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Simba Brings Online Custom Towels to U.S.

Michele SanFilippo -- Home Textiles Today, December 6, 2004

Joining the burgeoning ranks of global towel manufacturers is Simba USA, a new mass producer of single-run Egyptian cotton towels that can be designed, customized and purchased entirely online.

Each towel can be personalized with photos and text that are woven into it on the body or cuff, creating a custom product.

The 19-year-old Australian and Indian towel supplier set up shop and started producing in the United States in March. With facilities in Melbourne, Australia and Bombay, India, Simba has manufactured towels for retailers and commercial laundries since 1985.

“We extensively studied our target for this newly created technology and were convinced that we have a huge market base and opportunity in the U.S.A. for customized and personalized products,” said Kamal Somaia, CEO of Simba USA. The company is currently working with corporate, licensed sport and golf industries in the United States, with such properties as the NBA, NFL, MLB and NASCAR.

Somaia continued, “Rather than try to compete with Asian manufacturers on price, we decided to concentrate on lowering the minimum order quantity and delivery time as these were two areas Asian countries would always find difficult to compete in.”

Retail price points are $19.95 to $24.95 on 27-by-54-inch nursery and spa bath towels or $29.95 to $39.95 for 30-by-60-inch licensed beach towels.

In 2001, Simba invented a process that seamlessly integrated its Web site ( www.mysimbatowel.com) with its manufacturing equipment, software and distribution so that the production run for each order could be reduced to a single unit. According to the company, this Web technology allows users to design, develop and personalize their own beach, bath and golf towels using virtually any image, photo, design, logo or text.

“Integrating the Web site into our traditional machines has meant that we are able to accept an order, weave, pack, label and distribute (it) to our customer with no significant human intervention required at any of the stages,” he explained. “While many sites exist that allow for personalized textile products, each one is based on printing technology. Ours is the only site that is based on weaving.”

He said that Simba's system allows for infinite skus and no inventory or forecasting risk at cost-effective prices. The Web interface allows the consumer or distributor to order and customize the towel online. The Web order is then transferred into a digital weaving format via the design station at the factory, which is then woven and shipped directly to the consumer in two weeks.

Somaia added that online retailers represent a huge potential for the company, and some of them will be going live with the system in early 2005.

Simba USA hopes to not only produce its novelty photographic towels in the United States but also create solid-color towels for online retailers' bridal, spa and nursery customer bases, he said.

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