WAshington (FNS)–More than $1 billion worth of annual trade in home furnishing products has been removed from duty-free status by President Reagan under tighter restrictions that the White House has clamped on a special program designed to aid the economies of emerging countries.
A wide range of items, including telephones, cookware, waterbed mattresses and radio receivers, will lose their tariff exemption, either as part of a general crackdown or because individual countries have been removed from the exempt status.
The sweeping changes were effective March 30. They were announced last week as part of a review the government makes annually of the Generalized System of Preferences.
Each year, the GSP statute provides a formula that requires certain products from any given foreign supplier to be removed from GSP eligibility, either because they have captured more than 50 percent of the U.S. market or because shipments have reached a certain dollar level.
But increasingly, the White House also has been “graduating” products from GSP benefits when the supplying nation has reached a certain degree of affluence. TAiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea have been chiefly affected.
Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea also happen to be the three largest GSP beneficiaries and, together, account for about 52 percent of all GSP trade.
Altogether, 3,053 producers are covered by the system, and many of them are in the home furnishings field.
Among the major changes announced last week was the removal from GSP of telephone equipment and parts shipped from TAiwan and Hong Kong. Around $380 million in annual trade was involved in the action, which was triggered automatically because of the large volume involved.
Under the same category of automatic deletion was the removal from GSP of hand-held citizens band radio receivers from South Korea and Hong Kong, accounting in aggregate for more than $200 million in shipments last year.
Also removed from the GSP list because volume has exceeded the statutory formula were microwave ovens from Korea ($93.7 million last year); various earthenware and bone china ornaments from TAiwan (around $9 million); nonfolding chairs of wood other than teak from Taiwan ($60.5 million) and various wall covering of rubber or plastic from Taiwan ($1.1 million).
Each of these items, at least for the coming 12 months, will lose its duty-free status pending next year’s review of the annual import statistics.
In addition to these deletions, automatically triggered by the statue, President Reagan also removed a number of home furnishings products from GSP eligibility by fiat.
Waterbed mattresses and their liners, with imports totaling almost $30 million last year, will be subject to import duties from whatever source. They were one of two items that were entirely removed from the GSP list.
In addition, Reagan “graduated” a number of itmes shipped from certain countries, including porcelain-on-steel cooking and kitchenware from Taiwan ($23.7 million last year); and pianos of all types from Korea ($22 million in 1983).
Finally, the president decided to deny eligibility to certain products shipped from certain countries, even though their trade last year fell within trade beneficiary definitions provided by the GSP law.
These items included copper cooking and kitchenware from Taiwan (5.7 million in 1983); cast aluminum cooking and kitchenware not enameled or glazed from TAiwan ($1.1 million); electric flat irons from Singapore ($24 million); solid state radio receivers from Singapore, Taiwan and Korea ($137 million combined); tape recorders, dictation and transcribing machines from Korea and TAiwan ($78 million combined); nad folding directors chairs shipped from Taiwan ($3 million.)
In one of the few actions restoring GSP eligibility, Reagan redesignated wooden chairs (other than teak) shipped from Yugoslavia as benefiting from the duty-free status.
NEW YORK–Since Kenney Manufacturing diversified from drapery hardware to hard window coverings in 1981, it has gone from being an exclusive mass merchant resource to a steadily growing factor in department stores where a whopping 60 percent of its mini-blinds are sold.
Kenney now does about 35 percent of its overall sales with department stores and the firm is looking to increase that figure, according to Bill Uecker, senior vice president.
“Our strategy was to expand the department store business several fold,” said Uecker, the former president of Joanna Western Mills who joined Kenney in 1981.
Shortly after his arrival, Kenney went full force into the blind and shade business. That opened the door to department store business and gave the company a hefty 30 percent volume increase in 1982.
Kenney diversified into roll-up shades, window shades and imported woven wood shades in 1981. In the summer of 1982, Kenney introduced its first stock mini-blinds in both vinyl and aluminum and set up a manufacturing facility in its home base in Warwick, R.I., for aluminium blinds. The vinyl blinds are imported.
Trade sources estimate the company’s total volume to be in excess of $70 million. Just over half of Kenney’s business is done in drapery hardware and the remainder is done in woven woods, shades and mini-blinds, said Uecker. Growth in blinds
The company expects to increase its volume by 25 percent this year, he added. The firm is looking for growth in both department stores and mass merchants, said Uecker.
Some of that growth will result from two new products introduced at the November market. They are a stock pleated shade, which Uecker prefers to call a pleated blind, and a line of stock wood mini-blinds. Both items are imports but, by the middle of this year, Uecker reported, Kenney will manufacture its own pleated blind domestically.
“We’re three years away from maximum sales of the pleated blind, but I just think it’s an education process that will occur,” he said. “People haven’t been exposed to them enough, but in two or three years that process will be complete,” he added.
“I think the pleated blind will become another staple of the American scene like the mini-blind,” said Uecker. He predicts that the imported pleated shade will eventually fill the niche of the vinyl mini-blind and that domestically manufactured pleated shades will be high demand items in department stores.
But at the moment, it’s Kenney stock mini-blinds that are becoming a growing staple in department stores and are best-sellers in many of them across the country. Stock options
Although Kenney has a small percentage of the total mini-blind market, which is dominated by Levolor, Hunter Douglas and Bali blinds it is gaining leverage in the department store arena because it originally approached the market with a stock product, said Uecker.
