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WPS 'stretches' cotton sheet lineup

In response to improperly fitting sheets, which WestPoint Stevens called the biggest complaint about fitted sheets, the major mill has introduced its Natural Stretch line of 100 percent cotton sheeting.

The line was unveiled during fall market and utilizes a process originally developed for apparel by Cotton Inc., Cary, NC. In conjunction with Cotton Inc., WestPoint adapted the process for sheeting and has applied it to its line of Martex brand 250-count cotton sheeting.

The Natural Stretch process enables sheets to stretch approximately 11 percent with a recovery rate of 97 percent, using no synthetic or elastomeric yarns. The stretch properties are processed into the yarns themselves, making the stretch inherent to the product. According to Cotton Inc., the stretch properties ensure a "smooth, taut fit that won't slip away from the mattress."

Research conducted by Cotton Inc.'s Lifestyle Monitor found that 41 percent of consumers had a problem with the bottom bed sheet fitting properly. Ninety-percent said they would buy a sheet with stretch properties, while 88 percent said they would pay more for such a product.

"Given that the biggest consumer complaint about fitted sheets was that they didn't fit — that oversized fitted sheets bunch up in the middle — we felt that this particular process had the most merit in our industry," said Kathleen Cwirko, senior vp of Marketing Services for the West Point, GA-based mill.

Unlike other stretch sheets, which generally are a blend of cotton and Lycra, WestPoint's Natural Stretch sheets will be made from 100 percent cotton. Only sheeting was included in the introduction, but Cwirko and Ira Livingston, senior vp of consumer marketing for Cotton Inc., both said the process could easily be applied to other bedding products.

"It's a combination of yarn, construction and finishing which imparts the stretch quality to the sheet," Livingston said. "WestPoint was quite insightful in seeing the opportunity of this fabric." He added that the Cotton Inc. trademark would be included on WestPoint's packaging.

According to Cwirko, the product is aimed at the department and specialty store levels as well as certain chain stores, given the slightly higher price that will be applied to the line. "When you come up with a new process, you have to guard against bringing it to the lowest price denominator. We also felt that marrying the process with our best brand would be the best way to go," she said.

Six colors will be offered in the original palette.

"The retail response was very favorable," Cwirko said. "The main question from retailers was 'How do I make it discernible?' We've created some really interesting point-of-purchase displays to address their concerns and to make sure the Natural Stretch line doesn't get lost in a sea of sheets."

Cwirko added that WestPoint was also looking into signage, shelf talkers and floor-ready fixturing to help differentiate this "problem-solving product.

Shipping is planned for the first quarter of 2002.

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