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Vossen searches for new partner

Marvin Lazaro, Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, September 7, 2001

Gennersdorf, Austria — The announcement made earlier this year by Thomaston Mills that it was shutting down its operations and closing its doors immediately ended its arrangement with German towel manufacturer Vossen after only a year-and-a-half of doing business together. Now, Vossen is in the market again to find another partner.

"We were very glad of the partnership," said Maarten Doelman, export sales director for the Gennersdorf, Austria-based Vossen, about working with Thomaston. "It was a very good period with them for a year and a half. It was a bit of a shame because both companies had put a lot of money into it."

Doelman said the partnership had been a lucrative one and had gotten Vossen products into major U.S. catalogs as well as placement in many department and specialty stores. He added that in the approximately 18 months Vossen has been in the U.S. market, the products had gotten "very, very positive" reactions.

But the news in June that Thomaston was closing forced Vossen to scramble and to move the products it had stored in Thomaston's Georgia-based warehouse to a facility in New Jersey. Two containers full of Vossen products were unable to be delivered to retailers. Every U.S. account also had to be reassured Vossen would continue to deliver but invoices would now be coming from the Austrian home office and not Georgia. Taking on new customers was also put temporarily on hold and a showing at the upcoming Home Textiles Market was cancelled. Ultimately, Vossen was hurt in the short term and although Doelman would not be specific, he did acknowledge that the company lost sales.

Despite the setback, Vossen is currently looking for a new partner to distribute its products in the U. S. and there is no shortage of prospects.

"We're negotiating now with a couple of people," Doelman said, "and we hope to announce a new partner within the upcoming month.

"It's easy to find people, but you have to find the right people," he continued.

A new partner, according to Doelman, will either be a sourcing or textile manufacturing company that currently has lines comparable and complementary to the Vossen line and will be able to continue Vossen's current placement in specialty and department stores as well as higher-end catalogs. Since Vossen's European sales base is strong, a prospective partner may also have the chance to expand its products overseas. According to Vossen, the growing company's sales have risen 11 percent this year.

And most importantly, the relationship would preferably last for much longer than Vossen's arrangement with Thomaston.

"We're expanding very rapidly. We have new operations in Russia and the Middle East," Doelman said, adding that Vossen products were sold throughout Europe and the company was also considering expanding into the Asian market.

For now, Vossen hopes to re-appear with a new partner during next spring's textiles market.

"[The closing] didn't stop us from looking forward," Doelman said. "We have not been hurt in the long term."

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