Kenneth was never in the custom mini-blind business like the three amjor producers and reacted faster to demands for a stock product than they did, Uecker said.
He said that Rainbow was probably one of the first companies to introduce the stock blind with Kenney and Clopay following soon after.
Although Kenney’s mini-blind market share is not great, in recent HFD surveys charting best-selling mini-blinds in department stores, Kenney blids are mentioned frequently.
“One reason for this was our timing in picking up the stock concept and another is that we offer 16 colors in stock sizes,” said Uecker. Most stock mini-blinds are only available in a narrow selection of colors, but Uecker said some department stores are able to stock and sell as many as 10 colors of Kenney mini-blinds with the remainder available as special order. Promoting is key
“More and more stores are putting in more stock in various colors,” said Uecker, adding that many of Kenney’s blinds are merchandised on the selling floor.
Uecker isn’t too worried about the heavy discounting that has become the norm for stock mini-blinds. “If you continue to promote blinds and tell a fashion story at the same time, the only way way can go is up,” said Uecker. Kenney vinyl blinds normally retail from $17.99 to $19.99 whiel aluminum blinds are promoted at $30 for all sizes up to 36 inches.
The majority of Kenney’s aluminum blinds are sold to department stores. Suprisingly enough, so are the bulk of Kenney vinyl blinds. “We will continue to sell vinyls to department stores as promotional items,” said Uecker. When they choose to, they can later trade up to aluminum blinds, he added.
Vinyl blinds were not initially intended to be mass merchant items and Uecker said he knew that department sotres would have to pick them up before the mass merchants caught on to them.
“Department stores are always looking for something new,” said Uecker. “Mass merchants don’t react as quickly to a new product,” he added. Uecker does, however, predict that vinyl blinds will eventually become obsolete in department stores and will find their home with mass merchants. Colors important
“No one can tell a color story like a department store,” said Uecker. More of them are setting up multicolor display walls, he added, noting that the mass merchants’ strength will be mostly in white and ivory vinyl blinds.
One New York department store started out carrying white and ivory aluminum blinds and no stocks all 16 colors, said Uecker. Most, however, prefer to special order the uncommon colors, he added.
Kenney does have a limited custom program for its aluminum and wood blinds and plans to have a similar program for its domestically produced pleated shade. The custom programs are limited in color selection and not widely promoted but are available from stores that carry Kenney stock blinds.
The company’s wood blinds are now being sold only to department stores, but Uecker said that eventually mass merchants will follow the lead of department stores and carry them too.
Currently under development at Kenney is a track system for vertical blinds. A complete stock vertical blind program will be introduced this fall, said Uecker.
“For the first time in years we’re seeing encouraging signs in the drapery hardware business,” said Uecker, adding that this traditional business for Kenney will account for some of the company’s growth in the coming year.
Not only are climbing sales in this area due to a renewed interest in draperies, but “we’re gradually establishing our drapery hardware in department stores,” said Uecker.
“We hadn’t marketed our drapery hardware until now in department stores because it’s a very different kind of sale than blinds,” he said. “A department store usually has one or two suppliers of hardware and it’s never made sense for them to change that,” he said.
“But now that we can supply the department store with multiple items there is a sense in having an overall program with us, including hardware,” said Uecker.
One hardware item, a new adjustable country curtain pole set, was introduced at market and met with enthusiastic responses from buyers, said Uecker. The pole is made of an adjustable seam lock steel tube with decorative wood brackets on the ends.
Let’s face it. The era of the sommelier –in America at least–is dead. More accurately, it’s over even before it ever began.
In today’s American restaurant, every waiter must also be a sommelier. He must be as polished and comfortable about suggesting and serving Chardonnay as he is about suggesting and serving steak tartare.
Ironically, many restaurateurs hire waiters, assuming that the waiter’s wine-service skills are top-notch or at least decent. But look around any dining room in any restaurant on any given night in America. Corks are being crumbled to smithereens, glasses are being refilled and removed without rhyme or reason, and waiters are stumbling over the list as though every wine were Chateau Unpronounceable.
Recently, in the wine training sessions for waiters that I teach, I’ve noticed that certain questions keep cropping up; they are as much questions of style and diplomacy as of technique.
Waiters say that the person they are most likely to go to with a question about wine service is the restaurant owner or manager. So here are the 15 questions waiters have asked me the most, along with my answers.
Q. Is there any way to prevent a cork from breaking?
A. Not 100 percent of the time. If you open a bottle of wine correctly, however, you can minimize the number of times you’ll break a cork. (Broken corks are usually due to bad technique or a bad corkscrew–not to defective corks.) The correct technique goes like this: Insert worm; screw down; jack up a bit; screw down a second time (worm should pierce the bottom of the cork); jack up; and pull out.
Q. If the cork won’t budge, can I brace the bottle between my knees for leverage?
A. It depends on the kind of restaurant you work in and–for women– what you’re wearing. It takes between 50 and 100 pounds of pulling force to extract a cork using a standard corkscrew. Bracing a wine bottle between your knees for leverage is acceptable at a cafe-type restaurant where the service and ambience is casual. It’s unacceptable, however, in a more formal or expensive restaurant; in this case, bottles should be removed from the customer’s view and wrestled with in a back room. Women wearing skirts should never open a bottle between their knees no matter what kind of restaurant they work in.
