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Springs is busting out all over

Mere brand presentations are just too plebeian. Groupings by construction? Simply passé. Rather, Springs displayed new products thematically — by lifestyle or palette or technology — whether in rugs, window treatments, bath, bedding or utility.

If Springs Industries' earlier mission was to show how well it had digested its many acquisitions, its strategy this market appears to be demonstrating how far it can explode offerings from each business unit.

In broader terms, Springs' message was one of resourcefulness. Displays mingling fabrications were meant to underscore its reach abroad — particularly sourcing through the Springs China division — as well as domestically.

Emblematic of that shift was the presentation this market in the rug division, which bulked up considerably with the 2002 acquisition of Beaulieu Rugs. Collections were grouped by color story, mingling various constructions among the domestically produced and imported.

"We're trying to make the point that we can give retailers six different constructions for the price point — whatever the price point," said Tina Gunter, the division's director of merchandising.

The division was also pushing accent rugs — previously just 5 percent of the line. Beaulieu also debuted a broad assortment of doormats in a variety of constructions, including cotton, rubber, coir, coconut and poly-propylene.

Oxford dons

Its licensed Waverly bath business was also expanded through the acquisition earlier this year of Oxford Bath, previously a Springs licensee. Springs currently produces Waverly Garden bedding and bath exclusively for Target stores as well as an exclusive Waverly-branded collection for specialty stores. Oxford inked a deal late last year to produce an open line of shower curtains, bath rugs and bath accessories based on Waverly designs.

Introductions this market included wood accessories, chenille rugs, printed rugs, cotton duck shower curtains, embroidered towels, jacquard towels and sateen shower hook ribbons.

Blanket coverage

Springs' new Owen Blanket division — the result of its acquisition of blanket Owen Manufacturing last spring — took aim at the flocked blanket category currently owned by rival WestPoint Stevens' venerable Vellux brand.

Wamsutta SofTouch is designed to be denser and thicker, constructed with what Springs asserts is a finer flock for a richer hand. The line debuted in 11 colors, including both deeps and pastels, at twin pricing that starts from $14.99 to $19.99. A special packaging flap allows consumers to slip a hand into the bag to feel the product. A second flocked line was introduced under the Owen brand as WonderTouch.

Basic instincts

Springs picked up the Tommy Hilfiger basic bedding license previously held by Pillowtex. In addition to carrying forward the existing line of product, Springs added four new patterns in 233-count, down-filled comforters and pillows: two plaids, a floral and a surf stripe.

Elsewhere in utilities, Springs brought together several innovative product lines under the umbrella "The Smart Comfort Collection."

CoolMax employed ready-to-wear fabric that wicks perspiration away from the body. Amicor Pure was an anti-allergen fiber employing technology used in hospital bedding. EvenTemp bedding, under the Wamsutta brand, is constructed with Adaptive Comfort technology from Outlast, a fabrication technique that absorbs excess body heat until the body is cooled, then releases it to maintain an even temperature. A new Teflon-enhanced line resists moisture and stains.

"Everything here is already being used in apparel," said Randy Spence, president of basic bedding. "Instead of playing the thread-count game, we're using technology to appeal to the consumer."

But the division nonetheless moved in on the high-count arena and pulled together its upper-end constructions of utility bedding under a new label — the Wamsutta Hotel collection. Constructions included a 315-count cotton, a 430-count 50/50 cotton/silk (standard sleep pillow: $89.99) and a 500-count sateen.

First launched during last April's market with several sumptuous top-of-bedding offerings, Springs now focused on adding layers to its top-of-the-line Court of Versailles luxury collection. That included expanding colorways in the core Therese burnout shower curtain as well as introducing a "hyper-spun" Supima bath towel.

The inaugural pieces of the debut collection will begin shipping in spring '04, said Filippone.

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