Providencia leads company to America

Don Hogsett, January 26, 2004

Trying to breathe life into the stagnant market for high-pile acrylic throws — and fill a void created when a rival abandoned the U.S. market — Mexican throw and blanket producer Providencia has set up a sales and marketing office here.

Textiles veteran Jim Barnes — a graduate of the Springs training academy, and more recently a sales and marketing executive at Mexican producer Hometex —joined forces with Providencia as vice president of sales and marketing when Hometex, beset with a financial difficulties, shuttered its New York City office.

Providencia, a large, privately head and financially stable company, controls an estimated 50 percent share of the Mexican throw market, said Barnes. "Now the owner, Jose Antonio Torre, wants to start doing business in the U.S."

Providencia's maiden product launch, said Barnes, will feature throws in three constructions: traditional high-pile jacquard acrylic throws, which have somewhat fallen out of the spotlight; more trendy and colorful raschel knit throws, with their punchier colors and crisper, printed graphics; and an over-size throw that can double as a bed blanket, taking aim at the juvenile market.

"We're not selling just to retailers. We'll also do contract work for other American suppliers who may not have the manufacturing capability," said Barnes.

Indeed, said Barnes, Providencia has been doing contract work with American suppliers for several years, but now wants to step up to the plate and tackle retail on its own.

Providencia, he said, is a "totally vertical operation, with all its facilities in one location in Tlaxcala Province. The equipment is state-of-the art, and that and our centralized operations give us a lot of efficiencies and capabilities. You just can't believe the facilities they have down there. The floor of the plant is granite and immaculate. It is the most organized thing I have ever seen."

The rocket-hot raschel knit category, whose clean, crisp graphics make the product ideal for licensed looks, will spearhead the American drive. But Barnes said he's out to revitalize the flagging high-pile jacquard category.

"The old high piles are limited by the jacquard technology. They have dark, heavy colors, and the image definition isn't very great. Providencia has developed a new manufacturing technique that allows them to print on a solid-color jacquard ground, and that gives you a much more vivid image, and a much broader range of colors that you can use," said Barnes.

Printing, he said, is "a key strength at Providencia. In addition to the printing they can do on high-piles, they have a 'reality printing' technique that give an almost photo-quality look."

In another new look, said Barnes, Providencia "can emboss on the raschel knit throw for a deeply textured effect."

Side-stepping an obstacle that's hobbled other Mexican producers, Providencia won't be trying to sell designs created for the Mexican market into the United States.

"We've hired a designer here in New York City to create a line specifically for the American market. We will show some designs created for Mexico, but we'll use those to target the increasingly important Hispanic market in the United States," said Barnes.

Providencia shows off its first line at February mini-market in its showroom and marketing office at 292 Fifth Ave. Included in the launch will be six new designs created for the American market, and five best-sellers form Mexico, which will target the Hispanic market here.

Raschel knits, in a 50-by-60-inch size, will target a $19.99 retail; and 60-by-80-inch raschels are priced at $29.99. High-pile jacquards, in the standard 60-by-80-inch size, target a $19.95 retail price point in either jacquard-woven or printed looks.

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