Q. Should I steer a customer away from a wine that I feel isn’t as good a choice as something else on the list, or always respect the customer’s choice?
A. This calls for diplomacy. For example, if a customer is entertaining a business client, you may embarrass him by suggesting–however obliquely –that his choice wasn’t perfect. On the other hand, if you know that a certain wine has disappointed past customers, or if you suspect that a certain wine’s quality has been compromised by poor storage, then you could be doing the customer an important service by steering him toward a better bottle. Use your judgment. Get a feeling for how familiar the customer is with the wine he’s ordering. If the customer exhibits a lot of confidence in the wine choice, don’t offer an alternative suggestion no matter how wonderful you think your suggestion is. But if the wine is technically flawed, explain so politely.
Q. Should white wine automatically be put in an ice bucket?
A. No. If a white wine has come out of an extremely cold refrigerator, it may be too cold to really taste. After you pour the first tasting sip, ask if the customer finds the temperature pleasing. If it’s too cold, the customer will ask you to leave the bottle on the table to warm. (Have an ice bucket ready anyway, since at some point during the meal, the bottle may begin to need some chilling.) If a white wine is too warm, the quickest way to chill it down is to completely submerge it in ice and water or shaved ice. Fine white wine is at its best when served between 45 and 55 degrees F. Some restaurateurs chill jug and inexpensive whites down further, precisely so you can’t taste every nuance.
Q. If a customer asks me to describe a wine I’m unfamiliar with, what should I do?
A. Don’t fake it. And don’t say something innocuous such as, “It’s nice.’ Once again, it’s part of your professional responsibility to be familiar with the wines on the list, even if it means getting a few of the other waiters together and chipping in to buy a few bottles to taste. If you get caught off guard and are completely unfamiliar with a certain wine, you might still suggest to the customer that other customers have seemed to enjoy (or be disappointed with) the wine he is considering. Remember to taste the wine you didn’t know as soon as possible so that you don’t find yourself in that situation again.
Q. How often should I top up glasses?
A. This is one of the most controversial aspects of wine service. Many restaurateurs and managers instruct their waitstaff to constantly top up, so that the glasses remain approximately half-full at all times. It is precisely this unrelenting attention, however, that is often resented by customers–and wine-savvy customers in particular. First, by constantly topping up, you give the appearance of controlling (and rushing) the rate at which the customer is drinking. The customer begins to feel as though you’re pushing for the second bottle sale. Second, customers who know a lot about wine often want to see how the wine develops in the glass. Does a tannic red soften? Do the flavors of a Sauvignon Blanc become more dramatic as the wine warms? By constantly topping, you destroy the possibility of assessing these subtleties. The correct way to refill a glass is to do just that–refill it. Wait until the customer has a sip or two left in the glass, then bring the level back to midpoint.
Q. If, during the meal, a customer reaches for the bottle and begins pouring his own wine, have I neglected the table?
A. Not necessarily. Some customers prefer being in control of the bottle and pouring their own wine. Most customers, however, feel that having the waiter pour their wine is part of what they are paying for in a restaurant. Customers who prefer to pour for themselves will usually let you know the first time you go to refill the glasses by saying something such as, “Don’t worry; I’ll take care of this . . ..’ If you’re unsure, there’s nothing inappropriate about asking a host if he would prefer to have you handle the wine or do so himself.
Q. If one customer is drinking faster than everyone else in the party, should I add a token drop of wine to the other customers’ glasses when I refill his?
A. Another controversial point. I say “no.’ By adding a token drop to an untouched glass, you call attention to the person who isn’t drinking and perhaps embarrass him. Refill glasses that need refilling; don’t worry about the others.
Q. What kinds of wine need to breathe, when and how long?
A. Breathing–or exposing wine to air–is done mainly to let the tannins in a red wine soften and allow complex flavors to develop in the glass. In a restaurant situation, it’s unlikely that any appreciable breathing can take place by simply opening a bottle of wine a bit early and letting it sit opened on the table. (The ratio of air in the bottle neck to wine in the bottle is too small.) To breathe in the bottle, a wine must be opened several hours before it’s drunk–an unworkable scenario in most restaurants. In a restaurant, a wine that needs to breathe should be poured into a glass, where it will receive significantly more oxygen contact. One of the best ways to breathe a hard, tannic young red is to simply pour it into a wide-mouthed carafe; transferring the wine from bottle to carafe mixes it with air. There is no rule on the length of time a wine should breathe. Wine continues to change as it’s exposed to air. It’s up to the customer to determine when to begin drinking.
Q. When the restaurant is busy, how can I decant a bottle of wine quickly?
A. You can’t. Decanting takes a few minutes–but if you do it right, it shouldn’t take so long that service is delayed. Wines that need decanting are usually red wines or port 10 years of age or older. Decanting simply means pouring off most of the wine into another container, leaving any sediment behind in the original bottle. Open the wine carefully and pour it slowly and evenly into a decanter, so that you don’t shake up and disperse the sediment throughout the wine. Aim to leave about one inch of wine in the original bottle. Often, wine is decanted over a candle which helps you see the sediment in the bottle better before it moves into the neck.
