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Lacey implements new strategy

CARTERSVILLE, GA -After officially changing ownership in January, 63-year-old Lacey Mills is broadening its distribution lines, pumping up its marketing and shifting its import/export ratio-in favor of domestic production.

Partners Tom Etheridge, who serves as president, and John Hale, vp, sales, joined the company some six months before before formally taking over and began working on building a new strategy almost immediately.

"We looked at streamlining and improving efficiencies," Etheridge said. "We cut back operating expenses by over 20 percent."

Lacey Mills also made a capital investment in new equipment, purchasing a full-repeat scroll machine capable of producing two different loop pile heights as well as cut pile. The new team was also able to leverage improvements made by the company two years ago, when it moved into a new plant, upgraded its in-house dye facility and added an extra 75,000 square feet to its shipping area.

Years past, Lacey primarily produced cotton bath towels for the specialty channel, importing up to 40 percent of its product. Now the company is adding olefin and nylon constructions and will produce four lines of rugs: bath, accent, washable rugs for kids and rugs for the kitchen. And in kitchen, Lacey is negotiating with a kitchen textiles maker to produce coordinate programs.

Imports are expected to drop to 15 percent of total production, said Hale.

"We're taking a rifle approach as opposed to a scatter-shot approach," he added. "Being a smaller organization, we can react more quickly and we can custom-tailor programs."

Lacey can also now pursue more moderate price point goods for the mass market, including domestically produced rugs at retails of $9.99 and $14.99.

As the company shifts away from imports, it is beefing up its private-label business, according to design director Karen Townsend.

"The quantities of goods you have to bring in with imports makes it difficult to be real flexible," she said. "When you're doing a project and you've got 30 days to turn it around, [relying on] imports kill you."

The mill's initial lines of private label and branded product begin shipping next month. And at spring market, the company will officially unveil its four new collections: two additions to its bath line; six styles of kids rugs; seven to 10 styles of accent rugs; and four styles of kitchen rugs.

"We're being more balanced. We're lowering the number of skus we have to hold in inventory so that we can be more profitable for ourselves and our customers," Hale said.

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