Sixty Years of Seidman

       

       

RIDGEFIELD, Conn.—The Seidman News Bulletin turned 60 last week.

Celebrating the anniversary, Seymour Seidman, the weekly publication’s editor, reflected on his career as one of the industry’s most respected commentators in an interview with HFN. That career also includes several years in the 1990s as a columnist for this publication (then called HFD) and recognition by the Home Fashion Products Association as a Dean of the Industry in 1996.

The bulletin has appeared every week since its debut in 1950, totaling more than 3,000 issues. Seidman launched the bulletin while he was merchandise manager with Wamsutta, as the Wamsutta News Bulletin. In 1954, he went independent and gave the publication its current name.

The bulletin has maintained the same two-page, Courier type-face format for many years. This format has remained the same even as the industry he covers has undergone several key changes.

One of these, Seidman said, is the transformation of home textiles, sheets and towels in particular, into price-driven, promotional products.

“When I started, the retailer had a fixed markup in mind when selling textiles,” he said. “Today the retailer only looks at the price that’ll sell the goods. He may sell a towel that is $3 wholesale for $3 if it sells the goods.”

Seidman said overproduction and the reduction in retail outlets are two of the reason for this change in the retail mindset. “Also, the retailer looks at home textiles as an image of value,” he said. “If he gives away a sheet or a towel, he makes the consumer feels it’s a great value.”

The nature of brands has also transformed in the six decades of the Seidman News Bulletin. “Brand names don’t mean what they used to,” Seidman said. “In earlier years, it took time and money to establish a brand. Today if a sheet or towel gets floor space, it’s a brand, whatever the retailer chooses to call it.”

Even as he marks the bulletin’s birthday, Seidman is looking ahead to more changes in the industry in the future.

“I believe that for the first time in many years, there is a chance to revive U.S. textiles manufacturing,” he said. “The labor force is there. You can get a skilled labor force for much less the cost than it was when there were many major mills in the country. Also, the costs of manufacturing and labor in China are rising to the point where maybe U.S. manufacturers can be competitive again.”

He added that investor groups may have some interest in restarting textiles production in this country.

“They would need guidance from industry veterans,” Seidman said. “I think retailers could drive this, too, because the business is so basic and routine.”