Q. What should I do if I can’t pronounce the name of the wine the customer has ordered?
A. There’s nothing more embarrassingly tacky than to have a customer order a Pouilly Fuisse or Chambolle-Musigny, for example, and for the waiter to then say something to the effect of, “Number 43? Very good . . ..’ It’s your professional responsibility to learn how to pronounce words used in your profession. You learned how to pronounce “escargot’ and “tagliatelle,’ didn’t you? Find someone who can help you learn to pronounce “Montrachet’ and “Barbara.’ (I recently asked a group of 30 restaurateurs how many had gone through their wine lists and read the correctly pronounced wines aloud to the waitstaff. Only one restaurateur had taken the time to do this very basic and essential primer.)
Q. What should I do if I can’t get the cork out of a bottle of Champagne?
A. Anyone can muscle an easy cork out of a bottle of Champagne. But if the cork is especially tight, you must use the correct technique for getting it out. First, remove the foil and loosen the wire, keeping one hand on top of the cork. Tip the bottle to a 45 degree angle, and slowly begin turning the cork in one direction and the bottle in the other. If you do this too fast, you can twist the cork in half, so be careful. If the cork doesn’t seem to be moving, excuse yourself from the table, and try again–or have someone else try–in the back of the house.
Q. If a customer orders a second bottle of the same wine, should I change the glasses?
A. In an expensive or super-deluxe restaurant, this sort of attention to detail is appropriate. Different bottles of the same wine can taste different, so fresh glasses are, technically, in order. However, in more casual restaurants, using the same glass is consistent with the relaxed attitude toward wine. Never, however, pour wine from a new bottle into a glass that has wine from the old bottle still in it.
Q. If a customer has ordered white wine to accompany the appetizers and a red wine for the main course, should I remove the white wine when the red wine and main course are served?
A. Not unless the host requests that you do so. More and more customers enjoy experimenting with food and wine combinations. Just because the roast chicken and red wine have arrived, doesn’t mean the customer doesn’t want to taste the chicken with the white wine too. The best policy is to ask if the customer would like to keep the first bottle or have it removed.
Q. Is there a big difference in corkscrews?
A. Very big. A bad corkscrew can virtually assure some broken corks. In restaurants, the most commonly used corkscrew is the so-called waiter’s corkscrew. The best of these have a very thin body made of stainless steel (no plastic) and a sharp-pointed stainless steel worm with five turns. Look for corkscrews where the turns form a helix–a straight line wrapped around an imaginary cylinder so that the screw follows the point down through the cork. More and more restaurants are allowing their servers to use screwpulls, probably the most effective corkscrews on the market.
Several factors–all equally important–affect the life expectancy of upholstery. The first is the kind and amount of use. Even within the same room, one chair may be used ten times more than the others. The frequency and thoroughness of cleaning is a factor; so is the amount of light. Generally, fabrics that snag should be avoided, but even more vulnerable are those that slip, that is, in which the warp and weft yarns slide against each other. Even worse is seam slippage, or the gradual displacement of the seam from its correct position, which must be prevented as it cannot be corrected. Backing the fabric with a coating of acrylic or latex will usually avert both slippage and fraying of cloth edges inside the cushion. Adequate seam allowance–at least half an inch, or one and a half centimeters–on an easily frayed fabric is also important.
The result of one surface rubbing against another, abrasion is affected by the form and cushioning of the furniture, the expected use, and the fibers, yarns, construction, and finish of the fabric. Fabric arms are so vulnerable that furniture with upholstered arms may have half the life expectancy of seating without them. The next most vulnerable area is the top of the front cushion, especially if this is welted: like a car bumper, the raised welts take the brunt of abuse.
Fuzzing, caused by fibers working out of the fabric into the surface, may be a problem. The fibers often roll into little balls, called pills. If the fiber is wool or silk, the pills can usually be brushed away. The pilling of certain synthetic fibers is more serious, because they do not break away but cling tenaciously, absorbing dirt.
The fiber industry’s quest for ever more durable carpets is a major one: only the clothing industry uses up a comparable amount of fiber. For those who can afford it, wool continues to be preferred. It gives good service and cleans exceedingly well. The best carpet wools once came from the tough desert sheep of Central Asia. Unfortunately these are now an endangered species–living and breeding as they do in areas of frequent conflict. In the past, wars between Japan and China, civil war in China and the long period of isolation which followed have prevented proper breeding and production from these sheep.
Although wool is not so resistant to abrasion as nylon (in the same construction and density), wool and wool blends (usually 80 percent wool/20 percent nylon) have a larger market segment than a decade ago. These are often selected for executive or residential areas, or, in heavier weights, for lobbies and other public spaces.
At last, nylon carpet yarns have improved. Problems with static electricity and dirt retention have, in most cases, been resolved. The newest generation of nylon is without the terrible “glint” it used to have; and it feels good. As a result, nylon now leads in carpet fibers.
Along with the quality of the fiber, the amount of it is crucial to a carpet’s durability. The depth of the pile is not as important as its face weight–that is, the density of fiber in the pile. If asked, sales staff will disclose (if sometimes reluctantly) the face weight of a carpet. In terms of durability carpets are often divided into four grades. Grade One is intended for residential, or domestic, use; Grade Two, for normal contract (commercial) use; Grade Three, for such public areas as lobbies, where face weight is especially important; and Grade Four, for stairs, offices containing chairs with casters, and institutions. Many Grade Four carpets have uncut loop pile for greater resilience.
