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Mother Nature

Carole Sloan, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, November 27, 2000

As the problems and challenges escalate for many of the major players on the home textiles manufacturing/supplier side, one wonders if it is not time to look at how they got into these situations and whether the retailing community exerted such a force on them that they forgot a lot about Mother Nature.

A couple of years ago, the head of a major regional discount chain remarked in an aside to a casual conversation that they were too small for the U.S. mills to really worry about them. Just this year, a similar comment was issued by the head of another regional discount chain.

Now folks, we're not talking about your $100,000 cost account or even your $5 million cost account. We're talking big, Big, BIG numbers-and yet these guys don't get the respect or interest they deserve at the big fellas along the avenue.

And then just this month another retailer, albeit significantly smaller, related in a wide-ranging conversation that his company was an 800 telemarketing account for the major mills.

What it sounds like is the mills have decided, despite all the frippery that goes with designer names, upscale programs and the like, is that survival is based on who wins the latest mart auction.

This is the gambit that keeps the voracious appetites of the machines filled to overflowing.

But as we have seen in recent weeks, the marts have issued warnings-along with their compatriots in retailing-that things may not be so terrific out there in Americaland.

And, boy, are those machines getting hungry-not yet a desperate malnutrition situation but definitely a heavy-duty diet problem.

At the same time we're seeing the strong growth patterns from some of the second-tier supplier sources that have acknowledged that not all of retailing stems from Bentonville or Minneapolis or Troy.

And even more interesting are the reports from niche supplier players that are picking up business from upper mainstream folks as well as a whole new bunch of retailers that are expanding their sights into the home textiles world.

Mother Nature, some really sage professors told me long ago, never lets a vacuum go unfilled. What's happening in this business is just another example of how a whole new generation of home textiles suppliers and retailers can grow and prosper. They don't know what they shouldn't be doing according to the big guys standards, and they're hitting some hot buttons with customers who are buying many of these non-commodity home textiles products.

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