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Looking past the Top 20

Hey — all you non-first-tier biggie home textiles suppliers out there!

There's a gold mine of business waiting for you. All it takes is some willingness to get out your mining equipment and start digging. And from what I hear, the mining could be quite pleasant as well as — what's that word? — profitable.

Of late, we've been hearing about decisions, and talking with the big-guy suppliers about how they see a shrinking reservoir of some five to 20 customers for their products.

As a matter of fact, this trend began as a droplet about a decade ago when a major mill stopped its special order program worked through its DCs. There were a lot of onesies and twosies — at premiums, of course — that floated through those programs. But they were deemed too much trouble.

What this means is that unless you've got a "mart" in your name or three letters or something similar, you've really become retailer non grata for a host of marquee supplier companies. You're just not efficient enough or big enough for them to keep you on their customer rolls.

I talked with one of these off-the-radar suppliers last year about business — and it was just great, thank you, and profitable. This company's concern was that a new program puts it on the radar screen and new customers will have new demands — none of which will be acceptable to the way it does business.

Then there are the regional retailers who have to fight their way through the "marts" et al. The word we've been hearing more and more of late is differentiation. These retailers can put their buyers to work doing what buyers are supposed to do — shop the market and buy. Been there, done that.

Then there are the folks at the top of the pyramid who have refined differentiation to the nth degree. Case in point, the recent Scheuer's catalog, which through merchandise, presentation and relevant pricing shows what a small store/catalog can do with its suppliers.

For those that want to work beyond the top 20, want to develop the business models for these retailers, and reap the benefits — check them out. They're in every city across the country.

And on the Top 50 list of Home Textiles Today's Retail Giants. They're the ones ranked from No. 21 to No. 50.

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