The simplest and fastest of the various abrasion testing methods is the Teledyne Taber Abraser 5130, which employs a weight fitted with an emery cloth-abradent which is applied in a circular motion. The test is quick and the equipment so simple that it is widely distributed. The results, however, may have little revelance to actual use. Yet another test, the Wyzenbeek, uses a method of rolling an abradent of either wire mesh or cotton duck back and forth. But because the results may be for either warp or weft they tend to be misleading.
The Martindale Wear and Abrasion Test is the most accurate measure of durability, because it best simulates normal wear caused by friction between clothing (apparel fabric) and upholstery fabric. The Martindale abradent is a wool cloth, foam backed (representing the apparel cloth). Because this abradent is moved against the upholstery fabric in a multidirectional pattern, the method simultaneously tests both warp and weft.
Comparative testing of the Martindale, Wyzenbeek and Taber methods have been done to evaluate the reliability of the Martindale system results. The Martindale method has provided results most consistent with experience. Extensively used in Europe, it is the standard adopted by the International Wool Secretariat.
These tests are useful only if combined with common sense. Because all of us have so much more experience with clothing, we tend to be wiser in our garment selection. We learn to use durable, easily cleaned cloths for active sportswear, but do not limit ourselves to these for evening dress. In other words, there is a time and place, and purpose, for fragile fabrics–even as upholsteries. Loose cushions or pads which can be re-covered without removing the furniture might be one, pillows another, and seldom-used seating or rooms, a third.
Although test for abrasion and pilling is useful and now common practice, it is successful only in reporting structural flaws of the original tested sample. The real criterion is, “Will it age graciously?” Upholstery without holes (or pills or slippage) but battered, soiled, or crushed, is as sadly depressing as that with more serious damage.
The color of all fabrics changes with time. Light (especially sunlight), heat, dust, gas fumes, and abrasion are factors in this change. Some colors soften rather agreeably, some change cast, and a few bleached bast fibers (such as linen, sisal, and coir) and certain leathers may darken.
Crocking, or dye loss through excess dyestuff rubbing off onto another material, is an infrequent problem. Testing for wet and dry crocking is performed by a simple device which rubs white cotton over the surface. Anyone can simulate this test sufficiently to identify this fault. Crocking almost never changes the appearance of the fabric itself, unlike color abrasion, which is the perceptible loss of color through rubbing. The most frequent offenders are fabrics printed with thick or light-colored pigments, and those made from yarns so dense that they resist complete penetration by the dye. When the surface fibers wear off, undyed areas appear. Cloth woven from bast fiber may be problematic; so may edges and welts of such densley woven cottons as canvas and duck.
All the potential faults just described are dwarfed by the major challenge of achieving superior light-fastness–in each production lot and for all applications. Luxury fabrics done in small lots and incorporating innovations beyond the range of standard products are more prone to fading than those that are mass-produced. Intense blues and greens and fuchsia pinks still tend to give the greatest problems. Common sense in selection, sensitive placement, and protection from direct sunlight and intense artificial light remain advisable precautions when using these fabrics.
Most producers frequently check dyed goods for color fastness (although seldom for each dye lot). The standard for Western Europe is the xenon fadeometer, preferrably on a scale of 1-8, rather than that of 1-5 used in the United States. The higher the rating number, the better the light fastness.
Acrylic and latex coatings, which reduce slippage and fraying, are often applied to upholstery fabrics as a part of the production process. Dual-purpose fabrics, especially silk ones, are generally not given a backing, but some fabric houses will do this as a special service, at a slight extra cost. Others will refer their client to a finisher, who will perform the service, then send the fabric on for make-up. Delicate fabrics are sometimes laminated to a cotton muslin or, now more frequently, to a cotton tricot, or “stocking backing.” This provides some stability and abrasion resistance, and helps prevent fraying.
There are now several types of treatment for flame retardance, to meet almost every fire code. The choice of treatment in a given case will depend on the code’s requirements, the fabric selected, and the fabric’s appearance after treatment. Fabrics with high percentages of polyester or modacrylic may be difficult to treat. Some treated silks and most chenille fabrics may change in color or texture. If the seller does not have experience with treated fabrics of this type, a sample should be tested.
Furnishing fabrics are almost always permanently mothproof. The mothproofing treatment should protect against weevil infestation as well. If the label on wool or mohair fabric does not state that the fabric is mothproof, an inquiry should be made. Nowadays the most likely offenders would be exotic hand-weaves and fur fabrics acquired in Third World countries or from craft shops. Often only partially scoured (that is, washed during manufacturing), these cloths contain oily fibers irresistible to insects; they must be treated.
In climates where mold and mildew are common, an antibacterial protective finish may be desirable. It is readily applied by the same finisher, without affecting the appearance of the cloth.
A number of treatments have been developed to inhibit the ravages of dirt. Silicon treatments to reduce waterborne stains came first, then 3M Scotchgard treatment for oil-borne stains. Most recently, Du Pont’s Teflon protection promises a barrier to both water- and oil-borne stains and soiling from dry atmospheric particles. In addition to these internationally distributed finishing solutions, there are now franchised services for protecting and maintaining all interior fabrics, including carpets and wall coverings.
