Interesting Business Trends

I named this post “Interesting Business Trends” for a couple of reasons. Despite the fact that the world is flat, a point that James Governor and I argued (the good kind of argument) about just today, there are regional manufacturing strengths that cannot be ignored and the flattening of the earth really means that these business now enjoy global reach without necessarily having physical global reach. In other words, it’s not just about making shit cheaply.

I remembered reading something a few months ago about how some buyout funds were rolling up Italian makers of fine linens (bed sheets to you and me). At first I thought it kind of odd but in reading the article it revealed that there are over 1,500 family owned manufacturers of luxury linens and they pretty much have a lock on the market for this product, a point made again in an article in the Chronicle just today.

But nobody makes linens as well as the Italians, according to Monelle Totah, Williams-Sonoma vice president of design and textiles.

By shear coincidence, just after reading that piece (that I now wish I had bookmarked) my wife came home with a set of Pratesi sheets and other components (the bed is just on mass of pillows as far as I can tell) from Sferra. While skeptical at first, I soon became a convert, they really are amazing to sleep in.

Over Christmas we stopped in at a store that recently opened in Palo Alto called Frette, which is yet another Italian luxury linen shop, and while Lisa was buying some more things I struck up a conversation with the manager. She told me that from the day they opened they have exceeded every expectation, indeed I was struck by how depleted their inventory was at the time.

There has been an interesting trend in the American market around everyday luxury and indulgence at the expense of one time or planned events. It’s less about the increasing wealth of segments of the market, although that is certainly a part of it, but rather a bigger issue around spending money on the small things that create indulgence rather than the planned or one-time events that in previous years we would have enjoyed. This is the heart of the interesting business trend I am referring to, and as a result there is greater opportunity for regional companies far and abroad, and the financial community is apparently responding.