December 3, 2010,
Who's the best retailer of home textiles in the business today? I say you can make a pretty persuasive argument that it's TJX.
Warren Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTOR
By all sorts of criteria - buying, product selection, advertising and marketing,vendor relations - the TJX group of stores does an excellent job in the business of selling home textiles products. Whether it's T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Home Goods or AJ Wright, these guys know what they are doing.
Buying: TJX buyers actually go to trade shows and buy. I know it's an antiquated concept, but when their buyers go to market - and they go to lots and lots of shows, more than just about any other retailer I know of - they are there to buy, not to sample, arrange for style outs or work the shrimp-and-chardonnay circuit.
Product selection: Forget about that image of broken lots and assorted odds and ends as being the merchandising front of a typical TJX store. Sure, they have that - and at this point it's more for image than anything else - but the heart and soul of these stores are core programs representing a broad cross section of products, price points and brands. The programs may change, rotating in and out as things go, but the assortments are as well balanced as anybody's in the marketplace.
Advertising and marketing: When you see a TV commercial of happy shoppers in love with their latest sheet or towel purchase, there's a good chance it's a spot for a TJX unit. No other retailer out there does as good a job promoting the entire category as they do, and there's got to be some great irony in the fact that while Macy'sand Kohl's are doing price-oriented item ads, TJX stores are taking the institutional route promoting the category in general.
Of course, you have to get a kick out of those recent spots that try to offer up a plausible scenario for the store's buying acumen by showing other retailers over-ordering or misordering and TJX coming in and picking up the pieces. The fact of the matter is that most of TJX's purchases these days are ordered straight from the supplier. Somehow the idea that 300 extra boots are going to supply 1,000stores doesn't quite fl y anymore.
It's like when they used to run IR sales on Royal Velvet. There appeared to be a seemingly unlimited supply of irregular product, enough to run these sales several times a year, suggesting that Fieldcrest's Fieldale plant was the most incompetent manufacturing facility on the face of the towel planet. But that was their story and they stuck with it.
Vendor relations: Ask any supplier which retailer they would most want to do business with and more often than not it's TJX -and some of its off-price brethren. It's not because these stores are soft touches or rubes who don't know percale from prosciutto. Suppliers will tell you that TJX is a tough negotiator, but a fair one, and the price you settle on is the price that's paid. And that payout comes sooner rather than later, helping the cash flow of many a strapped manufacturer.
Put it all together and it's a multi-level story that makes a strong case for TJX. Yes, sometimes their stores look pretty crummy. And yes, sometimes they take advantage of both the supplier and the consumer when each is at their most vulnerable. But a lot of suppliers and consumers alike wish there were more TJXs and less of some other stores out there. In so many ways, X very much marks the spot.
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