Playing the long odds

Carole Sloan, Staff Staff, July 21, 2003

Looking back a decade or so over the earlier Retailing Giants rankings in home textiles, it's amazing how the list has changed.

Just pulled up the 1995 list, and what a difference there is in the makeup of the players — then and now.

First of all, of the Top 50 then, 17 no longer exist today — actually 18, if you include Strouds.

The biggest casualty segment came from the regional discounters. Remember these names? Caldor, Ames, Bradlees, Venture, Hills.

And then there were some icons of retailing like Montgomery Ward, The Broadway, Abraham & Straus/Jordan Marsh, Bullock's and Stern's. Back then, would one ever have thought that these pillars of retailing might disappear, much less drop off the Top 50 list?

Beyond these were some specialty operations like Linen/Supermarkets/Home Front, Pacific Linen, LeeJay Bed & Bath, Home Express — and now Strouds.

Back in those days we even had new ventures like Montgomery Ward Direct and the Price Club warehouse segment of the merged Price/Costco warehouse clubs.

Of course, almost every list from then on has had its casualties — and they have come from all segments of the home textiles world. Of course, there have been newcomers over the years, and more significantly, dramatic shifts in rankings. Some of the past icons are just hanging on, whether or not they are on the Top 50 rankings.

What these ranking tell, well beyond their pure numbers, is that those that don't stay alert to the need for change — and make the changes needed — could well not be around a couple of years from now.

The entire marketplace, not just home textiles, is undergoing probably the most radical changes in terms of product, distribution and consumer attitudes that has taken place in the last 25 or 30 years. Those who don't recognize the need for major changes may well not be around to see them happen.

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