Without knowing specific requirements, one hesitates to recommend any one of them. Most have considerable strengths, if some weaknesses. Those who have used them claim that some treated fabrics are more difficult to clean thoroughly than those not treated. Other treatments may repel dirt for only a limited time. Perhaps the drawback to such treatments is that they may encourage the use of a too-delicate fabric or too-light color where a firmer darker fabric may be more appropriate.
Flat fabrics sometimes are coated and laminated to make them so impervious to dirt as to require only damp sponging. This treatment multiplies the range of patterns available for the walls of powder rooms, for example, or eating places. Because these surfaces have no porosity, they are not suitable for seating. Such fabrics also can be laminated to rigid sheets of acrylic and so be given all the practicality of plastic laminates. Uses for laminated fabric include wall paneling and cafe table tops.
Although not strictly a finish, quilting is a technique that enhances the durability of fabric, along with its tactile appeal. Machine quilting can be worked to a set repertoire of such existing patterns as stripes, diamonds, and hexagons. Much more costly, single-needle, hand-guided machine quilting can be as intricate as one’s purse can buy. Usually such quilting follows a pattern or is vermicelli, an abstract squiggle pattern. The higher cost of this fabric can be mitigated by using it only in small amounts, such as on the cushions of lounge furniture upholstered in the same fabric.
D.I.Y. Home Warehouse Pres and CEO Clifford Reynolds decided to stop putting up new stores as the company tries to focus on debt servicing and operations reengineering. Confident with D.I.Y.’s great profit-generating potential despite its smaller shops and because of lower real estate costs, Reynolds is optimistic that it can still meet its big box competitions head-on. D.I.Y. had narrowed down its major product line to kitchenware, paint, seasonal items and millwork; installed a computerized inventory system; and is beginning to consider expanding to the flooring market.
After three years of opening new locations, which more than tripled the size of the company, D.I.Y. Home Warehouse Inc. put the breaks on store growth last year. Clifford Reynolds, president and ceo, says the 16-unit company needs to digest its growth and pay down debt.
But this did not stop the company,which was found-ed in 1985, from posting a 19 percent sales increase for 1996. Despite flat sales for the first quarter of 1997, this year’s goal is to continue to pay off debt and leverage operating expenses. Next year, Reynolds says he will begin looking for new store locations throughout the company’s northeastern Ohio territory.
Having gone public in 1993 by selling 2.4 million shares, D.I.Y. funded much of its initial burst in store growth with those funds. But debt climbed as it continued to roll out stores.
The company has been competing with Lowe’s Cos. for a few years and Home Depot’s arrival is imminent. As a result, D.I.Y. has used the past year to upgrade its stores and remerchandise older ones. Another reason to hold off opening new stores is to wait and see what locations Home Depot targets. Reynolds says his company can compete with these other big boxes because his stores can generate profits with much lower sales. He says break-even occurs when a store’s annual sales reach $13 million.
Lower real estate costs is one of the key criteria for this lower cost structure. Scott Eynon, vice president-operations, says the company is willing to look at secondary sites. D.I.Y also operates smaller stores, about 84,000 square feet, which cost less and allow it to consider sites not available to others.
Reynolds says, “While some of the sites are off the trail a bit, others are in primary locations. We are very opportunistic in choosing our locations.”
D.I.Y. Home Warehouse stores operate with about 75 full-time employees and 15 part-time employees, while 60 people work at the company’s headquarters near Cleveland.
During 1996, D.I.Y also directed its efforts at reducing operating costs. One example is freight, which runs about 4 percent of the cost of goods. The company shifted its freight program from a prepaid program to a freight-on-board program, which has allowed the company to monitor these costs more effectively and strip expenses from its cost of goods.
D.I.Y still purchases about 5 percent of its merchandise through two-step distribution. L.G. Cook Distributor supplies most of this merchandise, which is slower-moving products or from small manufacturers where dealing directly does not justify the cost.
The number of SKUs has been climbing, but the stores still only carry about 34,000 items, many fewer than other big boxes. However, as the company has added SKUs it has seen its stock turns slip. A new computer system installed last December is expected to aid in moving inventory more efficiently. Eynon says he expects the system will also allow the company to enhance margins.
Although D.I.Y has fine-tuned its strategy by adding SKUs, it continues to keep a narrow focus on where it wants to be dominant:
* kitchen and bath,
* paint & decor,
* seasonal merchandise and
* millwork, doors and windows.
Although assortments in the core categories appear comparable to other big boxes, Eynon says the company is not interested in offering complete selections in ancillary categories. Flooring is one area D.I.Y is considering expanding, because it believes it can put a new twist on this category.
Trading up & up in Mobile: Parisian’s newest home store reflects commitment to customer, emphasis on fashion
“You’re Somebody Special at Parisian” is not only the Parisian store logo, but is the corporate philosophy that has directed the design concept behind each of the chain’s home stores.
The most recent home store to benefit from this philosophy is the new 8,000-square-foot store which is part of the new 86,000-square-foot Parisian recently opened in the Bel Air Mall in Mobile, Ala.
This home store, designed “to communicate with the customer and add shopping excitement,” boasts its own extrance from the mall through a dramatic vaulted arch. “We abandoned all preconceived notions,” said Charles Sparks, one of the designers responsible for the look.
“The visual presentation helps customers to see how their choices would work in their own homes. We think we have created a unique, inviting environment that shoppers will relate to,” Sparks concluded.
