State of the Industry Report - October 2013

Exploring Life “After”
By Wanda Jankowski

Birth Of A Brand: Donny Osmond Home

Currently performing in “The Donny & Marie Show” in Las Vegas, NV, Donny Osmond has succeeded in a range of performance genres. In addition to more than 80 million album sales, including 33 albums that went “Gold,” Osmond has hosted multiple television shows, starred on Broadway and has even won “Dancing With The Stars.”

But when the Donny Osmond Home Collection was recently announced, the reaction of many a Donny fan might be: Wait, what? Home?

The answer is yes. A home collection is a well thought through fit for Osmond. On a personal level, Osmond has always been known for his wholesome, family values. He and wife Debbie, married 35 years, have five children and five grandchildren.

“There simply are no better role models to represent the brand message of ‘Making Home & Family #1’. Donny and Debbie are the genuine influence and inspiration that brings this brand to life in the homes and hearts of consumers everywhere,” explains Deb Wallace, senior vice-president of marketing for Clique Here, the brand manager for Donny Osmond Home.

The collection formally debuts in 2014, an important landmark year in Osmond’s career. “There will be a significant degree of consumer recognition given to Donny’s 50 years in entertaining, which coincides with the brand launch,” explains Wallace.

When asked why he chose to do a home line, Osmond says, “Debbie and I want to encourage families to spend quality time together and to do so in an environment that is inviting and family friendly. Debbie’s and my home collection is a reflection of the decor found in our home: a blend of textured neutrals with color accents depicting a casual and comfortable lifestyle.

“Our home collection is transitional and eclectic. Debbie and I have traveled the world. From our travels, we’ve collected décor ideas,” Osmond explains. “This is what makes our home collection unique—it’s our perspective on the beauties this world offers.”

Currently, Donny Osmond Home supplier partners include: A & B Home, Lamp Works, Anji Mountain, Global Product Resources/DecoBREEZE, Bougainvillea, The Willowbrook Company, Copper Creek, Achim Imports, Pearl Mantels and Ellison First Asia. Additional partners are being signed on in furniture, upholstery, rug and home improvement categories. (In addition to the collection products displayed on this page, the sidebar image on p. 10 shows the Osmonds seated in a product vignette.)

“The ideal license will not only lend itself to the specific product category, but will convey a cultural relevance in style or trend to the consumer with the potential for longevity and growth in the marketplace,” says Phil Weil, vice-president, Global Product Resources, maker of DecoBREEZE fans, among others. “We felt the Donny Osmond Home brand answered these qualification points significantly and afforded us an excellent opportunity to combine our creativity in design with a world-renowned entity.”

Jeff Gold, vice-president, sales and marketing, Anji Mountain, adds, “Donny Osmond is an American icon with a huge, passionate fan base. The organization that he’s chosen to work with has done a tremendous job in selecting vendors who match up well with Donny’s brand vision. We were honored to be approached and believe that our natural fiber area rugs are a perfect fit for his brand.”

“The collection is priced to be accessible and affordable for most,” says Wallace. “We will continue to expand the assortment and licensee community as the brand grows.”
Products will be in place at retail after the Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Show in January 2014.

Trend To Watch:
Focus On Multi-Cultural Niches

Walk through any market event and you’ll see a wide range of products bearing motifs inspired by exotic cultures for Americans who have not necessarily experienced those cultures, but who want the flavor of an exotic global locale in their homes.

What’s missing from the product landscape are designs for members of minority races and exotic cultures living in the U.S. At 14 percent, African Americans are the largest racial minority group in America. In the year 2020, 30 percent of the American workplace will be Latino. (As reported in Paramount Market Publishing’s Hustle: Marketing To Women In The Post-Recession World.)

In an economic landscape in which suppliers and retailers are constantly seeking niches to serve and increase sales, perhaps now is the time to research and develop product lines with cultural appeal for the growing minorities in this country.

Trend To Watch: Growing Sustainable Options

“The Green and Sustainability movements were underway before the recession and have mainstreamed during the last four years, in part because of the recession,” write Bonnie Ulman and Sal Kibler, authors of Hustle: Marketing To Women In The Post-Recession World. Belt-tightening has prompted consumers to “green-up” by reusing, multi-purposing and repurposing products to save money.

Not only is the number of small companies offering eco-friendly products increasing, but today larger, established companies who are not sustainable by mission are introducing eco-friendly lines.

Suppliers and retailers are collaborating on addressing sustainability issues. The Sustainable Textiles Coalition met during September’s N.Y. Home Fashions Market to discuss goals. The organization seeks eventually to make available a textiles version of the Higg Index developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The index measures the sustainability of processes and products on a scale of 1 to 100. “This tool creates a new set of information that creates a new conversation that can lead to innovation,” says John Whalen, Blu Skye Consulting, who has played a key role in organizing the initiative.

