By Richard Roman
Today’s global economy has brought more choices and diversity to the home furnishings marketplace, but with that diversity comes a negative aspect as well. The consumer has no reliable way to understand the true value of the products they are purchasing.
What does a 20-piece bedding set in a bag really mean to the consumer? On the surface, it appears to be a fabulous value—an entire bedroom complete in a single package at an unbelievably low price. The purchase is made, the consumer happily takes it home, only to be disappointed when she opens the package and finds that the fabric quality, feel, sewing and ultimately the serviceability of the products are inferior.
What she really purchased is exactly what she paid for. More is not necessarily more, and more is not always better. True value to the consumer is in a product that has comfort, lasting value and serviceability. As an industry, I think we have done the consumer a disservice, and many retailers have led or misled their customers by giving a false impression of fantastic value.
A good example of this is thread count, which is often given disproportionate importance due to the fact that it is easy to sell a higher number as a better product. In fact, the yarn quality, weave construction and finishing process have much more significance to the end product’s appearance, feel and performance. I applaud the Sferra “Lose Count” program as an important step toward educating the consumer about this.
Years ago, when domestic mills produced and controlled the majority of home textiles sold in the United States, consumers could trust the brands and be assured that what they were buying was of good quality and consistently high standards. I would say that today, most suppliers still provide good quality and, of course, well-known designer brands have reliable standards of high quality. However, far too many products on the market are actually below the standards that, historically, the American consumer has rightfully expected.
Since 95 percent of home-furnishings products sold in the American market are now produced offshore, it is more important than ever to establish standards and adhere to them so that American consumers can trust the brands and the retailers they purchase from to provide them with the value and quality they expect. If we continue the trend of marketing more for less, there is a real danger that the consumer will become disenchanted and we, as an industry, may never be able to convince them of the value of paying more for a truly better product.
As current president of the Home Fashion Products Association, I am happy to say that we are working hard to establish industry standards for sheets, towels and bedding which all HFPA members will support and which will be published for easy reference, available to all who are selling products in the American market.
It is our hope that these standards will become a way for all of us to re-educate ourselves and our consumers about what constitutes true value.
Richard Roman is president and chief executive officer of Revman International Inc. He can be reached at email@example.com.