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Changes from top to bottom

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, March 8, 2004

Looks like this will be a big year for change at retail.

It's already started out like gangbusters with the Federated move to central buying and merchandising for the home store.

One thing that never came up in the early details of that enormous move is the logistical stuff — no small matter when you take all the bodies out of the regional responsibilities, and put the authority in a central office. Just think of how long it has taken JCPenney to get where it is, and it was steps ahead of Federated to begin with.

Then there are the new businesses emerging — or it seems that way to many in the home textiles world. It's happening both at the top and the bottom of the heap.

Nordstrom, at the top, is making another stab at the home world; and Ross Stores, our No. 20 ranked Retail Giant, is going downscale with its new division, dd's Discount.

Then there's Saks Fifth Avenue, under a whole new management and approach that could potentially bode well for its business. It has tiptoed in and out of the home world for decades.

For those in the home textiles world who bemoan the lack of potential customers out there beyond the Top 20, these are but a few of the changes.

At the lower end of the market, it's time to look to the folks with "dollar" in their names. Keep in mind that already two of them make the Top 50, with Family Dollar at No. 12 and Dollar General at No. 41. And almost as if to "legitimize" this retailing approach, Mervyn's is testing "dollar shops."

Then there are some mainstays of the business, like Sears and Kohl's, that are finding their corporate approaches are not what Ms. Jones wants. Each will have a challenging year repositioning themselves.

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