The Sustainable Textiles Coalition launched in February 2013. Founding retailers and manufacturers include Target, Yunus Textile Mills—Pakistan, Williams-Sonoma and Coyuchi. For more information, visit textilescoalition.org.

Our annual, exclusive State of the Industry report delves into major issues behind what’s selling, who’s buying and who’s selling in an economy struggling to recover after the Great Recession

What’s Selling?

Brands, Brands & More Brands
There’s no question that brand proliferation is on the rise—from supplier in-house and retailer private label to licensed brands. The multi-media information explosion has enabled licensed brands to emerge from a wide range of sources, from established entertainers, reality television show personalities and apparel fashion designers to historical foundations and as extensions of successful lifestyle lines in complementary product categories.

Sam Samani, chief merchandising officer and senior vice-president, Pacific Coast Home Furnishings, reveals the proliferation of resources in today’s global marketplace that can all make similar items is the root of the branding trend.

“Manufacturers are attempting as many ways as possible to differentiate the same products between their customers. Brands are a great way to do this,” explains Stanley Mieszkowski, executive vice-president of sales and marketing, The Northwest Company.

Brands gain consumer trust when they are associated with quality and innovation, adds Jennifer Sheridan, national sales manager, C & F Enterprises/Gallerie II. “When the consumer selects a brand, they are already bonded with the lifestyle or benefit that brand is known for. Value perception is an important part of the retail buying decision process, and an unbranded product raises concerns and uncertainty,” she says.

“In-house brands give the customer an opportunity for exclusivity. Therefore, we continue to develop our in-house brands of Signet, Belvedere Court and Chelsea. We have developed a good, better, best assortment to align with the brand charters created for each brand,” explains Kevin Kuehl, president, Baltic Linen Company.

Selecting A Brand
Choosing which licensed brand “star” suppliers hitch their proverbial wagons to involves weighing several factors.

For Jeff Gold, vice-president of sales and marketing, Anji Mountain, it is about, “Trying to gauge the synergy between the brand and your product, and weighing the costs of a license against the potential increase in sales of your product.”

“We have a committee that reviews all brands and we determine how appropriate they are for our customers,” says Northwest’s Mieszkowski.
“Here at Baltic, we look for historical relevance and developmental appeal. The brand has to provide opportunities to grow business with our current customers or develop new customers.

Brands have to provide unique appeal that can separate us from the masses,” says Kuehl.
Barry Samberg, president, Famous Home Fashions, is influenced by “brand awareness, the demographics the brand appeals to, the retailers supporting the brand and the potential the brand has in our categories to produce profitable sales.”

The factors for Wade Svicarovich, president, Kimlor, include the breadth of the brand, corporate support and audience size.

Dan Sinykin, president of Monterey Mills, parent company of Denali® Home Furnishings, chose to work with the Lyric Culture brand because, “we were impressed with the management team, specifically Hanna Rochelle, the founder.

We felt their brand and their designs were conducive to our manufacturing process and ultimately complement our products and our customer base. Lyric Culture has unique relationships in the entertainment industry and an excellent, creative design team.”

The search for just the right brand partner can be a lengthy process. “We researched for over two years trying to find a unique brand that had both high top-of-mind recognition among consumers (primarily women) and also a brand that immediately speaks to sleep,” relates Nancy Heaton Lonstein, marketing director and member of the family business ownership team at Jeffco Fibres. “The Snuggle™ brand from Sun Products has it all: 91 percent top-of-mind recognition, a well-known beloved icon in the Snuggle bear, a name that intuitively invokes wonderful feelings of sleep-time intimacy, comfort and contentment, and a mature core brand presence in multiple media and retail channels.”

Elements For Success & Failure
After the licensing agreements are signed, a range of factors affect whether the brand is a hit with consumers and becomes profitable or fails to gain the attention and acceptance of retailers and consumers.

“A brand should represent a particular niche in the industry. The saying, ‘You can’t be everything to everybody,’ applies really well here,” says Samani.

Vicki Payne, founder of the For Your Home by Vicki Payne brand, believes brand success involves a balancing act between providing designs that are on trend and maintaining the brand’s style.

Anji’s Gold stresses that there must be a logical connection evident to consumers between the brand, particularly if it represents a personality, and the type of products offered.

Phil Weil, vice-president, Global Product Resources, Inc., makers of DecoBREEZE fans, lists these factors as the keys to brand success: “Unbridled creativity of the product designs, a consistent and exciting consumer message about the brand and its products, and an outstanding consumer experience with the brand from start to finish.”

A recipe for brand failure, according to Payne, involves “not keeping true to the essence of the brand. You have to really stick to your guns and make sure everyone sees and understands your vision for the brand.”

