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  • Jennifer Marks

Four ledes in search of a column

Jingle, jingle, jingle. Who's got the money to spend — and on whom are they going to spend it? The phones were ringing off the hook around here this morning. Did HTT have any details on Springs' bid to buy WestPoint Stevens… Or, according to another caller, Springs' bid to buy Pillowtex… Or, in yet another version of the story, Dan River's bid to buy Pillowtex…

As of this writing, nobody has bought anybody. I don't doubt that anybody with coin available is looking at everybody else who appears to be a bargain. But this kind of frenzy kicks up just prior to every market, and it almost always swirls about the big mills.

But what I find particularly curious is that nobody is frantically phoning up to ask what Mohawk Industries is up to. After all, this is a company that has made at least one acquisition each year since 1992. It's been almost 11 months since Mohawk picked up Dal-Tile — so it's due.

But that's the curious thing about Mohawk. It's the third largest seller of home textiles in the country, ringing up $600 million in sales last year. It's the only supplier that has a prayer of joining the billion-dollar club within the next decade. But because it doesn't peddle sheets or towels, it flies below the radar. Think of it as The Stealth Powerhouse…

Buyers beware. Even the most battle-scarred supplier will acknowledge that within the oft-maligned world of buyers there are quite a few people who not only know their business but are a genuine pleasure to work with.

You'll never see them honored, though. Every fall the HFPA receives nominations for its "Rising Star" award for an up-and-coming buyer. And almost every fall, the retail company that employs the winning buyer refuses to allow the award to be granted. Such is the case this fall. Such was the case last year.

Not that suppliers have anything to brag about in this realm. For every spring the HFPA attempts to present a similar award to a Rising Star designer. And nearly every spring, suppliers will offer up only their most seasoned designers — those more likely to stay put after the award has been put into their hands…

Inventories? What inventories? Noticing any common threads in the quarterly sales reports over the past few weeks? No, it's not the sales results. Those have varied widely. It's the inventories: low, lower, lowest.

Prime example from last week: Bed Bath & Beyond grew sales by 26.5 percent, grew net income by nearly 40 percent and shrank inventories by some 17 percent. It's not alone in that.

The take-away: Expect the next 10 months to be another yo-yo for orders…

Four ledes in search of a column. It's a curious convention of journalism that when jotting notes for internal use common terms are deliberately misspelled. "Story" becomes "sty." And "lead," the opening graph of a sty, becomes "lede."

So no emails, please. We can talk about it at market…

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