Mid-market is target of revitalized Royal Velvet

Janice Chamberlain, Don Hogsett, January 20, 2004

New York — A preliminary re-launch of the Royal Velvet nameplate, dormant since the demise of Pillowtex Corp., is scheduled for this fall, said the franchise's new corporate parent, Li & Fung Ltd., a $4.8 billion Hong Kong-based sourcing company which has cut a deal to license the brand.

And in a major repositioning, the 53-year-old franchise will target mid-tier department and specialty stores — suggesting a Kohl's or a Mervyn's as a likely new home for the brand — in contrast to the upper-tier department stores and big boxes, the brand's historical venue.

"I'm moving as fast as I can to revitalize the brand," said William K. Fung, group managing director of Li & Fung Ltd. "The key thing, however, is that it is that we must do this well, do this properly. We must maintain the integrity of this wonderful brand name."

Fung said, "We are thrilled to pick up such an incredible brand as Royal Velvet, and we intend to make it an international franchise. Coles Meyer of Australia has already been in touch with us, and they can't wait to get the brand."

Alluding to a rapidly evolving global textiles landscape, and the seismic shift to international sourcing, the American-educated Fung (Princeton and the Harvard Business School) said, "It's a little bit sad to see it moved offshore. But, at the same time, we think it's fabulous that we could get it. We are determined to re-launch it as a classic, premier brand to the international marketplace."

With its vast financial resources and its far-flung network of sourcing relationships, Fung said his company "can do what Pillowtex could never do — source from the world's finest and most efficient manufacturing plants, wherever they happen to be.

"More is involved than cost. We have the flexibility and the capability to make this an internationally known franchise. It's an extraordinary opportunity and an extraordinary marriage of a phenomenal brand name with an international company with extraordinary resources and relationships around the world."

Rick Darling, president of Li & Fung USA, headquartered in New York City, said the Royal Velvet relaunch will take place "this fall in a limited way," with a more comprehensive and wider launch to follow. "It's an important franchise and we want to do this carefully."

To date, Li & Fung has signed a "memorandum of understanding" with Group 3 Designs Ltd., which is licensing the portfolio of brands once owned by the former Pillowtex Corp., which closed its doors last June.

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