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Organic Value a Virtue at Under the Canopy

Cecile Corral, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, April 21, 2008

On a mission to dispel the myth that organic products are more expensive than their synthetic-blend stepsisters, Under the Canopy, is expanding is offerings of bedding and bath goods — all of which are set at price points competitive with many non-organic department store assortments.

Under the Canopy is a 12-year-old online retailer of organic home textiles and women's apparel that is also a supplier to specialty stores. The company is revamping its website to include more user-friendly capabilities, additional environmental educational material and improved shopping features. By the fall, Under the Canopy expects to improve its packaging to include more eco-friendly bags and parcels.

"We're trying to keep prices under control and change the misconception that organic products cost more, because they really don't," Barbara Cavanagh, ceo, explained to HTT. "We're actually competitive with everybody else, and on their [non-organic] products. We're making sure our prices are not forbidding and at same time have all the benefits of organic cotton."

Under the Canopy opened its virtual doors — but as a catalog at first — in 1996, selling organic cotton ladies' apparel. Two years later, it added home categories, more specifically what it describes as a "classic" — not basic — line of organic sheets and bath towels offered in solid colors.

That move was a smart one, time has proven. Today, Under the Canopy's home textiles make up "almost half" of its sales, Cavanagh said.

"It's a big business for us, a steady day-in and day-out business, especially online" she said.

To build on that business, Under the Canopy is currently layering new product offerings into its home assortment and, more importantly, including patterns and handmade embellishments to the otherwise solid-colored assortment.

New product categories include decorative duvets, shams, decorative pillows with appliqués and printed patterns, blankets and pillowcases.

Examples of new retail price points include $150 for a queen sheet set, $130 for a queen duvet, and depending on the design and handiwork, $140 to $198 for a queen blanket and $48 to $65 for decorative pillows.

All products are organic, made in India of fair-trade organic cotton.

"We source our products ourselves, and we work only with factories that buy fair-trade organic cotton, which means farmers are getting fair wages for their products," Cavanagh said.

Under the Canopy's products employ only eco-friendly dyes, and all beading and embellishments are done by hand.

Cavanagh said Under the Canopy was encouraged to expand its home offerings based on its growing customer base, which is branching out into new regions.

"The market seemed to be more geared toward coastal shoppers — these are the customers who have, for the most part, been receptive to organic products," she said. "But [a broader scope of] consumers are becoming more and more educated about organic products. Those on coastal areas were attuned to it earlier, but that is changing and we're finding ourselves in the middle of a cultural shift. People are thinking more about what they are buying and the effect on the environment."

As a result, soft home products are becoming increasingly relevant to additional ranks of eco-conscious shoppers, and Under the Canopy is answering their call for more options.

"For people who are into organic food and cleaning products, it's a natural progression to want to add natural products to their home," she continued. "We spend six to eight hours a night in our beds and we don't want to be affected by pesticides and chemicals in our sheets. So that is why we're adding a whole fashion element to reach customers we haven't in the past."

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