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Waverly looks to step up service

Marvin Lazaro -- Home Textiles Today, July 22, 2002

After introducing its exclusive Target program more than a year ago, Waverly is reinforcing its commitment to smaller independent retailers by implementing a number of operational changes, many of which were enumerated during its annual Waverly Place Conference.

The conference, sponsored by F. Schumacher & Co. and held at the Loews Hotel here, revealed Waverly's latest fabric collections and newest home textiles featuring those same fabrics.

What drew a particularly strong retail response was the announcement by Evan Melnick, vp of sales and merchandising for Waverly home fashions, that delivery times will be significantly shortened. Rather than up to four weeks, Melnick gave assurances that, once the new system was in place, deliveries will take only two weeks.

As part of his comments to retailers, Dale Williams, president of the Waverly Lifestyle Group, said that Waverly has not lost sight of its commitment to its smaller customers and is, in fact, taking steps to reassure them of that.

According to Melnick, the first step Waverly will take is to consolidate its three home textiles programs — essentials (decorative pillows, etc), bed ensembles and selections (its made-to-measure window program) under one "essentials" label. In addition, the current 20 bed ensembles will be whittled down to 16, which will represent an equal balance of Waverly's four lifestyle programs: Town and Country, Past Perfect, Beautiful Things and Modern Living. Also being pared down will be the total amount of skus Waverly offers under its essentials group. Melnick said the some 700 skus currently offered will be reduced to 300.

All of the changes are scheduled to be implemented by February 2003.

Said Williams afterwards, "We got together with some of our best-selling accounts and said, 'Let's sit down and focus on the portion of what we're offering that sells the best and eliminate the complexities.'"

Williams also told retailers that Waverly has a new "to do" list. At the top is Waverly's commitment to improve the return-on-investment for its some 200 Waverly Place stores. Williams also pledged that Waverly will continue to focus on "great design," to improve service by streamlining its assortment and with collaborative forecasting, to forge lasting relationships.

Williams noted that small retailers make up a significant portion of Waverly's $400 million retail business and their collective concerns were heightened after the New York-based company completed its exclusive deals with Target Corp. and Lowe's. Those concerns were expressed during Waverly's conference last year in New Jersey.

"We learned that we need to communicate change to all of our retail partners," Carolyn D'Angelo, vp or marketing and licensing for Waverly, commented. "They want to be brought into the loop."

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