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  • Jennifer Marks

Turnaround Year for Category Leaders

Berkshire Blanket in Blistering Boom

This year's ranking of Top 5 Suppliers by product category produced more market share gainers than losers — 47 vs. 26 — a more positive balance than in last year's survey.

Further, nearly half of the category sales gainers raised their revenues by double-digits.

In a surprise, the highest category gain in this year's survey came close to matching the year-ago survey's No. 1 sales gain percentage, which was a 70% jump in sales. This year's top gainer was Berkshire Blanket, which propelled its throw sales forward a robust 67%. That performance pushed Berkshire into the throw category's Top 5 for 2006.

Berkshire also logged the second-largest gain in this year's Top 5 survey, boosting blanket sales by 54%.

Among the 26 positions that lost market share, 42% recorded double-digit sales declines. But those drop-offs were not as dramatic as they were last year, when the five largest category revenue hits ranged from -19% to -28%.

This year's biggest category sales slumps were experienced by divisions connected to the two largest firms in the industry, each engaged in repositioning. The area rug division of Springs Industries — a spin-off that was not part of the merger with Coteminas that created Springs Global — saw sales slide 25%. And WestPoint Home had drop-offs of 25% in two different categories: in its comforter sales — some of it deliberately — and in sleep pillows.

The foam pillows/toppers category probably should have recorded the greatest number of sales slides — but held off that unfavorable distinction. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in late summer 2005, the supply of raw ingredients for foam production tightened considerably and prices rose dramatically. However, foam suppliers said most retailers accepted the price increases, grudgingly.

Instead, foam was one of only four categories in which four of the five top suppliers boosted share last year. The other three were down/down alternative comforters, kitchen textiles, and shower curtains.

Fashion comforters turned out to be the category in which leading suppliers took the most hits. Four of the five lost sales. The only one that didn't — Croscill — reported revenue flat in the category.

For this year's ranking, HTT dropped the quilt category. It was added in 2003 when quilt sales were exploded. The category has since plateaued and declined.

There were only a few newcomers to the Top 5 this year. One was powerhouse Welspun.

The off-shore mill roared onto the bath towel ranking at No. 3, displacing last year's No. 5, Santens. And although Welspun entered the sheet business only in mid-2005, sales in its first full year in the category were strong enough to put it on the chart at No. 5.

Blue Ridge Home Fashions hopped into the leadership pack in the down & down alternative comforters category, knocking WestPoint Home out of the No. 4 slot and off the chart completely.

Berkshire Blanket made its debut appearance in the throw category, climbing into the No. 5 seat, which was held last year by Phoenix Down.

Taking Share Top sales gainers by percentage

Category % Increase
Berkshire Blanket Throws 67%
Berkshire Blanket Blankets 54
Oriental Weavers/Sphinx Rugs 41
Springs Global Mattress Pads 29
Bacova Guild Bath Rugs 25
Town & Country Kitchen textiles 25


Forsaking Share Largest sales declines by percentage

Category % Decline
Springs Industries Rugs -25%
WestPoint Home Comforters -25
WestPoint Home Pillows -25
Louisville Bedding Foam -19
WestPoint Home Sheets -19


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