Samberg warns, beware “when the brand is a fast trend or young star that fizzles as quickly as they explode. The other reason [for brand failure] is a brand’s inability to police and convey to the market a consistent message and image that the brand stands for.”

A pitfall for Samani is bad distribution; for Svicarovich, lack of corporate support.

“A brand fails because it no longer has fresh insight into what current consumers need and no passion to continue to address their changing tastes, lifestyles and expectations. Success demands constant observation and flexibility,” says Sheridan.

“Unfortunately, I think the importance of brands in our industry is cyclical,” concludes Denali’s Sinykin. “Boutique brands that are resilient, that offer something unique and create a loyal following survive. Large retailers have effectively created private label options (sometimes simulating a brand), but many source from the same overseas factories and will continue to struggle to differentiate themselves. This model is true of many industries, not just home textiles.”

Who’s Buying?

The Recession’s Impact On Women
Successful sales of all products—branded or unbranded—involve an understanding of consumers’ needs and mindsets. The primary home textiles purchasers are women. According to authors and marketing strategists, Bonnie Ulman and Sal Kibler, surviving the Great Recession has left women forever changed in how they think about and purchase goods. Following are insights from their information-packed book, Hustle: Marketing To Women In The Post-Recession World, published by Paramount Market Publishing, Inc.

Ellison First Asia/ Donny Osmond Home A tailored, striped motif adorns the first ensemble by Ellison First Asia for Donny Osmond Home.
Global Product Resources/ Donny Osmond Home The Donny Osmond Home Decorative Fan Collection, manufactured by Global Product Resources, Inc./DecoBREEZE, includes high- quality fans that are every bit as much home accents as they are functional air circulation units.
Anji Mountain/Donny Osmond Home The Perfect Diamond jute rug by Anji Mountain from the new Donny Osmond Home Collection.
Denali Throws/Lyric Culture Denali Throws furnishes double-sided acrylic Microplush™ throws to Lyric Culture. Shown is the All You Need Is Love throw, which features The Beatles’ song lyrics on one side, and the song title and graphics on the other. The 50- by 60-inch throw is offered in red (shown), sterling, and black. Founded in 2006 by singer-songwriter Hanna Rochelle, Lyric Culture is a music-inspired lifestyle brand based on the song lyrics of legendary artists and current hit-makers.

 

American Dawn/ For Your Home By Vicki Payne Spice Box towels by American Dawn are from the For Your Home By Vicki Payne Collection. A recent addition to Payne’s brand is the For Your Home fabric collection by Coats, which has launched in 750 Walmart stores.

Famous Home Fashions/PIP Studio PIP Studio, a Danish designer with a strong brand presence in Europe, is brought to the U.S. by Famous Home Fashions. Characterized by shabby chic design and a fresh color palette, the bedding was placed a year ago at Dillard’s in the U.S. and The Hudson Bay in Canada. In both the U.S. and Canada, key e-tailers and brick-and-mortar boutiques are also stocking PIP Studio bedding. The bath category will be introduced in 2014.
Jeffco Fibres/ Snuggle Jeffco Fibres introduces the Snuggle™ brand of comfort sleep products, with marketing highlighting benefits from technology (e.g. gel memory foam), solutions (e.g. less tossing and turning), and feelings of attachment evoked by the product. The Snuggle bear® and name evoke a sense of playfulness, warm feelings and family values. The brand’s target demographic is female head of households. Jeffco’s social media plan for “Creating more Snuggle up moments” will extend the age demographic from the early 20’s through the retiree generation.

“Do not underestimate the far-reaching impact of stress, fatigue and sometimes resentment that today’s woman carries…If your game plan is to tell her what to buy based on features and price, then you need to rethink your strategy. Today’s consumer wants you to give her options for redesigning her life. Ways that are leaner and meaner. Ways that make her feel smarter than ever before,” write Ulman and Kibler.

Women have become distrustful of and disillusioned by companies and brands—even brands to which they were once loyal. “About a third of the women we surveyed (32 percent) said they were less loyal to companies today than before the Great Recession, with an almost equal number (31 percent) revealing they are less loyal to brands. For women between the ages of 46 and 50, the percentage of women who are less loyal to companies jumps to 44 percent, while 41 percent indicated they are less loyal to brands.”

In this era of couponing and price-cut deals, Ulman and Kibler state, “Women expect never to pay full price for a product they are willing to try or rebuy. If there’s no deal when they want to purchase, they’ll wait it out or they’ll product hop to execute the transaction elsewhere or experiment with another brand. [But] daily deals can erode loyalty—with loyalty to the deal site, rather than the product or service.”

