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Vendors hopeful for '02 reversal

With a year of retail turbulence coming to a close, home textiles suppliers are looking ahead to the first half of 2002 with a degree of hope tempered with battle-forged wariness.

The combination of retail consolidations and inventory cutbacks during 2001 kept vendors scrambling. Lost over the past 12 months were some 677 stores doing approximately $666 million in home textiles business. Gone in the process are four of the Top 50 home textiles retailers: Montgomery Ward ($216 million), HomePlace of America ($202 million), Bradlees ($182 million) and Sterns ($66 million).

With consumers tightening their belts after a steady succession of corporate layoffs, retailers shifted to margin-crushing price rollbacks and/or promotions, expanded their use of reverse auctions and began demanding more on terms.

And yet, several vendors polled by HTT see reasons to expect an improvement in business next year — albeit modest. Even the pessimists foresee some turn in the business in the coming months.

Their opinions appear on page 4.

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