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Unconventional wisdom

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, June 10, 2002

It's time again to look at the non-conventional retailers of home textiles. We're not talking about the folks that all the major suppliers set their sights on, like Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, JCPenney, Kohl's and Sears, as well as a few other of the more conventional folks down the volume ladder.

These are the ones that for so many are the do-or-die of business growth. And for so many of these companies, a new awareness of what could happen with a different attitude could make the difference between growth or stagnation.

Then there are the ones that many folks in the home textiles world don't really think of — stores like Pottery Barn, Eddie Bauer, Anthropologie and the like, and even folks like Anna's, Fred's, Dollar General and Family Dollar as well as Big Lots and Value City.

And then there are those chains like Ross Stores — a retail operation that I had to describe to a big-time retailer friend just recently — as well as HomeGoods and its siblings, Marshalls and T.J. Maxx, and a whole bunch of other off-pricers. And who has been working Lowe's and Jo-Ann and Hancock of late to see where each of these individual companies are going?

There's big bucks out there when you break away from the conventional mold — the discounters, the department stores and the big boxes.

And now the marketing arena gets even more complex. We've talked about what Liz Claiborne as a company hopes to achieve. We're getting Tommy Bahama, Elvis, FUBU, Izod, Cristofle and the like — from low to high in terms of price points — coming in to join the standard bearers of licensing design in the home business.

What is happening is that the lines of business are blurring very quickly, and most retailers and suppliers are not able to put themselves into a niche or several niches to satisfy their partners. It's a dilemma that will intensify as the global situation takes on new forms.

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