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BigResearch: Walmart tops for linens, but vulnerable

Retail Editor 2 -- Home Textiles Today, March 10, 2011

Columbus, Ohio - A recent BigResearch survey found that consumers in the market for new sheet sets, towels, and other home textiles are choosing Walmart, with Bed Bath & Beyond a distant second.
One in five (21.3%) consumers surveyed shopped at Walmart most often for household linens compared to 13.2% who visited Bed Bath & Beyond. JCPenney placed third at 8.4%, then Target (6.0%), and Kohl's (4.4%) as the preferred destinations for purchases of linens, bedding, and draperies.
Within these soft home categories, price (70.2%) remained a dominant factor for shopping a particular store, though selection (45.2%), quality (41.0%), location (34.4%), and trustworthiness of a retailer (16.3%) also play key roles, according to BigResearch, which surveyed 8,000 consumers.
Walmart may not have a steady hold on its top spot, however. "While the discounter is likely to wear the linens/bedding/draperies crown for the foreseeable future," BigResearch said, this month's Consumer Migrations Index suggests slight weakness among Walmart's customer base.
The index tracks new customers who began patronizing a store within the past year against those who have left within the past year to determine where a positive reading spells net growth to a retailer.
The recent index shows that Walmart, JCPenney, and Kmart are experiencing customer deficits with -2.5, -2.0, and -3.6 ratings, respectively. Bed Bath & Beyond and Target are seemingly better positioned to gain customer share.
One in four (25.7%) linens/bedding/draperies shoppers of one year or less cited high prices as a reason to switch stores. Other factors include inconvenient location (10.5%), poor quality (7.5%), competitor advertising (7.5%), and lack of newest styles (6.4%).
Overall, the survey found consumers are slightly less confident about the economy this month than they were last month. Fewer than one in three (29.1%) said they are very confident/confident in chances for a strong economy, down two points down from February's 31.2% and down slightly from March 2010's 29.8%.
Even so, this month's numbers are an improvement over March 2009's 19.5%. Still, BigResearch added, "Consumers are feeling far less optimistic compared to pre-recession March 2007," when high confidence levels were more widespread (46.9%).

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