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Retail tug-of-war leads to market share standoff

Heath E. Combs, Marvin Lazaro -- Home Textiles Today, March 10, 2003

Contested by a core group of retailers committed to the category, sales of soft window coverings grew ever so slightly last year, leading to a market share stalemate, according to exclusive research by Home Textiles Today.

The survey, "The Facts: Soft Window Coverings," is conducted annually by HTT and offers a statistical snapshot of the industry segment's sales, market distribution, and product trends.

It's a business dominated by a handful of chains — JCPenney, Bed Bath & Beyond, Linens 'n Things, Wal-Mart and Target, to name the leaders — with broad but notably less forceful participation by others. Despite that, it remains one of the few home fashions categories actively contested — with some success — by independent and smaller chains

The apparently static nature of the business came about because, said CHF Industries' ceo and president Frank Foley, "there have not been any significant new channels added, so the business is divided up over the same retailers and the same channels as before."

Carl Goldstein, senior vp of S. Lichtenberg, felt the discount department store channel would have shown a boost because of its constantly expanding store base.

But he also believed home textiles specialty chains might have shown an increase, too, a point of concurrence with Wendy Keryk, president of Richloom Home Fashions' window division.

"The specialties are really aggressively chasing the window business," Keryk said. "One of them, in particular, has some great new displays and is showing some exciting new things."

Despite its seeming maturity, the trio of executives made a case that the overall size of the business has also increased. Said Foley, "It has been healthy and held up well, very well, and strong."

According to Goldstein, the segment's stability and health is attributable to low interest rates and the strength of the housing market. He said that as long as housing starts continue to increase, so too will the soft window business. "We believe that with every new home sold, there are five moves involved. And the least expensive way to decorate a room is on the window," he said.

Keryk saw the improvement as a result of retailers choosing to increase their soft window assortments, perhaps at the expense of the hard side.

There were some major changes in the merchandise mix. Pinch-pleat draperies took a major hit, while scarves vaulted into double figures, a fact which may be tempered by the decrease reported in top treatments.

Distribution Channels
sales in $billions

Share Sales
2002 % 2002 $
2001 2001
1. Mid-price chains 39% $1,502
39 1,482
2. Discount department stores 31 1,194
31 1178
3. Home textile specialty chains 19 732
119 722
4. Department stores 3 116
3 114
5. Off-price chains 2 77
2 76
6. Variety/closeout 2 77
2 76
7. Home improvement centers 2 77
2 76
8. Single unit specialty stores 1 39
1 38
9. Direct-to-consumer 1 39
1 38


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