With so many available media channels among which to search for product information, women have become slower to make decisions. The abundance of marketing materials isn’t necessarily helping the situation. Of women surveyed by Ulman and Kibler, 64 percent believe advertisers do not understand their needs.
With less money to spend, consumers are trading down. “No longer burdened with the goal of acquiring or expanding, women are learning and reinforcing ways to innovate, improve, and renovate what they already have,” the authors write.

Lack of confidence in institutions and the ease of using social media have prompted women to talk to and empower each other—making recommendations about products and brands to purchase. Ulman and Kibler report that of those women surveyed, 32 percent trust strangers online more than branded ads or marketing collateral; 92 percent trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all forms of ads; and 70 percent trust online consumer reviews.

How do retailers and suppliers cater to this post-recession consumer? “There aren’t necessarily new strategies, but core techniques that need to be executed well and delivered consistently,” according to Ulman and Kibler.

  • Make transactions as easy and efficient as possible, allowing for questions and quick responses.
  • Brands need to be authentic, dependable, empathetic, offer a great customer experience and good value, keep promises and remain consistent.
  • Demonstrate why your product pricing is fair.
  • Customer loyalty programs must offer meaningful rewards.
  • Women access at least three different options through varied media channels prior to purchase, so integrating marketing and management over multiple channels is key. Be consistent in your messages, and clear and frequent in communicating them.
  • Give women permission to trade down and make it easy. Help them to achieve a balanced spending approach.

Who’s Selling?

Online Retail Is Changing The Game
Forrester Research, as reported by Internet Retailer, estimates that online sales will account for 10 percent of U.S. retail sales by 2017, bringing it from an estimated $262 billion in 2013 to $370 billion in 2017. Even though that is only 10 percent of the total retail sales pie, as happens with new technologies transforming any field, this new kid on the block is throwing a monkey wrench into the established workings of the retail sector.

The “showrooming” phenomenon, in which consumers view products in brick-and-mortar stores, but then research pricing via smartphone, tablet or computer and purchase, often for a better price, from another retailer’s website, has been around for several years.

“In a survey during the 2013 back-to-school shopping season, 38.7 percent of smartphone-owning parents with at least one child at home said they used their phones while in stores to compare prices online,” reports Don Davis, editor-in-chief, Internet Retailer. “And 20.5 percent said they used their phones to make a purchase, according to the survey of 12,000 parents who own smartphones by location analytics vendor Placed Inc.

“[Brick-and-mortar stores] are forced increasingly to match the prices of online retailers that don’t have the costs of operating stores, costs that include real estate, employees and stocking inventory in many locations.

That’s a big problem for store-based retailers, and one they are all responding to in one way or another,” Davis explains.

Some retail chains have adopted price-matching policies, which can backfire by decreasing profit margins. Some smaller-format stores, Davis notes, are stocking less merchandise, but furnishing customers with broader assortments accessible online through in-store kiosks or employees equipped with mobile devices.

“Walmart.com is dramatically increasing its selection online—it’s grown to 2 million SKUs, far more than the 100,000 SKUs available in a typical Walmart store—by inviting other merchants to sell on Walmart.com, in effect mimicking Amazon’s model,” Davis explains.

Suppliers’ ability to sell directly through online retail sites and drop-ship merchandise are impacting sales in independent specialty stores, which now must offer differentiated products and be expert at creating a compelling in-store sales experience in order to compete.

The Great Recession’s legacy is that even as the economy recovers, consumers’ buying behavior and the retail landscape will not return to what they were pre-recession, but rather life “after” will remain forever changed.

Resources

• Anji Mountain, 888-344-5004, anjimountain.com
• Baltic Linen Company, 800-422-5842, balticlinen.com
• C & F Enterprises, Inc., 888-889-9868, cnfei.com
• Clique Here, 678-418-2227, cliquehere.com
• Denali Throws, 800-588-0081, denalithrows.com
• Donny Osmond Home, donnyosmondhome.com
• Ellison First Asia, LLC, 212-869-0540, ellisonfirstasia.com
• Famous Home Fashions Inc., 800-465-4566, famoushomefashions.com
• Global Product Resources, Inc., 800-979-4326, decobreeze.com
• Internet Retailer, 312-362-9527, internetretailer.com
• Jeffco Fibres, Inc., 508-943-0440, jeffcofibres.com
• Kimlor, 800-782-0007, kimlor.com
• Pacific Coast Home Furnishings, 323-838-7808, pacificcoasthomefurnishings.com
• Paramount Market Publishing, Inc., 888-787-8100, paramountbooks.com
• Sustainable Textiles Coalition, textilescoalition.org
• The Northwest Company, 800-242-6996, thenorthwest.com
• Vicki Payne, Cutters Productions, Inc., 704-522-9900, foryourhome.com


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