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The scramble is on

NEW YORK-With problems at key suppliers roiling the U.S. blanket industry-including bankruptcies at Pillowtex and Sunbeam, two of the largest producers-a handful of other players are jockeying for position and trying to pick up plus business.

Forging a new alliance with a major mill, Charles D. Owen Mfg. is looking to boost its sales and market share with a wide line of upstairs blankets using the Springs Industries nameplates, including the venerable Wamsutta and Springmaid brands.

Growing its own business beyond its traditional Vellux stronghold, WestPoint Stevens has acquired the Chatham Consumer Products division of CMI Industries, rolling out its own line of adult bed blankets, including a carriage trade Tencel blanket that picks up on a hot terry franchise at WestPoint. The Tencel blanket is priced at $22.50 the twin size.

Capitalizing on the Disney license WestPoint recently took over, the major mill is introducing five Disney prints this week on a 100 percent polyester fiber-woven construction.

And smaller players are scrambling to expand their business as well. Steadily building a presence in adult bed blankets, Biederlack of America, Cumberland, MD, is bulking up its lines with new cotton and cotton-blend blankets this week, including:

Berkshire Blanket, Ware, MA, is extending its reach well beyond its core business in fleece blankets and throws, launching a Luxury Cotton blanket group that takes a good/better/best approach. Opening with Rockwell, a cotton thermal that targets a $39.99 retail, the program moves up to Stockbridge, a 50/50 blend of cotton and cotton chenille that aims to hit a retail of $59.99. At the top of the line for Berkshire is Luxury Cotton, a 100 percent Mercerized Pima cotton.

Building its throw business as well, Berkshire launches Luxor, a trendy collection of lodge looks, stripes and plaids that capitalizes on the strong run that faux fur is having in the marketplace.

American Blanket Corp. of Dalton, GA, a supplier of high-pile, raschel-knit acrylic blanket throws, debuted its maiden line in February, and is rounding out the assortment this week with new solid colors and prints. Four to five prints in a variety of fashion looks are available as printed high-piles in a machine washable and dryable blend of 85 percent acrylic/15 percent polyester. The 60" x 80" targets a $40 retail, while the 50" x 60" aims at a $25 retail. American Blanket moves into a permanent showroom this week at Suite 1111, 230 Fifth Ave.

Taking aim at the highest end of the market this week is Eskimo of Switzerland, a venerable producer of premium and luxury fiber blankets, now represented in the U.S. by Hans Wernli of Miami. Eskimo is launching a wide range of blankets and throws in cashmere, silk and merino wools. In top-of-the-line blankets, Mohair is a blend of 70 percent mohair and 30 percent lambswool and comes in light/dark green, light blue, bordeaux, beige, red and orange. As a throw it's available in light/dark blue, bordeaux and orange. The blanket is trimmed with a satin binding and the throw is embellished with colorful wooden pearls. At the same time, the company is showing cashmere throws and scarves from Miles S.P.A. of Vicenza, Italy.

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