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The Evolution of the Top 50

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, July 20, 2009

Working the numbers for the 2008 HTT Top 50 Retailing Giants analysis, I was intrigued about how the makeup of the players on the listing has evolved over the years.

How many years ago would the pundits in the home textiles world ever have imagined that this list of highly powerful, volume influential retailers would have changed so dramatically.?

The list used to be the almost exclusive purview of the crème de la crème of home textiles retailing of the time — the many classy department stores that existed, the emerging specialty stores, and even — perish the thought — some "mass merchants" of that era. We didn't call them "discounters," but when we did acknowledge what they were in fact, we softened the blow (as many in the marketplace did) with the nomenclature "discount department stores".

Fast forward to 2009 and talk with suppliers that are staggering under the consequences of selling to the likes of Linens 'n Things and Mervyn's in their final days, as well as the myriad retailers in similar, but not quite as dire, situations.

Is it any wonder under these circumstances that the companies that offer true bargains to the consumer are on the list, much less rising in the ranks of the Top 50?

In the 2008 rankings we have three of the dollar store genus on the Top 50, with Family Dollar poised to hit the Top 10 with the 2009 rankings as Linens 'n Things finally disappears from the list. And at the bottom of the Top 50, Dollar Tree joins the elite of the marketplace at No. 50 while Dollar General edges up another notch to No. 35.

This year's list also is peppered with "rising stars" that don't fit the classic profile of a Top 50 retailer. Think of the likes of Garden Ridge and Hobby Lobby — two players that most folks think of as hardly major factors in the world of home textiles.

As this business shifts from "the way we've always done it" to "this is the way we're doing it" for one internal or external reason or another, look for more non-conventional home textiles players to join the ranks of the Top 50. There's a whole bunch of internet folks waiting in the wings — and maybe not too far away from these rankings.

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