Carole Sloan -- Furniture Today, December 23, 2002
Without a doubt, this has been one of the most tumultuous years in the history of the home textiles business.
The marketplace has been turned upside down in terms of how, where and for how much the products for this business are produced. The devaluation of the products in this industry hasn't begun to be analyzed at this point.
Then there is the sticky question of distribution — near term and farther down the road. The pressures on the designer brands to expand their distribution is ever increasing. And last week's sale of Calvin Klein to Phillips-Van Heusen will bring additional distribution pressures when P-VH moves the brand into other products and price point levels.
And as imports continue to loom larger each month, the challenge is which is the importer: the retailer or the former manufacturer? It's getting to the point where retailers are muscling in on the suppliers used by their U.S. suppliers. Then there's the question that comes up in conversations about direct retailer imports: Who eats the dogs?
Then we have the issues that go way beyond home textiles itself. These are the governmental regulatory issues concerning product at both the federal and state levels. And it looks like California is the lead horse in this race. And few in the marketplace are really facing up to the impact regs will have on product development, design and pricing. And because it involves imports, the impact will be all the greater: a product, moved among many facilities, will be subjected to many inspections as it travels from fiber to finished item.
Government regs are moving into the more basic elements of business, such as shipping of merchandise from one country to another. The burden of proof is increasingly on the company bringing stuff into this country as far as certifying that the merchandise is not carrying a weapon of mass destruction within the container.
Some see the program as a way to ensure quick processing of their merchandise as part of the advance declarations. But Customs continues to emphasize that this is a security measure and must include every supplier involved in the production of an item, not just the primary contractor.
On the bright side, it looks like business is beginning to open up in furnitureland, though it won't be an easy ride. Even export is looking up for many.
On that note, hope everyone has a great new year.
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