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HTT Methodology

HTT made some changes to its annual survey in 2003, which in some cases have resulted in distribution channel figures that vary significantly from those published in previous years. There are two reasons for this.

This year, HTT's market research department conducted extensive talks with suppliers and retailers to determine the actual size of the business at the leading retail companies in each channel. Formerly, HTT relied solely on vendors to provide information about the size of the business. In some cases, the newspaper discovered that estimates of channel size had been overstated in previous reports.

Second, earlier surveys did not provide vendors with guidance about which retailers should be classified under each distribution channel. In some cases, such as discount department stores, the classifications were easily distinguished. In many others, however, HTT found that vendors held varying ideas as to which channel some of their retail accounts belonged, particularly for retailers such as Kohl's, TJMaxx, Expo Design Centers, dollar stores and closeout stores.

For this year's surveys, HTT refined its channel distribution line-up, creating additional channel distinctions and providing the vendor community with a guideline that specified which retailers should be included in each. After consulting with vendors and retailers, HTT created the following classifications:

Home textile specialty stores/chains: Home textiles is the total business or single largest category. Chains include Bed Bath & Beyond, Linens 'n Things and Anna's Linens.

Department stores: Full-line operations carrying a variety of merchandise, including national and regional stores. Examples include Dillard's, Federated, May, Saks, Gottschalks, Elder-Beerman and Marshall Field's.

Discount department stores: General merchandise retailers, including national, regional and local stores. Examples include Kmart, Wal-Mart, ShopKo and Target.

Mid-priced chains: These retailers fall somewhere between department and discount stores on the price spectrum. The best-known examples are JCPenney (catalog & retail), Kohl's, Mervyn's, Sears, Meijer, Fred Meyer and Stein Mart.

Off-price chains: These carry a variety of merchandise, generally including apparel as well as home textiles and decor. Examples include TJMaxx/Marshalls, HomeGoods, Luxury Linens (Burlington Coat Factory) and Ross Stores.

Variety/closeout stores: Both variety and closeout stores generally carrying low-price goods, including home textiles, housewares, health and beauty products and home decorative items. Many variety stores are "dollar" stores, including Family Dollar, Dollar Tree and Dollar General. Closeout stores specialize in factory overruns and special buys from other retailers. Best known are Tuesday Morning and Big Lots. Others in this category include Factory 2-U, Fred's and Value City.

Direct-to-consumer: Catalog, TV and Internet retailers. Includes retailers such as Spiegel, QVC, HSN, Brylane Home, Hanover Direct, Lands' End, Lillian Vernon and Direct Marketing Services. They may also have a small number of outlet stores.

Home improvement centers: Best known are Home Depot and Lowe's. Also in this category are Expo Design Center and Sears' The Great Indoors.

Carpet/floor covering stores: Includes both local and regional chains specializing in floor coverings as well as manufacturer's factory-direct stores.

Furniture store/chains: Furniture is the total business or single largest category. Includes local, regional and national traditional furniture stores, such as Rooms To Go, Ethan Allen and Haverty's. Traditional furniture stores' merchandise mix include furniture and bedding and might include consumer electronics and/or major appliances. "New-mix" furniture stores are those that, in addition to furniture and bedding, carry more decorative accessories as well as home textiles and housewares. Some may also carry gourmet foods and even apparel. Examples of new-mix furniture stores are Pier 1 Imports, Pottery Barn, IKEA, The Bombay Company, Cost Plus, Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware.

Gift specialty stores/chains: Gifts are the total business or single largest category. Most are local or regional operations but they also include national chains such as The Mole Hole and Hallmark Gold Crown Stores. Others in the category might more properly be known as home accents stores, such as Kirklands, Yankee Candle, Garden Ridge, Deck the Walls, Things Remembered and Anthropologie.

Other: Other channels include craft/fabric stores and chains; interior designers; military exchanges; and warehouse clubs.

Although the changes will make it more difficult to compare this year's figures with those from earlier surveys, HTT feels that the additional research has resulted in more accurate data.

The research was compiled by senior research specialist Janice Chamberlain, director of market research Kay Anderson, database coordinator Cynthia Myers, editor-in-chief Jennifer Marks, business editor Don Hogstett, and product editors Cecile B. Corral and Michele SanFilippo.

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