Richloom to launch Liz at Jo-Ann

Carole Sloan, February 23, 2004

With a great deal of consumer research playing a key role in design, Richloom is launching the Liz Claiborne Home Collection with an exclusive retail introduction in April at Jo-Ann Stores and in furniture at Lexington.

The furniture and fabrics expand the Liz reach in home beyond the bed and bath at American Pacific and flooring and carpeting at Carpet One.

Unlike many home textiles launches, the Liz Claiborne Home program will have an extensive marketing campaign, in line with how the apparel side is marketed.

The collection of about 100 SKUs is formed around four themes, said Barbara Costas, design director, Liz Claiborne Home at Richloom. They are Paradise, "a tropical that is pretty, not retro;" Veranda, "a floral mood with modern sensibility;" Warm Receptions, which focuses on denim looks in a country casual mood; and Memories, "a pretty, vintage, feminine look."

Important colors are paprika, curry, grenadine, lavender, chambray blue, yellow greens, kiwi, plantain and papaya.

Before any designing was done, "There was a great amount of consumer research done," explained Virginia Bremer, licensing director, home for Liz Claiborne. The company, which is noted for its ability to identify customers' likes and dislikes in the apparel business, has attempted to translate that skill to the home area with focus groups and surveys.

In addition to home focus groups, "We also made a correlation between apparel and home," Bremer related. Customers told the company what they liked in home furnishings, as well as what they did not.

On the negative side, "They did not want formal. They didn't want products that were heavy in color, not documentaries and not minimalist," Bremer explained.

On the plus side, Bremer said, "Customers want natural fiber looks, an overall casual theme, a flattering, feminine influence." In terms of color, key choices were khaki, red, denim, chambray, brights and neutrals with splashes of colors, she said.

Overall for the home, Bremer added, "They wanted an inclusive brand, not one dictating with lots of options. It fit right in with the mix and match of the apparel." She also pointed out, "The research resulted in a female perspective, not just fabrics but furniture styles. They were quite specific with 'yes' and 'no' when shown boards of styles and colors."

Jim Richman, Richloom president, said, "It's a great approach to life — direct, usable, friendly and trend-right. It's not ahead of the trend, and not behind, not catching up. It's on top of the trend," he noted.

Richman sees the Liz collection as "becoming a significant percentage of the business."

The fabrics include prints on several cotton-base cloths and a cotton matelasse; sheers, mostly polyester but one embroidered cotton, yarn dyes, piece dyes, and jacquards, said John Ringer, Richloom vice president, who is overseeing the developing of the Liz Home program.

The emphasis is on wovens, which represent about 75 percent of the collection, he added. The fabrics were developed, designed and are being sold by collection. Price points range from $3.95 to $10.

Marketing efforts will include a major push with the Jo-Ann launch including newspaper ads, in-store events, circulars and a craft kit gift with purchase, Richman said. The collection will be featured on the Richloom Web site and linked to the other licensees via the Liz site. Richloom also will run institutional ads to launch the program, he said.

From a Liz Home perspective, there will be home furnishings ads in the spring and fall, including American Pacific and Lexington. Lexington is introducing a 32-page custom-publishing magazine based on the collection, and in 2005 a collaborative Liz Claiborne Home ad campaign will begin featuring all licensees. Bremer said, "We will maintain consistency so as not to dilute the brand — both in photography and ads."

As part of the marketing thrust, American Pacific will show bedding at the Lexington showroom during the furniture market in April. "We will see what happens — how the furniture dealers react to it," Bremer added.

Looking ahead, Bremer sees more rugs being offered by Carpet One. "It started small at first, but we're pushing to expand it." Tabletop could be next on the licensee list "and paint is definitely on the radar screen."

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