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Bedding sales up, dollars down in '01

Price point erosion, a heavily promotional environment and a shift in consumer spending toward lower-priced goods took their toll on overall bedding sales figures in 2001. More units were sold than in 2000, but for less money, resulting in declining numbers across the board, according to Home Textiles Today's exclusive survey, "The Facts: Bedding."

The survey revealed that sales fell $200 million in 2001 to $6.5 billion, a 3 percent drop from 2000. In particular, the recession was exacerbated by the fallout from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. And as Scott Shimizu, executive vp of sales and marketing for New York-based Pillowtex Corp., noted, "Price erosion, excess capacity and excess supply all led to lower prices and lack of demand. It was a tough year."

According to The Facts, the drop in sales was especially felt by single-unit home specialty stores and catalogs/online merchants, which fell by 3 percent and 11.8 percent, respectively.

Department stores, home textiles specialty chains and discount department stores helped buoy sales by continuing to open new doors and attract customers with their sharply honed price/value proposition. Specialty chains moved up to a 21 percent market share and posted a healthy 7.2 percent increase in sales from 2000 to 2001, or $1.27 billion to $1.37 billion. Meanwhile, discounters held on to the lion's share of the home textiles pie, 40 percent, or $2.6 billion.

"The drop-off [in the overall sales numbers] isn't surprising," said Bob Dale, president of WestPoint Stevens' Bed and Bath division, which is based in New York. "The industry has gone through a lot of price erosion as well as the elimination of several companies."

Perhaps the most indicative factor in the wearing away of price points is the amount of dollars generated by the various areas of bedding. Of the 11 categories of bedding tracked by the survey, excluding "other," not one registered an improvement over the previous year's performance.

Despite the challenges, U.S.-made sheets and comforters continue to dominate the market, with domestically made sheets accounting for 74 percent of goods sold and domestically made comforters at 86 percent. Domestically made blankets also continue to dominate, representing 91 percent of the market. All-cotton sheet construction seemingly took a big step, perhaps as more consumers ask for and get more for their money. The majority of comforters, however, continue to be blends, while blankets were almost even, with a 60/40 cotton/synthetic split.

"2001 was really a further cleansing of the business from a manufacturing and retailing perspective," Dale summed up. "There was further consolidation and some elimination. Basically, the companies that didn't have pockets deep enough to support change, well, most of them are gone."

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