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EXCLUSIVE ACCOMMODATIONS

A TRIO OF SHOWROOM REPS SPEAK THEIR MINDS ON HOW TO KEEP A LINE EXCLUSIVE AND NOT CHEAPEN ITS BRAND IDENTITY.<P>It's a specialty retailer's worst nightmare to be rolling along as the only store in town with one of the season's hottest lines when...

A TRIO OF SHOWROOM REPS SPEAK THEIR MINDS ON HOW TO KEEP A LINE EXCLUSIVE AND NOT CHEAPEN ITS BRAND IDENTITY.

This story first appeared in the June 5, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

It’s a specialty retailer’s worst nightmare to be rolling along as the only store in town with one of the season’s hottest lines when suddenly, the same line shows up in a competitor’s window, just down the street. Worse still, a customer comes in complaining that the same line is at the nearby department store or discounter, for 50 percent less, or even more.

WWD put three sales reps at AmericasMart on the hot seat to discuss the controversial issue of distribution.

Phil Tunks Kathy Tunks, Room 11S116

“We carefully select lines that don’t sell to discounters, such as Stein Mart and T.J. Maxx. Some of our lines do sell to upscale, big-name stores such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman Marcus, but these stores don’t discount as frequently and deeply as other mainstream department stores. Lines that sell to discounters are a no-win situation, and we’ve had to drop a few lines that have shown up in discounters.”

Brad Johnson

Ambrosia & Co., Room 9N104

“We try to protect retailers, especially if they commit to a line with large orders. But if a store cherry-picks a line, with just a $2,000 order, we can’t guarantee exclusivity on the whole line. It’s hard to please everyone, but we pride ourselves on being a Southern-based company and understanding a stores’ needs. They won’t get the same bedside manner in New York.”

Don Overcast

Don Overcast & Associates, Room 10E112

“We’ve tried to eliminate lines that sell to discounters from our package. For regional reps, specialty stores are our major customer base, so we try to understand our region and protect stores as best we can.

“Some of our lines, such as David Warren, have stated that shipments to specialty stores come first, before major stores.”