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Finding new business

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, March 25, 2002

With all the hullabaloo about reverse auctions, surprise signage charges, profit centers called chargebacks and the myriad creative financial schemes that the major retailers have devised, one wonders how this home textiles market will survive from the supplier side.

Imagine having to compete against yourself in a reverse auction or see your creativity in marketing or presentation offered to your competitors.

What is amazing is how few suppliers are looking afield to retailers other than what we call the HTT Top 10.

Yes, for some companies it is thought to be imperative that the Top 10 be the core of their businesses. For the most part, many of these companies have abandoned most efforts with smaller accounts and accounts that are not part of the conventional distribution stream.

It's amazing when talking with some suppliers how their eyes glaze over or burst with astonishment when discussing Retailer A or Retailer B, which might be a potential customer.

As sales staffs have been trimmed back over the years, largely a result of the executive-to-executive directives of the Marts and their close brethren, there are fewer companies out there that have people beating the bushes. And a great many of those bushes can provide a fair amount of revenues and profit.

There's lots happening at home and off-shore — despite the strong dollar, American companies still can make a buck or more off-shore.

Just for starters, I'm certainly not the only one inundated with catalogs. And these catalogs more and more are moving into the home area, textiles and accessories especially. The lament most heard is that they are not big enough to merit the attention of the big guys. And this is happening in a tough business environment for the supplier base.

And then there are the off-shore retailers. Take for example a specialty chain with 150 stores in 26 countries, or another chain with outlets and distributors in nine countries. Surely, there's something that American suppliers can provide.

Then there are the emerging specialty retailers dealing with teens and tweens and developing product to suit their fast changing tastes.

Finding new distribution is just a matter of looking outside the normal places — the ones that cause angst while bringing huge volumes.

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