Home furnishing or soft furnishing is the latest trend in the business of fashion today. The desire to redecorate everything around us has lead people to become fashion centric with reference to the interiors of their work place or their home or perhaps it is the compensation for our hectic life that we generally seek relaxation through the colours and designs in our furnishings. Generally, we try to please our visual and tactile senses by the soft and beautiful fabrics around us.
In the last 3-4 years, people have begun changing their home furniture like they change their wardrobe according to the changing fashions. Lifestyle furnishing has become a mix of aesthetics, comfort, colours and designs. For instance, brown sofas have become outdated and people now prefer lively colours like blue and red. Though brand awareness in this segment is low but at present the scenario is changing, a few years ago consumers never stressed on purchasing branded home furnishing products, but now they are aware about new products and brands.
The list of furnishings includes bed linen like bed sheets, pillow slips (pillow shams), bed skirts, duvet covers, quilts and cushions; for giving the complete look to the bedroom matching curtains, tie-backs and also mats can be included in this list. This bedroom could be with an attached bathroom making the list even bigger. Towels and floor mats, shower curtains, same soap cases, toothbrush holders, soap dispensers, mugs and rugs can offer the attractiveness of a bathroom. Water in this room, evokes memories of sea and ocean, shells and fish, and hence these are major patterns in the design making of bathroom accessories. Bed-and-bath themes are also combined together by designers.
The bedroom that we are talking about could be that of an adult, or a child, or two adults, or two children and hence the look of every bedroom in a house is unique. The appearance of any room has to be in relevance to the psychological and physical requirements of its occupants.
Bed sheets aren't just utilitarian things; they make style statements while reflecting your personality and moods. As people are becoming more aware about fibres, fabrics, feel, colour and size of bed sheets, pillow slips, quilts, etc, it gives added responsibilities to the designers and manufacturers to ensure quality supply of the same.
Cotton is the most favored fabric for bed sheets, particularly those with a greater thread count. Exporters have an increasing demand for cotton bed sheets, though some also demand silk made-ups. Generally, many export houses are given the designs to work on, or they make their own varieties from which the buyers put up orders. They emphasizes on colour and design. For new born babies soft basic colours are used, where as for grown up children complimentary colour schemes with cartoon like motifs are mostly used. There are a variety of prints to select from. The prints for curtains vary from animals, to soft toys, cartoons and candies; the same is applicable for rugs, bed sheets, duvet covers and cushions.
Teenagers have different preferences like pink which is mostly preferred by girls, whereas blue is a preferred colour for boys. Adults chose from a wide range of colours and motifs including traditional Indian motifs to modern compositions. In fact, the selection of colour and design depends on the fashion trend of today.
One step out of the bedroom and you reach the most happening room of the house – the living room. A combination of huge variety of colours and its relevant coordinates are particularly made to cater to people's physical and psychological desires. Sheer curtains to bring in sunlight, heavy lined curtains to prevent it, embroidered curtains and valences with lace trimmings flaunting luxury and a taste for design, make the room look more appealing and beautiful. Curtains can surely make the room look more attractive. Generally fabrics for sewing curtains are 54 inches wide or extra wide at 110 inches or 118 inches. Extra¬ wide fabrics are normally made for unlined sheer curtains, and are intended to be railroaded or run sideways with the selvage at the top and bottom of the curtains, permitting the curtains to be made without seams.
Curtains with well-designed features like noise and light reduction are being particularly produced for exports. The dyes used for these need to be sunlight resistant as curtains receive direct sunlight and might start looking dull and faded very soon. They are made in combination with the cushions and other furniture in the room.
The options are many; curtains are available in every size, colour, fabric and designs like stripes, checks, floral, woven, printed, etc. One can chose the fabric from the cottons to linens, velvets, tapestries etc. There are many alternatives in decorative accessories: rods with decorative finials, ornamental brackets, and pleats at the top, holdbacks and tiebacks. The alternatives selected depend on whether one needs to camouflage the windows or show them off, as they are architecturally special, whether one needs privacy or needs to visually enlarge a small room will ascertain the type of curtain one opts for.
