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Cecile Corral

Table Linens (2003): Specialty stores saved table linens

NEW YORK — Like its sister product category kitchen textiles, the table linens category experienced unchanged retail sales in 2003, coming in at $603 million again.

Mounting concerns in January 2003 seemed to paint an ugly picture for the category. The economy was slumped, suppliers and retailers alike were recovering from a weak holiday season, and some retailers, especially department stores, continued to shrink the space allocated to table linens.

Compensating for what might have been a bleak year for category players were equally as many advantages: the proliferation of many mass, mid-tier and home textiles specialty stores that continued to open new doors throughout the country; the increasing amount of floor space these same retailers devoted to the product category; and a sizeable business generated during the holidays, beginning prior to Halloween for early harvest season goods.

"Specialty chains have more and more space skewed to table linens," said Ana Werbel, national sales manager, Tappan, N.Y.-based Fallani and Cohn. "(One such chain) has three walls devoted to place mats. The business is really increasing there."

In 2003, discount department stores generated 32 percent, or $193 million, of the total market share; home textiles specialty chains nabbed 24 percent, or $145 million; and mid-price department stores came in third place with 19 percent, or $115 million. Department stores and off-price chains tied for fourth place at 7 percent, or $42 million.

As the year moved along, suppliers were able to step up product quality, add more fashion looks and, in some cases, suggest fairer retail price points.

Distribution Channels (in $millions)
2003: $603 million
Flat with 2002

2003 % 2003 $
1. Discount department stores 32% $193
2. Home textiles specialty chains 24 145
3. Mid-price chains 19 115
4. Department stores 7 42
5. Off-price chains 7 42
6. Direct-to-consumer 4 24
7. Single unit specialty stores 3 18
8. Variety/closeout 2 12
9. Warehouse clubs 1 6
10. Other* 1 6
* Other includes home improvement centers, military exchanges and gift/home accent stores.




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