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The big cop-out

It's not often that Home Textiles Today takes a position on things it sees as serious happenings in the marketplace which it's been covering for a couple of decades.

But the epidemic of what can now be called retailer abuses vis-à-vis their suppliers has reached such a frenzy that HTT has dedicated its market cover story to an analysis and a survey discussing these happenings.

More than once over the last year, this column has pointed out the increasing adversarial relationships between buyer and seller and the creative thinking on the part of retailers to have suppliers support their business activities in new and unique ways.

Chargebacks and even shelf slots are ubiquitous. Their offspring are the ones that challenge the minds of many of us who consider ourselves in the forefront of what's going on in retailing.

The dramatic expansion of global sourcing is one of the key contributors to the conflict between conventional buyers and sellers. They now often find themselves haggling in the same space for the same price and perks. If you haven't seen it happen, it's a sight to behold.

The newest twist in this current equation of buyer/ seller relationships is the reverse auction. It's a format where "invited" players are asked to submit their lowball bids on detailed specs.

To make the situation even worse, some retailers are demanding that their existing suppliers provide them with exact specs and sources for basic goods and embellishments in order to go to them directly.

Hasn't anyone ever heard about product development departments, fashion trend specialists and the like? These tactics sound more like a cop-out for Retailer X to send a junior person overseas with a shopping list that may or may not come to fruition in terms of fashion, quality and delivery.

And for a number of retailers whose specs I've seen it doesn't matter that one size or color is made by one supplier, and the balance by another.

One of the things that was pounded into my head in both of my stints as a retailer was that you had to be tough but fair. If your supplier couldn't make a profit dealing with you, that would be a supplier soon gone.

From the way things sound, things are dangerously in the latter camp.

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