Tips & Insights

Insider Insights: Soft Goods

To firm up your bottom line, add soft goods to your merchandising mix

By Deb Barrett, founder, Soft Design Lab

Did you know: Fifty percent of all products specified in a space are covered in fabric, and soft furnishings, especially window coverings, can have the best margins and markups for your store, projects or studio? Plus, soft goods are often smaller-ticket, impulse-purchase items that consumers use to keep their homes on-trend or even just in-season. So, an always-up-to-date soft goods mix gives your customers a reason to come through your door more regularly, keeping your store at top-of-mind when it’s time to buy big-ticket items. All of these advantages add up to an excellent reason to beef up your soft goods mix on your next Market tour.

Defining the category

What are soft goods? Put simply, they are almost anything made for the home using textiles – a fairly broad category that covers every room:

  • Pillows, throws, and slipcovers
  • Tapestries
  • Shower curtains, towels, and rugs
  • Table-runners, placemats, and napkins
  • Sheets and shams, duvets, comforters, and dust skirts
  • Draperies and curtains, along with their decorative hardware, tassels, and trim

"... Gain incremental revenue by adding soft goods to what you’re already selling."

How to get started

Begin by defining what soft goods mean to you. Then, determine a product mix that fits your customers’ lifestyles and sense of style. Look for opportunities to gain incremental revenue by adding soft goods to what you’re already selling. If your customers are asking for any soft goods that you don’t already offer, be sure to add those to your list.

Niches you may be missing

Porches and patios have become outdoor rooms where furnishings go far beyond the bare essentials. Showrooms such as Glen Raven Mills and Elaine Smith are great places to see pillows, draperies, throws and rugs made of fabrics that withstand the weather.

Plus, artists working in textiles are creating a variety of unique and inspiring decorative items. Beyond traditional tapestries, you’ll find woven wall hangings, framed textiles, and upholstered mirrors in an ever-expanding array of offerings. To start building your soft art gallery, take a look at Tapesteries, Ltd., and stop by the Antique and Design Center to see the possibilities in framed vintage fabric fragments.

Consumer experts tell us that grandparents are taking a more active role in their grandkids’ lives – and are poised to spend big bucks on children’s rooms, from the nursery to the teen’s tech haven. Add juvenile top-of-bed to your niche opportunities.

Tap into the Millennial generation’s need for instant gratification by sourcing ready-to-go window fashions that are a step beyond standard fare but not quite true custom. Choose three to five basic panels in linen, blends and silk or velvet. Add a dash of fun with one or two patterns, and make a statement with a large-scale floral. Enhance your collection with unique headings; choose three to start. Sprinkle in four to six designer options. Finish things off with hardware and trimmings. Now, give your collection a name and you have limited edition, curated offering that can’t be shopped. If this idea appeals to you, stop by the Décor Fifty Five, Creative Threads, and Eastern Accents showrooms for inspiration.

Where to find soft goods showrooms

Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, you can begin your search for suppliers online at Go to the Find Exhibitors page and look under Find by Category for Textiles/Soft Goods to see a complete listing of all subcategories. Click the ones that interest you to see a listing of showrooms in that subcategory, and click the company name for detailed information about each exhibitor.

If you’d like to explore exhibitors while you’re at Market, I’d recommend spending some time at IHFC floors 2,3,4 and of course, InterHall, followed by a trip to Market Square and Suites at Market Square. My list of not-to-be-missed showrooms includes Wildcat Territory, Design Legacy, Surya, Emdee International, Legacy Home, and Global Views. To add a little extra dazzle to your soft goods tour, stop in to see the hidden gems at B. Viz, Liora Manne, Lilli Allessandra, Kevin O’Brien Studio, Signature Fabrics, and TMS Menagerie.

Of course, you’ll develop your own list of favorites as you explore Market’s more than 250 soft goods companies to find just the right mix for your store. Plus, I expect you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see more and more manufacturers expanding their offerings to include top of bed, decorative pillows, throws, poufs, tabletop, and more. Like so many successful retailers and designers, they are starting to recognize that the all-to-often overlooked soft goods category can deliver a competitive advantage, higher sales, better margins, and cold, hard cash to the bottom line.