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GANGS OF NEW YORK.

It's that time of year again. The time when all of the tough guys, hoodlums and other notably irreverent, irredeemable and often irrelevant groups of people descend upon the streets of New York to inflict their version of pain, suffering and ill-fortune upon the natives.

It's textiles market week.

This year, it's played out against a somewhat different tableau -- war, worldwide uncertainty and a national economy that simply refuses to get better in any meaningful way -- but it's still market, nonetheless.

It's the semiannual ritual of us versus them in showrooms, convention aisles and hotel rooms all over town.

And that means that the same sort of conversations, confrontations and consternations that usually transpire are once again about to take place. All courtesy of the assorted gangs of New York engaged in hand-to-hand combat -- err, buying, I mean -- that is a staple of the process.

The biggest gang is the discount gang. Once a huge confederation of players, it is, with the exception of some assorted junior members, down to a gang of threeand even that is likely to get reduced by a third before not too long.

These gang members come in to press their noses against the high-end showroom windows and then press their flesh against their usual suppliers. They generally wouldn't know a new resource (at least west of Shanghai) if they tripped over it.

Some gang members fight dirty, some keep it above the belt (if not entirely above board) and some have given up the fight entirely.

Gang members are easy to identify.

Another gang of New York is the department store gang. They want whatever isn't on the showroom floor. Show them 37 beautiful beds and they want you to develop a 38th just for them. Show them that 38th bed and they want to know about markdown money and slotting fees and ad allowances. Show them markdown money and slotting fees and ad allowances and they say they'll get back to you.

These gang members travel in the largest packs, the leader trailed by assorted lieutenants, foot soldiers and handmaidens (of various genders). Safety in numbers, I believe, is the philosophy.

Another gang of New York is an elite group made up of only two members: the big-box specialty chains. The yin and yang of gangdom, they are perfect reflections of each other, except that which is white and which is black changes on an almost daily basis. They want the markdown monies and the slotting fees and all the rest, but they also want what they can't have: the good stuff. Lately, they've been getting better stuff, but the really good stuff remains just out of reach. For now. Sooner or later, they will break down the last gates keeping them out and the whole hood will be theirs.

These are the gangs really growing, recruiting new members every day of the year.

There are, to be sure, some other gangs of New York in town this week, but they just don't have the firepower to make all that much of a difference.

The big gangs run the show and everyone else is just an innocent victim (OK, not so innocent, but a victim nonetheless).

Playing this week: The Gangs of New York. But if you miss it, don't worry. It's coming to a town or market near you soon.

Letters to the editor can be sent via e-mail to warren.shoulberg@ fairchildpub.com or via mail to HFN, 7 West 34th Street New York, NY 10001
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Title Annotation:Textiles market week
Author:Shoulberg, Warren
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 31, 2003
Words:585
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