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Universal Home aiming at value market

Now a little over 18 months old, Universal Home Fashions is looking to make inroads into the value-priced bedding, bath and rug markets, leveraging its manufacturing facilities in China.

The company's U.S. office, opened in August 2001, is headed by Chris Certosimo, president, formerly a JCPenney merchant. Earlier this year, the company added Meredith Mele, fashion coordinator, whose background includes positions at Peking Handicraft (now PHI), where she was a bedding designer; American Pacific, bath and window designer; and Joe Boxer, production.

"Meredith gives us a level of design expertise to compete with the larger fashion houses," Certosimo said. "Retailers look to us for fashion at a price."

Based out of 261 Fifth Avenue here, Universal's product line currently includes woven and yarn-dye comforter sets at retails from $79.99 to $99.99, and cotton embroidered quilts at retailers from $59.99 to $79.99. Designs include traditional, contemporary and some tweener looks.

In addition, Universal supplies coordinating draperies, sheer curtains, towels, rugs, shower curtains and hard bath accessories. The company also is exploring additional hard goods categories, Certosimo said.

"In this industry, you need to capitalize on what's available from China, and China is a leader in hard lines," he said.

Woven bedding is produced at Universal's plant in Hungzhou, which also houses the company's main office in China. Bath coordinates are manufactured from the company's factory in Guangzhou, and hard lines are produced at a pair of facilities in Dounguang. In addition, Universal operates a 100,000-square-foot warehouse on Long Island, New York.

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