In case you want extra light without spoiling your privacy, you can get transom window curtains. This two-part curtain possesses a sheer fabric at the top and privacy panels below. Tab-top curtains have fabric loops on the top to which a rod is fixed. Tie-top curtains possess fabric on the top of the panel that is fixed to the rod. And, grommet-top panels have metal eyelets on the top which is fixed with curtain rings. Tap-top curtains are a latest trend that is common in modern homes.
Many traditional Indian weaves and embroideries are being done all over India on the home furnishings products. Traditional Indian embroideries like ‘kasida' from Kashmir, ‘kantha' from Bengal and ‘chikankari' from Uttar Pradesh are in demand for bed covers and curtains. The tie-and-dye methods of Rajasthan and Gujarat are also widely used for making colourful bed sheets and quilt covers. Many of these are available in cheaper rates in print.
Many home furnishing companies are making these products with handlooms. Normally, high quality silk and cotton are used for these products. While traditionally curtains were either produced with heavy jacquards or luxurious prints, at present a wide range of fabrics covering embroidered fabrics are being used. The attractive display of colours can also be seen in plain sofas with striped and spotted cushions or plush heavy pile carpets with designs varying from geometricals to florals and abstracts.
Occasionally it is appealing themes instead of sorting by room that the designers go for with areas designed by mood like femme fatale, eclectic, delicate, timeless and wild. In fact it includes the accessories like rugs, throws, frames, cushions, etc. Unique linen for the kitchen and other soft furnishings for lawn chairs have also gained remarkable popularity. Tapestries, chenille, cotton and linen prints, stripes and checks, toile, crewel work, plains of all types covering linens, silks, suede, voiles and muslins, and towels, be it for bath or the kitchen, all are included in this segment. The showrooms for soft furnishings provide the customers with a collection of designs to select from.
The Indian home furnishings market is around Rs 15,000 crore, of which the organised market is about Rs 1,000 crore. Earlier, Bombay Dyeing was the only leader in this segment. The major carpet manufacturing areas (including all types of floor coverings and durries) are Agra-Bhadoi belt in Uttar Pradesh, Kashmir, Bikaner-Udaipur belt in Rajasthan, West Bengal, Haryana, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh. In India, there are 1215 carpet production units recorded and of that 190 are in the organized sector and the rest are in small scale industry sector.
The Mirzapur-Bhadohi belt in Uttar Pradesh stands as the major contributor for the carpet weaving industry in the India with nearly 90 per cent of the total production of carpets in India.
Panipat has witnessed high growth in handlooms during the last two decades with the number of looms holding 50,000 are well known for producing acrylic blankets, bed sheets, bed covers, tapestry, upholstery, table mats and table covers. There are above 310 shoddy spinning units in Panipat having a production of 4 lakh kg per day and a turnover of more than Rs 600 crore. Panipat also possess a woolen carpet industry, which is now almost thirty years old, with around 150 units. There are about 60 carpet woolen spinning units in Panipat with an annual turnover of Rs 175 crore making a variety of handloom products such as durries, mats, table covers, bed sheets, curtains and carpets exported to various countries, including Canada, Japan, Germany and Australia.
Benefiting from this booming market and the increasing new and young homemakers, department stores make their home furnishings space by creating well organized living spaces that sell the products very effectively. Many popular companies working with soft furnishings products in India are Welspun, Gujarat (which started first ‘Spaces Home & Beyond' store in Mumbai); Handfab, Panipat; Highness Exports; In Vogue Buying, New Delhi; Indian Exporters, Kolkata; Shabari International, Kerala; Cannanore; Amber Textile; and Reliance Industries, and there are brands like the decades-old Bombay Dyeing and just stated like Spaces, Portico, Season's, Yamini etc.
