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Towels, discounters dominate

Industry bath sales dipped 2.8 percent last year to $3.5 billion. Yet to achieve even that modest decline, makers had to jump through hoops — on the one hand gently nuancing their products, on the other, constantly churning their markets and pumping out volume.

Bath towels continued to dominate the segment, accounting for more than half of all sales by product — 53 percent — but to a slightly smaller scale than 2001's 55 percent.

At retail, discounters retained the largest market share by far, continuing to dominate at an unchanged 45 percent. Still, share increased for home textiles specialty chains, which gained 2 percent, to $630 million; and, equally, mid-price chains went up 2 percent in share to $595 million. Lesser progress was seen at warehouse clubs, which still managed to eke out a 1 percent pick-up — to 2 percent — and nearly doubling sales to $70 million.

Those gains were at the expense of department stores, which declined in market share 1 percent, to $288 million from $245 million. Additionally, off-price, variety/closeout and direct-to-consumer each lost 1 percent in market share.

For many suppliers, sourcing is at the core of higher fashion and better quality goods. For Lacey Mills, imports from India, in particular, have proven a success. And bath towels at Revere Mills — brought in from Turkey, Pakistan, India and China — have swelled to 75 percent of the company's total sales, growing from 20 percent five years ago. The remaining 25 percent of total sales are generated from kitchen textiles and seasonal goods.

Distribution Channels Share 2002 % Sales 2002 $
sales in $billions 2001 2001
1. Discount department stores 45% $1,575
45 1,620
2. Home textile specialty chains 18 630
16 576
3. Mid-price chains 17 595
115 540
4. Department stores 7 245
8 288
5. Off-price chains 4 140
5 180
6. Variety/closeout 3 105
4 144
7. Direct-to-consumer 3 105
4 144
8. Warehouse clubs 2 70
1 36
9. Single unit specialty stores 1 35
1 36
10. Home improvement centers &1 0
1 36


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