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CHANNEL SURFING.

LISTEN UP, SPORTS FANS. Channel surfing (the phrase coined to describe the primary activity of the typical male couch potato) has now been redefined. Women's Channel Surfing is the new game to watch.

The female version, also known as cross-shopping, is far from passive. Unlike their male counterparts, women channel surfers don't sit home watching Monday Night Football. Their playing field is where the real action is: Retail stores. All retail stores.

To cover the ground needed to turn pro-cross-shopper in overstored America takes strength, determination, wit and skill. Ask any retail channel surfer why she does it, and she'll probably say it's the rush of knowing, without question, that she got the best product at the right price.

Nothing compares to the thrill of victory of a cross-channel "hunt."

Indeed, cross-channel bargain hunting is the last true blood sport still legal in America today. It pits department store against mass merchant, discounter against warehouse club. It forces merchants to sharpen price points, develop private labels, improve quality and service.

In this week's issue, for example, we feature new merchandising concepts from Bloomingdale's and Kmart. Opposite ends of the home products spectrum? Maybe not. The fashion gap is closing, particularly in home textiles. As manufacturers divide up their staffs to form units exclusively serving specific channels, designers are simultaneously, yet independently, developing similar colors and patterns based on global trends.

While fashion bridges mass and class, the issues of quality, service and price are still disparate enough to encourage cross-shopping. At last week's grand opening of Bloomingdale's new Long Island store (see page 7), a 10-piece set of Circulon cookware sold for $329. Costco offered the same set for $369. Channel surfers are learning that bargains can be had at department stores.

But the real indulgence at Bloomingdale's is the service. Not just at the grand opening, where eagle-eyed trainers were so attentive you'd never want to leave, but at the Garden City Bloomie's home sale three weeks ago, where informed, helpful clerks cheerfully wrote rain checks for Cuisinart products that sold out the first day.

Once the mass market shopper gets a taste of this treatment, channel surfing will be more enticing than ever before. And when the department store customer finds innovative self-service concepts like Kmart's shower curtain wall (see page 1), she too will come back for more.

Never forget: a cross-shopper is not a team player. She is loyal to everyone, and faithful to no one. Her mission is simply to acquire the very best she can possibly afford for her home.

Letters to the editor can be sent via e-mail to tischc@ fairchildpub.com or via mail to HFN, 7 West 34th Street New York, NY 10001.
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Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Aug 24, 1998
Words:452
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