Buyers thinking big out West: show shoppers seek broader assortments

SAN FRANCISCO–Bigger spring and summer commitments of home textile retailers at this week’s Home Fashion West show, which opened here yesterday, reflect consumers’ demand for wider selections.

Home textile retailer

An upsurge of retail sales over the last 90 days is a big factor in swinging the merchandising pendulum away from the increasingly narrow assortments that marked the programs of many stores in the recession, merchants indicated.

“We’ll be competing for business not only with promotions and fashions but also with the breadth of our assortments,” an executive of a specialty store chain said. “Our customers want a good choice of bath merchandise,” he added. “There are no particular items. It’s the whole bath shop.”

In citing good gains in home textile retail figures over last year, the majority of retailers agreed that the improvement is broadly based, covering all categories.

Bedspreads, including wovens, were rated among the best growth categories, in line with an upturn that has been evident in this category around the country.

A merchandise manager of a Los Angeles department store noted that bedspreads were overshadowed in recent years by volatile, fast-growing comforters. With budgets tight in tough times, bedspreads tended to lose out on share of open-to-buy.

Bedspreads were overshadowed in recent years

After he heavy domination of comforters, which remain good sellers, bedspreads provide a change that many consumers are responding to, he believes.

In addition to looking for merchandise, retailers at this regional market like the opportunity to spot the fashion trends that often start on the West Coast.

They also appreciate the chance to get information from regional sales representatives who are fully informed on every aspect of business in their territories.

“Sales representatives are good and they know how to service regionally,” observed Don Graeber, vice president of domestics for Macy’s California.

Retailers agreed that “explosive” flannel sheets were giving a good lift to the sheet category.

In general, bath shop and kitchen textiles were rated as among the better growth opportunities.

Drapery sales, which have been static in recent years, show signs of improvement, and initial orders for spring indicate confidence in a continued upswing, it was reported.

Mini-blinds are continuing to make increases. Bob Pure, divisional merchandise manager at Frederick & Nelson, Seattle, expects hard window coverings to be the greatest growth area.

Henry Burke, buyer at The Crescent, spokane, said bedding accessories are a strong growth category in his store.

For Paul Hyman, Paul’s Interiors, Austin, Texas, the biggest gains will be in comforters and bedspreads, an area in which he can compete aggressively better than in sheets.

Over and over the refrain here: Carry a wide range of basics. While managements still want buyers to keep control of inventories, there is a loosening of budgets to go wider than a year ago.


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