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Top 15 plummets with 5.1% decline

Don Hogsett -- Home Textiles Today, January 7, 2002

New York — In a tumultuous, punishing year for home fashions suppliers and retailers alike, composite sales for the nation's 15 largest home textiles producers and importers skidded down by 5.1 percent, to $7.93 billion from $8.35 billion the prior year — a scary top-line loss of $425 million.

Creating a nerve-wracking kind of benchmark, it was the first time in the eight-year history of Home Textiles Today's ranking of the industry's top-tier players that their composite sales have actually fallen.

Putting that scary shortfall into perspective, it's as if a company roughly the size of Dan River had just dropped off the map last year or as if Croscill and CHF had suddenly fallen through the cracks.

Clearly, much of that business is going overseas as retailers step up their sourcing from offshore suppliers, increasingly competing with their suppliers in the United States, and putting them in a vulnerable position.

Nowhere is that made more clear than with the nation's three largest home fashions suppliers — Springs, WestPoint and Pillowtex — not one of whom was able to eke out even a skimpy sales gain last year. Springs' sales were flat at $1.8 billion; WestPoint declined by 7.0 percent, to $1.8 billion; and Pillowtex sales crumpled by 21.7 percent, to $1.1 billion from $1.4 billion. Indeed, of the nation's big bedding producers, only Dan River scored a gain last year, driving sales up by 7.1 percent, to $482 million.

Underling the traumatic, almost toxic, character of business last year, five of the industry's 15 largest players lost ground, and three of them — Pillowtex, Burlington and Glenoit — were bankrupt.

In a big shift at the top, WestPoint Stevens was displaced as the nation's largest home fashions supplier by Springs Industries, newly private, which claimed the No. 1 spot just by holding its own in a grueling retail environment, thanks largely to its big Springmaid program at Wal-Mart.

CHF Industries, once written off as all but dead, climbed back on track under a vigorous new management team led by veteran Frank Foley, and has not only regained sales momentum, but is back to making money.

Dropping out of sight, by choice, is Revman Industries, whose sales fell off by 18.4 percent, to $115 million from $141 million, as it shucked off a large part of its mass merchant business — trading sales in for stronger profits, said Rich Roman, president. "We made the decision to exit some of the mass merchant business. What we do best is branded product, better goods, for department store and big-box distribution," he said.

The Home Textiles Today ranking of the Top 15 suppliers measures sales of soft home textiles products, excluding hard window treatments, upholstery, broadloom carpeting and mattress ticking. Sales results of public companies measure trailing 12-month sales through the Sept. 30 close of the third calendar quarter.

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