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Soft sales, hard year: economy's slowdown and corporate turbulence bring virtually flat '95.

A slowing economy and a series of corporate restructurings and Chapter 11 filings softened home textiles sales for the top 100 retailers in fiscal 1995.

Sales for the top 100 home textiles retailers posted a modest 2.4 percent increase, registering slightly more than $16 billion in 1995, compared to $15.6 billion in fiscal 1994. The increase was significantly lower than the 8 percent surge reported by last year's top 100 retailers for sales in fiscal 1994.

It was a turbulent retail scene in 1995: large department store groups such as Federated and Mercantile restructured their operating divisions to gain greater efficiency; national chains and mass merchants like JC Penney, Sears, Kmart and Wal-Mart embarked on new strategies designed to improve their profitability in a competitive marketplace, catalogs such as Spiegel and Domestications struggled with soaring paper and postage costs; and some regional mass merchants and specialty stores including Bradlees, Caldor, Pacific Linen and Karin's Kurtains were forced to seek Chapter 11 protection in the face of mounting financial pressures.

Gainers still outnumbered decliners in the top 100 list, with 67 retailers posting in creases, and 33 reporting declining or flat sales. On last year's top 100 list, however, 82 retailers showed sales rises.

The nation's largest retailers of home textiles continued to control the bulk of the business. The top five retailers on the list handled 44 percent ($7 billion) of total home textiles sales in 1995, while the top 10 retailers con trolled 58 percent ($9.3 billion) of sales. And the top 25 retailers commanded 76 percent ($12.3 billion) of sales in 1995. The percentages were unchanged from 1994.

The top five retailers also remained stable from 1994 to 1995. JC Penney continued to hold the top position, with an estimated $2.04 billion in home textiles sales, followed by Wal-Mart, estimated at $1.95 billion; Kmart, estimated at $1.25 billion; Sears, estimated at $900 million; and Target, estimated at $880 million. All five posted gains between 1.2 and 2.6 percent in 1995, mirroring the general industry trend.

Large retailers continued to dominate the home textiles landscape, as distribution patterns showed little shift. National chains and mass merchants held a combined market share of 57.9 percent in 1995, down slightly from a combined market share of 58.5 percent in 1994. Mass merchants alone controlled 37.1 percent of the business in 1995, down from 37.6 percent in 1994. National chains held steady, at 20.8 percent market share in 1995, compared to 20.9 percent in 1994.

Department stores accounted for 18 percent of total home textiles sales in 1995, t he same percentage as the previous year. Specialty stores gained slightly, with 1995 market share of 12.8 percent, compared to 1994's 12.1 percent. Catalogs registered 8.2 percent market share in 1994, nearly even with 1994's 8.4 percent. Warehouse clubs were virtually flat, at 2.8 percent in 1995 and 2.7 percent in 1994. And home shopping was flat, at 0.3 percent for both years.

While market-share percentages remained fairly stable, some channels of distribution posted larger sales gains than others. Specialty-store sales, for example, rose 8.8 percent, to $2.06 billion in 1995 from $1.9 billion in 1994. Home textiles sales at warehouse clubs rose 4.2 percent, to $456 million in 1995 from $428 million in 1994. National chains registered a 2 percent increase, to $3.34 billion in 1995 from $3.28 billion in 1994.

Department store sales rose 1.6 percent, to $2.87 billion in 1995 from $2.82 billion in 1994. Home shopping sales also were up 1.6 percent, to $39.3 million in 1995, from $38.7 million in 1994. Catalog sales were flat, at $1.32 billion for both years.

While overall sales growth was moderate, some retailers posted gains as high as 56 percent. Eight of the top 10 percentage gainers were specialty stores. The top 10 gainers by percentage were: Home Express at 56 percent, Bed Bath & Beyond at 36.6 percent, Kohl's at 21.5 percent, Three-D at 20.2 percent, ABC Carpet & Home at 19 percent, Waccamaw at 16 percent. Pier One at 13.9 percent. Pacific Linen at 12.9 percent. Steinmart at 1 1.8 percent and Macy's East at 11.2 percent.

Larger retailers, though they posted smaller percentage gains, rang up the largest dollar volume increases. The top 10 gainers by dollar volume were Wal-Mart, up $50 million; Bed Bath & Beyond, up $48.5 million; Linens 'n Things, up $40 million; JC Penney, up $40 million; Home Express, up $30.8 million; Kohl's, up $23 million; Sears, up $20 million; Target, up $20 million; Price/Costco, up $18 million; and Pier One, up $15.8 million. Home Express, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl's and Pier One were among the top 10 gainers in both volume and percentage.

This HFN special report examines the home textiles performance of the top retailers in the U.S., end how each charnel of distribution contributed to overall home textiles sales.


RELATED ARTICLE: How the Facts Were Compiled

Statistical information about 1994 and 1995 total sales volume, textiles sales volume and store numbers for HFN's Top 100 Homes Textiles Retailers section was compiled by researchers working under managing editor Donna Boyle Schwartz and home textiles editor Amy Joyce Rush.

The information was obtained primarily through a mailing to key retail executives, followed by phone interviews with some of these executives. If a retail company is privately held, or a publicly held firm's executives were reluctant to divulge specific breakdowns of their financial data, HFN estimated figures based on interviews with other retailers, suppliers and the financial community; comparisons with sales of similar retailers; and Dun & Bradstreet reports.

Where relevant, revisions of 1994 figures were made to insure accuracy with regard to year-to-year comparisons. For example, when a company changed its corporate structure, 1994 figures were revised according to the new structure (ie., Mercantile and Federated).

Product categories included inTop 100 listing are sheets and bedroom ensembles, basic bedding, cotton and ready-made curtains and draperies, custom and stock alternative window coverings, slipcovers, bath towels and other bath products, table linens, kitchen textiles, decorative pillows and chair pads, decorative fabrics, wallcoverings and other soft home accessories.

Sales comparison by channel of distribution


Market Shares by Channel of Distribution


A Corporate View

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Title Annotation:The Top 100 Retailers of Home Textiles; includes related article on how information was compiled; 1995 household linens sales statistics
Author:Schwartz, Donna Boyle
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Sep 23, 1996
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