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Alice Mill's back to basics with Ellison

EASLEY, SC -Alice Mill's new Ellison finished goods division-headed by former Pillowtex president, sales and marketing Kevin Finlay-unveils it debut line this week, a collection of moderately priced bed ensembles with coordinating window treatments and decorative pillows.

"We're building the business with basic customers to make sure the process flow works just right. You've only got one chance to make that first shipment," said Finlay, president of Ellison. He added that the division is already set up for EDI.

Ellison enters the field during a particularly unsettled season for the retail industry. At a time when retailers are keeping inventories lean and looking to pare the number of vendors they deal with, the challenges for any new player in the market are considerable.

Finlay believes Ellison's selling point will be its ability to respond rapidly to design requests, and its network of alliances with dying, finishing, and sewing operations, which help to keep Ellison's production costs relatively low.

The division plans to hit value-oriented moderate price points, Finlay said. Full bed ensembles in 200-count are likely to retail between $79 to $119.

"If you've already built the infrastructure for a company, you can't do this kind of thing," he said. "That's why there's stuff coming in [to the retail channel] from all over the place."

Organizationally, Ellison runs lean. In addition to Finlay, key members of the Ellison team include Marla Stuchel, vp/design, formerly of Haywin; Gordon Comer, vp/director of operations, who formerly headed contract printing at Raytex; and Richard Sanders, manager of customer service and scheduling, who previously held a similar post at Revman.

At market, the division will show 16 print ensembles and two embroidered beds branded under two labels: Ellison for specialty and department stores; Arial for the mass market. Beds are offered at two thread levels-180s and 200s-although Finlay said Ellison may produce some beds as 250s.

The new line includes three 180-count beds for juveniles and six adult beds, two of which feature novelty designs. Beds with 200-count components include five adult and master bedroom looks and three photographic floral designs. All comforters in the collection are reversible, and coordinating window treatments are available with most of the designs

All bedding can be sold as open stock or bed-in-the-bag, according to designer Stuchel. Packaging has already been created for Ellison brand and Arial brand bed-in-the-bag programs under the monikers of "bed.complete" and "bed.complete for kids," she said.

The Ellison division also is introducing three embroidered beds: a traditional pattern available in white on white; a swirl pattern in white on white or gold on white; and a pansy pattern using lilac, blue and light green embroidery on white.

Now that Ellison has begun to take its first steps, how long with it take before it's running dead out? Finlay sees it as a step-by-step process, and acknowledges it will probably take two years to reach its target.

"If they like our designs, if we service the business, if we're priced competitively-maybe even a little sharper-then we should get there," he said.

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