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Chicken Little's still shopping

I know this may sound horribly Pollyannaish, but the world is absolutely, positively not coming to an end.

Yes, there are fewer retailer companies out there than there used to be. And yes, some of the bigger guys in the game that ought to be sending their people out into the market for the annual textiles show are not doing so.

This does not mean the end of life on Planet Textiles.

It does acknowledge that the atmosphere on our fascinating sphere is being transformed.

Take a look at this year's Retailer of the Year Award winners:

  • The Home Depot: It's a fair bet that only three years ago, any nominating committee member who attempted to forward a home center chain for a textiles award would have been vetoed resoundingly. But for certain segments of the textiles business-and in floor coverings, especially-Home Depot is not only an important segment, it's a potential growth channel.

  • The Great Indoors: It's only two years old, it's got only four stores and yet this retail concept is winning a Retailer of the Year award for the second year in a row. Why? It's a terrific format, sure, but it's also been pegged for growth, with new market entries this year in Detroit, Chicago and Cincinnati. Through its acquisition announced earlier this week of former Montgomery Wards sites, The Great Indoors will add units in California and Maryland. It also launched an e-commerce site this month with an inaugural assortment of 10,000 skus. Those are heartwarming developments for an eager vendor base.

  • Macy's West: At last, a department store that's trying something new in the home area. Macy's West reconfigured the layout in its Costa Mesa, CA, Macy's Home store six months ago, with the idea that the store should be set up to reset itself rapidly to incorporate new trends. Imagine that-a retailer actively positioning itself to be responsive to new ideas. It's encouraging.

  • The Company Store: A smart-looking and smartly merchandised catalog, The Company Store in the past year has spawned a pair of offspring: The Company Kids and At Home. It deserves credit for taking on truly fashionable product for the middle American pocket book. For a textiles industry that's often battling over who can shave another nickel off the cost of a solid-color sheet, a retailer like The Company Store that actually pursues good design is a godsend.

  • Between The Sheets: At just three stores, it's a small operation. But it's another reminder that there is a solid luxury niche out there and that innovation comes in companies of all sizes.

There are other companies, of course, that stand as silver linings in a stormy climate. There are the expansionists such as Kohl's, Linens 'N Things, and Bed Bath & Beyond. There is the almighty volume leader, Wal-Mart. And there is that often unheralded source of reasonably square deals and fair returns: T.J. Maxx/Marshall's.

None of those guys is coming to an end anytime soon. And neither is the home textile industry.

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