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Top-of-bed is top-of-mind

Carole Sloan, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, July 19, 2004

It was a very interesting Showtime in High Point, N.C., last week. In fact, it was an exceptionally interesting one — especially as far as the home textiles top-of-bed segment is concerned.

Overall, Showtime was good-to-excellent for exhibitors, with some reporting record attendance and orders, even though the event is typically a sample request market.

Back to the top-of-bed issue. It seems the China situation has had its greatest impact in this segment of the distribution channel — and especially in the area of woven fabrics rather than prints.

In past years, the top-of-bed folks typically worked with domestic mills in picking designs and having them reconstructed on wide looms and in different weights from their original heavy constructions.

Other bedding companies worked with the mills in creating their own designs to be done on wide looms. Come the China invasion and this seemingly fine relationship is imploding.

As seen and heard during Showtime, some marquee names in the home textiles bedding world became persona non grata at certain mills, with senior execs saying they didn't want to be the design source — gratis — for companies taking production offshore.

For other mills, there was a compromise scenario. Top-of-bed folks and the mills worked together in developing designs and constructions. And notably, because of the dimensions of a bed versus a typical 54-inch-wide fabric, scale is critical.

In this scenario, the mills provide everything including a final sample with construction and color specs, the bedding company takes it offshore to have it woven and manufactured, and the U.S. mill gets a commission on the units/yards sold. Sounds good — yes?

On the no side, say some mills' execs, is the easier-than-ever potential that the designs under either scenario which are mill copyrights can be copied by the offshore supplier in a variety of constructions and sent around the world for distribution. The mills lose control without being involved in the production process, they contend.

With intellectual property rights violations an increasingly contentious and litigious situation, the growing divide in the bedding world between domestic supplier and customer will only add to the tensions.

And while the situation in prints is not so severe — merely because prints are just re-emerging as a design force in bedding — it also is a challenge.

Said one mill exec speaking to this common woven and print supplier challenge, "We send those guys a disk with our design specs on it, and who knows what will happen instantly with our registered designs?" As the situation sits right now, there is a new design paradigm emerging for the top-of-bed business.

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