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Bullish Arlee Ramps up Table Division

Derek PierceDerek Pierce and Julie Chisholm-Polich, center, with Arlee’s David Frankel, far left, and Sean Frankel, far right.
NEW YORK - Looking to broaden distribution, family owned Arlee Home Fashions' brothers David and Sean Frankel have forged a new alliance with a team of veteran players to expand more deeply into the table linens category with new products, new brands and new channels.
     Derek Pierce, who spent the past 25 years of his career at Bardwil, has joined Arlee along with his longtime colleague Julie Chisholm-Polich to expand Arlee's Table Trends division with a broader assortment of table linens as well as the addition of kitchen textiles categories to the mix.
     David Frankel, Arlee's president, told HTT that he and Sean, who serves as the company's executive vp, "have spent the past three-and-a-half years looking for ways to improve and enhance our business. We've looked at companies to buy, people to hire... But ultimately nothing ever met the criteria or we felt the people we spoke to weren't the right fit."
     Until an industry friend told David about Pierce.
     The rest is history. Or to use their words exactly, it was "a love fest."
     "David, Sean and I selected each other," Pierce chimed in. "After only a couple of meetings, we realized there was an unbelievable opportunity for us, and it's an opportunity that doesn't come often in this environment."
     "He was doing something different from what we were doing with both product and customers that could meld with that what we were doing at Arlee," David said.
     Added Sean: "One of the things that is so appealing about Derek and his team is that they are able to pursue new accounts across [the table linens and kitchen textiles categories] without jeopardizing what we are doing with our other product categories."
     Once he joined the company April 1, Pierce and his team - which includes Chisholm-Polich as senior designer, Stephanie Greco as vp of sales, and Emily Jaramillo as general manager - got to work on new line.
     "We didn't have to wait six to nine months for them to create a line," David said. "They did it very quickly. And they've already hit the road with it and had a strong response from customers."
     He explained that Pierce and his team "have worked together for quite some time and have the experience and an established relationship base. Because of that, they were able to join the company and hit the ground running."
     Pierce described the expanded Table Trends program as "a full line table linens and kitchen textiles resource. And for it, we are taking advantage of our relationships domestically and overseas from the past 25 years."
     David noted that Pierce "brings a customer base that is different from ours, a different class of trade, and that is appealing to us."
     He is referring to better specialty and department stores.
     For Arlee, Table Trends' new approach is actually on par with the company's recent shift. Over the past 12 to 18 months, Arlee has added special new collections of "better" - or a step up from basics and opening price point - goods that cater to specialty shoppers.
     "We've been making it a priority to shift the perception and offering of our company in the marketplace," Sean said.
     Added David: "Sean and I have been working toward pushing the needle in our product in terms of design and offering."
     The effort has been paying off, as "we have already secured new business with some first-tier accounts," Sean said, for all of the company's existing categories - decorative pillows, soft window treatments, place mats, chair pads and soft pet beds.
     With Pierce's team now on board, "they are looking to us for ideas and what we do well and we are looking to them for ideas and what they do well, and as a result there should be a fair amount of cross pollination in design, product, and sourcing. It is not our desire to turn Derek into us but rather for us all to come together and benefit from what each of us if very good at."
     Aside from bringing a broader line of goods that reach a new segment of distribution for Arlee, Pierce's team is also serving as a catalyst to add new branding strategies to Arlee.
     David said that for the first time in the company's history, which dates back to 1975 when his late father Bud Frankel founded Arlee, it is now "aggressively pursuing licensing. We are looking for a mix of brands, and we want to pursue them for all of our categories."
     While customers are already getting previews of the new line, a formal launch is set for September during the New York Home Fashions Market.
     In time for that, Arlee is overhauling its nearly 10,000-square-foot showroom at 261 Fifth Avenue "to show the breadth of our line in easier way," David said.
     Construction is set to start in a few weeks.

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