Big Changes, and Small
By Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, 2/10/2008 12:00:00 AM
As we move into this new market week, there should be a renewed focus on change — both at the supplier level and especially at retail.
The most recent example of change — and one of the Big 3 in this regard — was the announcement late last week by Macy's, nee Federated, of moves that will absorb several divisions into other established divisions — all formed after the acquisition of the May Co.
In his statement regarding these changes, Macy's ceo Terry Lundgren cited the need to place more emphasis and talent on the local level "to differentiate Macy's stores, serve our customers and drive business."
One wonders how the struggling Macy's Home Store unit fits into this equation, especially now that it will have the direct oversight for the former Marshall Field's division and especially the iconic Shaumberg home store. Of course, the fact that one Carl Icahn is hovering close to Lundgren could have something to do with the moves.
In another stellar move, JCPenney announced what was viewed by many retailing mavens as a "what took so long to do" move — combining the expertise in buying, merchandising and marketing expertise of its direct (catalog and internet) and retail businesses. Radical concept — eh? Why should a sweater or a towel at retail be less than in the direct channel for a customer?
But until the total company game plan is revealed, it will be difficult to assess the pros and cons. As it is, the window business — one of JCP's major strengths in domination and profit, will be one of the first to see the change. Again, the timing may be the result of the Icahn factor, since he is said to have a strong position in this retailer as well.
And a bit earlier came the huge announcement of a restructuring at Sears Holdings — a move not yet complete in operational impact, except that many who interrelate with the company feel that most everything at Sears/Kmart has come to a standstill that won't move until there's someone in charge of merchandise other than Eddie Lampert.
We've also seen changes at the supplier level. Interesting in terms of fashion and price points is the number of companies expanding or developing programs that welcome small retailers. There are resources whose businesses have long been dual-programmed — for the big guys and for the small stores — and they've been thriving.
Now, it's not a flood, but it's more than a trickle, and the awareness level of the impact of lots of smaller retailers on the marketplace could work to everyone's advantage.
Of course, the internet has had a lot to do with this trend, and it will even more down the road.
These discussions should make for interesting stuff in the next week and on.
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