David Kirkpatrick, divisional merchandise manager of Parisian’s home stores, added, “The design of our Mobile home store is truly an innovative experiment for Parisian.
“The idea for this design came from the major mills in New York. The vendors really know how to show their merchandise, and how to relate to a fashion trend. So, we reasoned, why doesn’t the store relate the merchandise to its customers as the showrooms do so well for us as customers?” Canopied galleries
One of the devices employed by Parisian to effect a showroom look for is customers is the use of nine 10-by-10-foot galleries each covered by its own canopy. These galleries offer an instant visual impression of current fashion trends.
“The galleries help us to pull the fashion look together,” said Kirkpatrick. “We take merchandise from each area, and coordinate these items to show a customer how a specific fashion look is created.”
Each of the galleries is housed within its own modernistic frame cubicle. One of the nine units is changed each week so that, at the end of nine weeks, there is a completely new presentation.
Theater track lights provide a home-like glow, and are used in combination with flood lights and spotlights to customize the lighting to each display.
Fresh flowers are placed in each of the galleries every day. Some are simple bouquets, while others, such as those placed in a formal dining room, are long-stemmed blossoms in tall, crystal vases.
A see-through effect is achieved for the galleries by walls punctuated by a grid design. This openness permits customers to easily pinpoint particular products of interest.
“This gallery concept permits us to tell the story of Parisian’s merchandide more effectively than ever,” Kirkpatrick said. “With the gallery displays customers are able to see the merchandise as it would appear in their own homes. All merchandise is arranged so that the floor space is uncluttered, making it infinitely easier for the customer.”
Customers are urged to step into the galleries to see how the accessories are coordinated and how colors might appear in their own homes.
Parisian, headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., went into the home textile business in 1981 and said then it was determined to feature fashion in linens and bedding, much as the firm emphasizes fashion in women’s apparel. Work areas
In addition to the nine gallery presentations, there are two perimeter work areas in Parisianhs new home store concept. Fixtures are the same throughout both bed and bath areas. “The grillwork enables us to use different fixture accessories to highlight each different area,” siad Kirkpatrick.
The bath work area is on one side of the gallery series, the bed area on the other side. Both bath and bed fixtures are backed by storage space.
“In effect, we are offering a triple presentation,” Kirkpatrick said. “First there are the galleries, then the fixtures for bath and bed; backed by the storge area for each.”
The customer is urged to take advantage of all three phases of the presentatoin and is free to step into storage areas to pick colors and patterns.
Tables throughout the home store are lit by special lights, enclosed in clear fluted Tiffany shades and placed to make it convenient for customers to match up colors.
Kirkpatrick said that Parisian is extremely proud of the look that has been esablished in the bedding area. “Our fixtures here house all the components of the ensemble, including comforter, dust ruffle, sham, sheets and pillow-cases,” he said.
“In fact, a customer can stand in one spot and see the entire assortment. The patterns were assigned in order to present an entire series to represent current trends. For example, all primitives are located in one spot.”
“It’s important to emphasize again that the merchandise fixtures are all the same for all areas, including bed, bath, linens, gifts. These fixtures give the area a real sense of continuity, yet with the advantage of flexibility.” Signs for continuity
Kirkpatrick added that the signing also offers continuity in the overall success of the home store.
The sign in each gallery tells the customer the vendor, and the name of the pattern. A printed list is provided for the customer to take home, listing components of each ensemble and prices.
“The sign tells the customer in which section of the home store merchandise is located,” said Kirkpatrick. “And once the customer locates the correct section of the home store, the pattern name will identify the pattern, as well as provide additional information about sizes and prices.”
Currently featured in the home store galleries is Jaguar, from Perry Ellis for Martex in a coordinated bedroom presentation. A second bedroom features Castleberry by Laura Ashley in the romantic trend.
Antique furniture enhances the merchandise displayed in another gallery presentatoin, which consists of Botanical Gardens by Martex, a new spring design.
Here, in color-coordinated detail, ivory lingerie by Bill Tice is visible in an open armoire.
Other bedroom galleries in the romantic trend are Castlewood by Springmaid and Sweet William by Wamsutta.
“It’s not surprising that among our top vendors represented in the home store are Martex, Fieldcrest and Wamsutta, who are leaders in fashion in moderate-to-better price points,” Kirkpatrick said.
A bedroom for children has been a hit with all clientele since the home store opened. Featuring BoBoo by Dan River (Marimekko), the room is decorated in vibrant primary colors and includes rugs from Regal. The Hide-Out Hut, making a popular contemporary statement for children, was an instant sell out, and immediately re-ordred.
“We added stuffed animals, small and large, to this room, and they were popular with all ages, too,” Kirkpatrick said.
An elegant formal dining room has proved to be another popular gallery with Parisian’s home store clientele. Here, Albert Nipon linens have been coordinated with mirrored mats, Toscany candlesticks, and Atlantis decanters.
Another gallery features the French country look in casual table linens, pulled together with baskets, kitchen ensembles, rag rugs, and stenciles canvas rugs.
In the bath area the traditional towel wall was redesigned. “Using our design, a complete towel program can be shwon in an 8-foot area, which really does facilitate ease in shopping for our clientele,” Kirkpatrick said.
Royal Velvet and Lustre towels by Fieldcrest are shown in 30 colors, waterfalling from apole into an old fashioned, eye-catching bathtub. “A customer can stand stockstill, and see our entire selection of towels in this particular gallery,” said Kirkpatrick.
