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  • Cecile Corral

Kitchen Textiles (2003): Price pressures plagued suppliers

NEW YORK — Consistent with what the top five category players reported for their own financial results last year, the kitchen textiles industry experienced zero growth in 2003 when retail sales remained flat at $444 million.

Carrying the weight of the blame, suppliers say, was the continued slashing of retail price points for the same — and often better quality — products.

Clifton Buie, president, Laurinburg, N.C.-based Charles Craft, said he attributes this price erosion to the product category's biggest owner of market share — discount department stores, which nabbed 54 percent, or $241 million, of total retail sales for kitchen textiles last year.

In a far-away second place were mid-tier department stores, which occupied 16 percent, or $71 million. A close third were home textiles specialty chains, which took 15 percent, or $67 million, of total sales. "(A major discount department store chain) is forcing prices everywhere to go down," Buie explained.

Just as discounters push prices down, home textiles specialty chains seem to be giving more elbow room to differentiate product that carries a higher ticket. In 2003, this trend in part offset the losses some suppliers felt at the mass-merchant level.

Nor are specialty chains timid with their kitchen textiles inventories, suppliers said. With their willingness to treat the category as a department of the store that is equally functional and decorative for the home, these retailers have helped create more consumer interest in fashion-oriented and seasonal kitchen textiles — most of which carry these higher price tags.

Where basic solids once dominated the category, prints now make up almost half of all sales — 48 percent versus solids at 52 percent.

Distribution Channels (in $millions)
2003: $444 million
Flat with 2002

2003 % 2003 $
1. Discount department stores 54% $241
2. Mid-price chains 16 71
3. Home textiles specialty chains 15 67
4. Variety/closeout 4 18
5. Off-price chains 3 13
6. Warehouse clubs 3 13
7. Department stores 2 9
8. Single unit specialty stores 1 4
9. Direct-to-consumer 1 4
10. Other* 1 4
* Other includes home improvement centers, military exchanges and gift/home accent stores.

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