Raymond provides the widest range of colours to satisfy the various colour requirements of interiors in Home furnishings. Home Solutions Retail (India), a 100% holding of retail leader Pantaloon Retail, intends to close its third year of function with about of Rs 1,000 crore. Home Solutions is establishing chain of home stores, committed to all things that would be required for setting up, decorating and furnishing a home. In the first step, the company will be establishing six Home Towns, the company's umbrella store, in Noida, Hyderabad, Gurgaon, Pune, Thane and Bangalore, which will start by June 2007. Each store, covering an expense about Rs 14 crore, will be allotted about 120,000 square feet.
To achieve its brand recognized in the big commoditised home furnishings market, Welspun is investing in retail stores and increasing its capacity to serve the domestic market. Besides its own brand the company recently received the marketing rights of Tommy Hilfiger home furnishing products.
Welspun is also coming up with the concepts to educate and guide customers about issues like hygiene, because most of us are comfortable with replacing our bed sheets once in two weeks. Likewise many families utilize only one towel between themselves. None of us have ever understood that if the same towel is utilized the entire family, each member of the family may get infected. All these maters will be undertaken through various media for which the company has allocated about Rs 10 crore. At present it is searching for an agency to handle its communication activities.
As per the company's retail strategy, which is setting the core of its brand-building practice, in the next three years they are coming with 125 stores across the country with an investment of Rs 50 crore. Amongst the 125, 100 would be standalone Spaces stores. Extended with an area of nearly 2,000 sq ft, the Spaces showrooms would provide furnishings for each room of the house. Besides furnishing items, the showrooms will also provide home décor products such as candles, curios and so on.
Recently, Portico, a premium Home Decor & furnishings brand introduced its premium and ‘Sparkly' range.
Besides this, various small players in the market cater to every taste and pocket of the population. For those who do not need to spend in professionally decorating their rooms, many options are available by India's department chain stores like Ebony, Shoppers' Stop, Lifestyle, Pantaloons, Westside and even Big Bazaar.
Because of huge demands, many fashion designers have also forayed in this segment. At present the home furnishings segment is considered a flourishing sector in the textile industry. Domestic and export markets are both booming for home furnishings.
According to experts, to make brand awareness home furnishing companies have to put more emphasis on the overall shopping experience. Retail ambience, coordinated product ranges; in-store display; point-of-purchase promotional literature on the product features as well as the company's lineage and superior in-store service are some of the primary actions that home furnishing companies must take. In fact this has to be made in connection with innovative product and brand advertising and new promotional efforts.
While some experts believe that as the sector is largely commoditised, the main target would be to set the category to constantly develop, which can only be done through customer education.
However, some feel that it is a slight too early to introduce new collections each season. While it could support in making fashion consciousness in India about home furnishings, as well as the designs, colours and prints are contemporary, and the packaging and labeling are as per the good quality standards, home furnishing companies need not be bothered about making more complication in their business by creating repeated changes in their product offering at this stage. In fact, in the next few years, with more competition and more demand, it would be essential to introduce at least two major collections per year.
We require building up more colour and design sensitive people to work in this segment. For those who intend to begin a home furnishing venture, whether for exports or for the domestic market, it is appropriate to begin with just one or two products and then add on to it slowly. Cushion covers and curtains are the more demandable products. If proper plans are made using appropriate color combinations as expected in the colour forecast, and ever new designs are made, then definitely one will get success in this segment. The key point to note here is that trends change fast, so the process of designing and creation should keep on preventing stagnation and making guaranteed success.
In the last few years, people have started spending on furniture and furnishings like they perform with their clothing. For them lifestyle furnishing is turning out as a mix of aesthetics, comfort, colours and designs. Brown sofas are outdated; people need lively colours like blue and red. A few years ago consumers never demanded highly branded home furnishing products, but now they are very well aware about new products and brands in the market, though brand awareness in this segment is still low. Many companies are adding two to three products in their product lines every year and many are comings with innovative concepts in this segment. But, for this segment's growth still it requires a proper planning or strategy, more efforts and educate to customer as well.