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Time for change?

Jennifer Negley -- Home Textiles Today, May 14, 2001

This is the time of year we HTT folk start gathering up statistics, crunching them down and parsing them out for a series of reports such as the retail executive compensation study that appears in this issue as well as our upcoming "report cards" on manufacturer and retailer performance and our series on the Retailing Giants.

Comprehensive studies are always more interesting during times of change. But what is shaping up as one of the more intriguing horse races this year is the jockeying for position among the top 10 of the top 50 home textiles retailers.

The current line-up — JCPenney, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, Sears, Bed Bath & Beyond, Linens 'N Things, Mervyn's, TJMaxx/Marshall's and Fingerhut (in that order) — hasn't experienced a single shift in position since the ranking of 1996 results. On that outing, Fingerhut bumped Spiegel out of the top 10, and TJMaxx/ Marshall's hopped from 10th place to 9th.

When all the numbers for 2000 have been combed through, there might be a new face in the pack — Kohl's, which has been warming a spot in 11th place since it posted its 1998 results.

If its performance in home textiles keeps pace with its historic growth, Kohl's should have no trouble slipping into the Top 10. Since the ranking of 1996 sales, Kohl's home textiles sales have ballooned an average of 26 percent each year — and 24 percent at minimum.

The 61 new stores it added in 2000 should help fatten results, which in the previous year averaged about $1.5 million in home textiles sales per store. If Kohl's home textiles sales in 2000 grew by a conservative 15 percent (and remember, overall sales jumped 35 percent last year), the number would ring up around $370 million in sales — not only elevating Kohl's into the top 10, but potentially putting it within sniffing distance of Mervyn's.

But in some respects, that's all yesterday's news. What's really going to rattle the rankings will be Kohl's colossal expansion over the next three years as it looks to develop its current 28-state operation into a national chain by 2004. Consider that it will add roughly 60 stores this year — a pace only four of the other retailers in the Top 10 are likely to match. Consider also that it will kick up the rate of store openings to 70 new units in 2002. And consider that its expansion plan over the next three years includes market entries into the Southwest and California as well as deepening its penetration of the Northeast.

It's also worth noting that among the Top 10 home textiles retailers, only Target and Bed Bath & Beyond have consistently driven up year-over-year sales of home textiles by 10 percent or better since 1996. (Although it's worth noting that LNT faltered only one year during that time period.) Wal-Mart has pulled off a double-digit increase in home textiles sales only once during that time.

Yessiree, it's going to be interesting to watch. Will Kohl's become the newest member of the big-time bunch? For that matter, will this be the year that No. 2 Wal-Mart manages to dislodge No. 1 JCPenney?

The numbers have yet to be crunched on that score. But stay tuned — you'll have the answer on July 16.

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