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Bedding sales grow 11% to $6.7B

NEW YORK -The fourth-quarter slowdown, soft holiday season and uncertain first quarter of 2001 have largely managed to obscure the fact that segments of the home textiles business were robust for a good part of 2000. Despite the year's puny finale, retail sales of bedding products grew 11.6 percent, reaching $6.7 billion vs. $6.0 billion in 1999.

Overall, the largest portion of bedding sales were done by comforters and sheets/pillowcases, which together accounted for 54 percent of product sales last year. Not surprisingly, both types of merchandise boosted their year-over-year sales. Sheets/pillowcases rang up $2.2 billion, up from $1.8 billion in 1999, a heady 22 percent increase. Comforters accounted for $1.4 billion in sales, up nearly 17 percent from $1.2 billion the previous year. (Note: Figures for 1999 have been revised to reflect more recent sales data.)

It's worth noting that bed-in-the-bag, while still a small percentage of total bedding sales, is picking up share, growing from 5 percent of total bedding sales in 1999 to 7 percent in 2000. The finding was not surprising considering the steady introductions of fashionable bed-in-the-bag product by major manufacturers last year and retailers' penchant for using bed-in-the-bag to drive promotional sales.

Quilts also made a gain of 200 basis points in 2000, jumping from 1 percent of bedding product sales in 1999 to 3 percent in 2000. The other top of the bed product that picked up share was bedspreads, which grew 100 basis points over the previous year. Duvet covers remained flat at 2 percent of overall bedding sales, suggesting that even in good economic times-and the economy was healthy for much of the year-U.S. consumers either do not understand the duvet concept or consider it too complicated to deal with.

As expected, the ratio of imports continued to grow, accounting for 20 percent of bedding products sold by U.S. manufacturers in 2000, or $1.3 billion in retail sales. Significantly, that number does not include bedding products sold in the U.S. by foreign manufacturers, nor does it include retailer-direct programs sourced abroad.

But it does confirm the global trend that compels manufacturers to pursue low-cost production wherever it can be found. A comparison of the shift over a two-year period demonstrates the velocity of the change: U.S. manufacturers' domestically produced bedding has declined from 87 percent of total bedding sales in 1998 to 80 percent in 2000.

In a new measurement for the survey, the annual research report found that sales of juvenile bedding account for 9 percent of total bedding sales. The actual figure might be higher if it were possible to discern what amount of twin bedding is actually purchased for use in children's rooms. However, with manufacturers aggressively pursuing the tweener market and subsequently creating juvenile products with better designs, this product category could tick up a few notches in the next year.

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