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Pillowtex LLC Looks to Clear Brand Confusion

With Royal Velvet now re-emerging at retail and Fieldcrest ready to launch within weeks at Target, Official Pillowtex LLC is looking to clear up confusion about who handles what and ramp up the reintroduction of its other brands.

The privately held consortium, which acquired the assets of Pillowtex Inc. following the mill's 2003 liquidation, largely operated in the shadows last year, outsourcing brand management to other firms. Last October, the consortium reclaimed direct management of the Royal Velvet and Cannon brands, and will eventually become more involved with the Charisma and Fieldcrest brands managed by Earthbound LLC.

“What's going to become important is quality control — that is not allowing the positioning of the brands to bump into one another,” said Rick Platt, who joined Official Pillowtex LLC in December as managing director overseeing brands.

From high-end to mass, the positioning breaks down as follows: Charisma, Royal Velvet, Fieldcrest, Cannon Royal Family and Cannon.

Official Pillowtex LLC also owns the St. Mary's and Monticello brands, long off retail shelves, along with the Pillowtex brand.

“At some point, when we get the other programs rolling, we could take a look at where these might be appropriate,” Platt said.

In all, the company owns more than 30 brands, he said.

The Cannon brand currently has the broadest roster of licensees: Li & Fung for bedding, bath, kitchen and tabletop; Maples for bath rugs; Pacific Coast Feather for pillows, pads and natural fiber products; and Faribault for blankets. Official Pillowtex is currently exploring licensing agreements for electric blankets and slipcovers, Platt said.

In addition, the consortium inherited existing licensing partnerships with eight or nine other suppliers for overseas distribution, although in 2006 Li & Fung will become the exclusive Cannon licensee outside the United States, he said.

Li & Fung will develop the Cannon color direction and story boards. Official Pillowtex will distribute the direction to other licensees and ensure the consistent development of product across all categories, Platt said.

Cannon will target mass market, home improvement chains and supermarkets. Cannon Royal Family will target department stores and moderate mid-tiers such as Mervyn's and Sears.

Official Pillowtex is also working on wider retail placement for the Royal Velvet brand, which began rolling out in bath last month at Kohl's. By spring, the RV bath program will be carried at Sears Canada, Gottschalks and Belk as well.

Official Pillowtex opened a New York showroom this week at 230 Fifth Ave. devoted to the brand and will open the showroom during the New York Home Textiles Market in April.

Debut programs in sheeting and top-of-bed will be ready to ship in July/August. Sheeting consists of non-solid solid programs in blend and 100 percent Supima, he said.

The company is showing three inaugural top-of-bed patterns with fashion coordinates. A step-up $12.99 Royal Velvet towel also will be ready to ship mid-summer. Platt acknowledged that the core $9.99 towel got speced down on the journey from drawing board to retail, and the company plans to redress that this year.

It's also hoping to announce Royal Velvet licensing agreements soon for utility bedding, blankets, electric blankets, foam, slipcovers and freestanding window. Current licensees are Maples Rugs for bath rugs and Li & Fung for fashion bedding, bath, kitchen, table and coordinate window.

“The goal this year with Royal Velvet is to roll out bedding this fall to our current retail partners and to add one other national chain to the Royal Velvet family,” Platt said.

The Charisma brand was recently licensed to WestPoint Stevens across fashion bedding, bath and bath accessories, decorative pillows and a range of basic bedding that includes blankets, throws, down and down-alternative products

The brand, which targets upstairs department stores and catalogs, will be ready to begin shipping late this year in most, if not all, of its product categories.

Fieldcrest is the only brand that has gone out as a retail exclusive. It will roll out this spring at Target, which handled the product development in-house. Target is positioning the label as luxury, with 400-count sheets, silk quilts and ultra-soft towels.

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