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Jennifer Marks

Welspun Barrels Ahead

Welspun India returns to Heimtextil this week with an eye toward Europe, but that is just one front on which it is pursuing expansion.

In addition to its steadily growing U.S. operation — now the third largest supplier in the country — the multi-category manufacturer has sales efforts up and running in Mexico, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, Germany and Amsterdam. It will soon add a sales force in France. In addition, Welspun is making “good headway” in Japan, Russia and South Africa, according to Anurag Sharma, president, Welspun India.

The goal is to grow its global textiles business to $1 billion by 2012/2013.

But the U.S. remains a substantial part of its business; more than 60% overall, capturing 90% of Welspun’s sheeting exports, 65-70% of towels and 80% of bath rugs.

Since it established in the United States as a towel supplier nearly a decade ago, Welspun has branched into sheets, fashion bedding, utility bedding and bath rugs. In recent months, it has added design expertise in bath accessories and shower curtains to become a more robust resource for the bath department.

After acquiring many of the assets of now-defunct American Pacific last year, the U.S. operation now has design and development offices in San Francisco and Charlotte, N.C., as well as a distribution center in Ohio.

The company has a similarly ambitious agenda for this year.

For the U.S. market, Welspun “is seriously looking at window,” said Sharma.

It also continues to pursue brand deals, according to Charles Gaenslen, chief operating officer and executive up, Welspun USA.

“We’re having some interesting discussions,” he said.

In addition, the company sees strong growth possibilities for its Christy brand in the United States, where it recently extended the brand into sheeting for the warehouse club channel.

State-side, Welspun is also selling direct to consumers from its website, DesignerLinensOutlet.com.

“It’s important for us to have a direct connection to the consumer,” said Gaenslen. “It’s miniscule next to our retail business, but it’s good for all of us.”

On the manufacturing side, Welspun India continues to add capacity, with new dyeing equipment coming on line for the bath rug business, towel capacity expected to grow 20% and sheeting capacity 15%.

But growth through equipment expansion — the strategy for much of the past decade — is giving way to organic growth through acquisition and the addition of brands.

With Christy and Sorema under the Welspun umbrella, the company is ready to begin building additional brands in Europe, said Sharma. The bedding plant, which opened in Mexico in 2007, has room to add capacity, “and we think we’ll have a number of breakthroughs this year,” he said.

Welspun is now selling the Nautica brand in the country and has put in place a full team. “Today we have a real business in Mexico,” said Sharma, who said the operation will eventually serve as a platform to launch into the South American market.

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