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Pieces of the Pie

Hey, all you home textiles folks out there!

Anyone want to split a piece of a $3 billion-plus pie?

It's out there for the taking. It's the remainder of the home textiles retail universe not claimed by the Top 50 retailers that inhabit the 2004 Home Textiles Today Retail Giants list in today's paper.

And there are a lot of folks, not typically, not the ones who are everyday names in this business who are selling the onesies and twosies to the moms and pops in Smalltown USA as well as the super specialty boutiques that mainstream players typically snort about in terms of their ability to produce container load volume — forgetting these retailers' ability to attract customers at price points and quality levels that the mainstream retailers and suppliers have all but abandoned.

But folks, someone else is supplying them with their home textiles goodies. And customers are buying these goodies for their homes. And the end result is that many on either side of the buying and selling — and customer side — are happy.

But more frequently than not, I hear suppliers bemoaning the trials and tribulations of selling the Big Guys — if not the entire roster of the Top 50, at least the Top 10. In fact, many consider themselves failures if they cannot sell big time orders to the Top 10 — despite the trials and tribulations of chargebacks, true or false, cancellations, incompetent forecasting and the newest bugaboo — usurping the suppliers' own vendors offshore after a rigorous reverse-auction bidding war.

Recently, some major suppliers have begun conversations about how to tap into this multi-billion dollar opportunity. But for the most part, it still is conversation — good for a martini or two or a bottle of wine, but less productive in developing the infrastructure in the individual companies to make the process work.

It takes commitment, an awareness of the potential as well as the challenges, and most of all, a desire to deal with people who appreciate their product. As one supplier who is thriving on business with this segment of the market said some years ago, “I want to do business with people who love the merchandise they sell.”

The nibbles already have begun for the mainstream players. Let's see how many bring the concept to fruition.

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