride ... Read More
  • The Great Retail Disconnect

    Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTORBuried in all the financial doubletalk and heavy-handed retailspeak of the most recent earnings reports from big stores and even bigger mall operators, there was an absolutely fascinating dichotomy that says an awful lot about the state of retailing in America today. Big store after big store reported that they had relatively disappointing first quarters largely because traffic was off in their stores and they couldn’t get enough bodies through the front door. Some pulled out the old weather yarn about a harsh winter impacting things and of course that was beyond their control. No doubt the winter of ... Read More
  • The First Housewares Commandment: It Shall Work!

    Bill McLoughlinI’ve been in the housewares business long enough that I’ve seen the trend pendulum traverse its inevitable arc between fashion and function; design and utility; aesthetics and performance, many a time. And while there are always products that embody both, or those that sell well when the pendulum appears to have swung in the opposite direction, I feel the need to sound a warning as we head toward the latest swing in the direction of “design.” I use the term in quotes specifically to reference an emerging movement to employ design principles to create housewares as “art.” Increasingly ... Read More
  • Your Total Home and Housewares Resource

    Maureen AzzatoIt is a privilege to join the team of such an iconic business-to-business brand as HFN. In the month I have been on the job, it has been so gratifying to hear from and speak to readers and clients who have such a strong affinity to HFN, and who rely on it so fully for their on-trend business decisions across the home and housewares categories. We thank you for your readership and trust, and we plan to build on that wonderful legacy in the future. There are few media brands that have been around as long as HFN (we will ... 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
  • 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
  • Show and Tell

    Duke RatliffThe trade show calendar begins with a bang in January as retailers have lots of opportunities to look for the next big thing. Here is HFN's Trade Show Preview for the first half of the year.---HFN Staff ReportJANUARYAtlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market Jan. 6-13Atlanta International Area Rug Market Jan. 7-10americasmart.comFor many in the industry, 2015 kicks off in Atlanta, at the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market and the Atlanta International Area Rug Market. AmericasMart Atlanta will debut Floor 15 in Building 1, a new Home & Design collection that adds more ... 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
  • 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
  • Blog: News from the New York Tabletop Show

    Allison ZiskoThe New York Tabletop Show is in full swing.Lifetime Brands is introducing a wide array of new dinnerware, glassware and flatware, most of which is contemporary and casual, in muted neutrals, pale pastels and the color combination of the moment, indigo and white. Lifetime also introduced Towle dinnerware, designed to coordinate with existing popular silverplated flatware patterns, and several new Mikasa dinnerware patterns configured in 16-piece sets, a first for the brand. Pfaltzgraff looked particularly good with several new reactive glazed dinnerware patterns; a room full of mugs in every imaginable shape, color and theme, along with accessory items ... Read More
  • Blog: Rug Intros Floor High Point Market

    Andrea LilloThe area rug category emphasized bright colors and natural fibers at High Point Market, which ends Thursday. Rug manufacturers also introduced a number of new licensed lines, or extended existing ones.Through its new partnership with the Museum of New Mexico, Jaipur debuted its Traditions Made Modern line, consisting of rugs, poufs and pillows. The relationship pushed the company to try new constructions, including mixing felted wool with handtufted designs, said Candace Clarke, marketing director, while decorative pillows have added trim the company hadn't use before. Clarke also added that the company will add another license next year: National ... Read More
  • Blog: Report from High Point Market

    Andrea LilloHIGH POINT, N.C.-Amid a positive buzz here at High Point Market, companies debuted collections and looks, including a slew of licensed lines with well-known designers and companies.Bob Timberlake was on hand to launch his lighting line with Wildwood Lamps, which he said was only the beginning. One ceramic item incorporated the Chinese design for friendship, while another used the shape of a quill. At his 48th High Point Market--market "is like Christmas Eve to me"--the 77-year-old artist had no thoughts of retiring, he told HFN. Seventeen lamps debuted, and wall decor, accessories and fixtures are to ... Read More
  • Blog: Casual in Chicago

    CHICAGO-The International Casual Furniture Market wraps up today, after a week here in the Merchandise Mart--which has now committed to hosting the market through 2022. Here are some of the products from a tour of the show taken yesterday by HFN.Agio's Kolea and Franklin fire pit collections were highlights in the company's booth. Doug Peppler, the company's senior vice president, said Agio is now selling more fire-pit sets than dining sets ... The Monterrey table and chair set from Barlow Tyrie is manufactured with a high-fired ceramic tabletop ... Parker James, the division of Summer Classics that ... Read More