Michael J. Knell -- Furniture Today, December 15, 2003
I can't think of a business as volatile in its changing aspects as the home textiles industry, but a highly successful savant in a closely related decorative fabrics business pointed out a few things to me that are totally relevant to this business.
As you read on, you can digest his wisdom along with his uniquely acerbic sense of humor.
First, he discussed "just in time," which he noted from his perspective of a half century in the textiles business in this country "really means the guy that's sitting with the stuff that everyone else doesn't have, so he can ship it J-I-T."
But one of the key issues with off-shore production is how to plan based on customers' forecasts — which he has studied, and found are accurate less than a quarter of the time. This is a forecast?
Retail forecasts, he noted, are often purposely exaggerated. The attitude in those cases is "well, they'll take the stuff back if we're too high. They'll want another order." To wit, this pundit called "legalized prostitution."
Then he discussed China, and what he refers to as the lemmings who are flocking without understanding, nor a taste for chop suey or chow mein.
These folks, he contends, haven't really looked into what makes the off-shore situation tick.
Among them are design, quality, consistency in manufacture, some vague sense of compliance with American rules for health standards in the workplace, the stuff that's used in the manufacture of the home textiles products like formaldyhyde, child labor, and so on.
These issues, this pundit is convinced, will be emerging sooner than later — and not necessarily to the benefit of the import community.
Granted, he like everyone else, is in agreement that the Asian impact will continue, and that Americans still can forge specific niche positions in home furnishings.
There's lots more that will impact the way this country deals with the import scenario, especially if new flammability regs are put in place.
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