A table linens area at the rear of the spacious store features items from Audrey, Venice by Nipon, Sunweave, the Leacock seasonal spectrum in 10 colors. A gourmet area features food, glass, crystal, ceramics and brass.
A color-coordinated wall of decorative pillows uses solids to blend with prints.
Commissioned sales associates are readily available for customer assistance in matching and coordinating choices in bed and bath accessories, as well as table linens.
“New salespersons must participate in a weekly sales-training session for a period of three months, so that they will be able to provide the best possible service to our customers,” Kirkpatrick said.
As fabric-covered office partitions have become more widespread, special “panel” fabrics have been developed specifically for this use. Typical panel fabrics are lighter in weight and less resistant to abrasion than upholstery fabrics, and are flame retardent. Their color tends to be lighter than middle value (and, of course, colorfast). They have enough texture to provide a restful contrast with hard and smooth work surfaces.
Panel fabrics must resist bruises and soiling and be sufficiently porous to work with the sound-absorbing battings (wadding) that fill the core of the panels. Whereas most furnishing fabrics are 40 to 54 in. wide, panel fabrics may be as wide as 72 in. Although most are distributed through office systems manufacturers, others are offered by fabric houses catering to the office furniture market.
Because the widespread use of wall fabrics is a recent development, fire codes for wall fabric in many regions are more stringent than for upholstery or drapery. There is no good reason for this: fabric applied to a wall is more difficult to ignite than the same fabric hung loosely, and it will also burn more slowly. Still: local codes must be adhered to when selecting the fabric. Some untreated cloths pass the test; others can be treated with a flame-retardant chemical to comply with the codes. If this is necessary, ask to have a sample treated; if the luster or color is too diminished, consider another cloth.
Upholstering walls has become simpler in recent years, as most localities have competent installers. The power staple gun makes the work relatively fast and uniform. There are also several reliable patented devices for clipping fabric onto a metal or plastic strip which has been tacked to the wall. For paddings, battings of various thicknesses and fiber types are readily available. Alternatively, the fabric can simply be pasted to a flat unpadded wall.
The costliest, most luxurious method is to seam the cloth into wallsized panels, then stretch it as a single unit over the batting, previously attached to the wall, and blind tack it into place. This is also the most practical method, as the fabric can easily be moved or temporarily removed for immersion cleaning. This fact was dramatically demonstrated when, just before the opening of a major museum gallery, a furnace exploded, sending black soot over every surface. The costly, hand woven fabric panels were taken down, dry-cleaned and reinstalled within two days. If the fabric had been simply pasted to the walls, it would have needed to be totally replaced:
Wrapping fabric over padded, pre-cut wooden or Homosote panels is, of course, easier than the seamed method and, in some situations, just as suitable. These panels can have an architectonic quality if they are rounded to a slight curve at the corners and hung with a quarter-inch reveal, or shadow-line, between them.
In the best past-up installations, paste is rolled onto the wall, the fabric pressed onto it, and the edges trimmed with a rotary blade. As the fabric, slightly dampened by paste, becomes more resilient, it can be stretched or contracted at the installer’s will — a great advantage in matching patterns.
When installers demand fabrics as easy to put up as wallpaper, a fabric with a paper or resin backing can be used. Backing, however, may be problematic because of the tendency of backed fabrics to end up off-grain. Most often this takes the form of “bowing”: the center of a panel is shorter or longer than the sides. Because there is no way to correct this, it must be avoided. The best prevention is to buy from a responsible supplier. Many fabrics, even seemingly plain ones, have subtle bars or irregulatiries in the weft, which will not match from one panel to another. If there are enough seams, and one has a modicum of tolerance, the repeated “mis-match” effect may be as acceptable as it is in wood or stone.
Fabric shirred over a rod at top and bottom can (if properly installed) be one of the most luxurious wall treatments. Because triple fullness is required, this effect is not cheap; however, a costly fabric may not be necessary. And where an alternative treatment would entail replastering, the cost of covering the walls with gathered fabrics can be relatively low.
A similar treatment was used to cover the walls of a drawing room in a distinguished old apartment in New York. Panels of heavy, handwoven cotton, with selvages exposed, were loosely hung from the ceiling cove around all four walls. The effect is so striking that no-one would guess that this was also an economy to avoid having to restore the walls themselves. And what marvelous walls these panels create — offering subtle intonations of the fabric structure, superb sound control, and a lively, if neutral, background for the works of art suspended in front of them.
Many fabric collections have coodinating wallpapers, with the same pattern screened on both cloth and paper. This is no mean trick to achieve. The cloth must necessarily be as structureless as the paper; the colorants must be pigment, rather than dyes; and the control from one production lot to another (often in separate plants) must be meticulous. It can be, and is, done successfully — sometimes with charm — and at several price levels. Correlated collections, in which fabric and paper are stylistically related, but not identical, are easier to produce and permit more options.
Another relatively new idea is the use of carpets on walls. A frequent mistake is to cover floors, walls, and occasionally seating, with the same carpet. This may have a dramatic effect when newly installed, but a year later, the varying ravages of dirt and wear will have been disastrous. Flat carpets of sisal and coir (coconut fiber) seem much more appropriate for walls. These carpets, too, need only low maintenance.