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Furniture Maker Takes Aim at Textiles Retailers

Ashley Furniture Industries, a $2.72 billion producer of furniture and related home furnishings, is expanding its top of the bed program beyond its current channel of distribution of furniture retailers.

The company's product reach extends across most segments including upholstered furniture, casegoods, occasional furniture, area rugs, decorative accessories and lamps in addition to decorative bedding — all produced in five company facilities in the United States and Asia. Its design teams, here and abroad, create the total of about 4,000 SKUs, with a 60% replacement annually to keep pace with trends.

Since launching its proprietary, self-manufactured top-of- the-bed program nine months ago, the company expects to do $50 million at retail this year — just the tip of the iceberg of what its plans are down to road, according to Ron Wanek, chairman. “We have our own manufacturing facilities both in this country and in China. We offer the best values, great design capabilities and new opportunities for merchants to have great product at lower prices than they've ever experienced.”

Ashley is offering retailers the opportunity to buy top-of-the-bed products from containers shipped from China, as well as onesies available from its five distribution centers in the United States, explained Rob Hoffman, president of Ashley's casegoods division, who is spearheading the top-of-the-bed program.

Ashley will show at the Javits Convention Center in New York during the Home Textiles Show in March, and simultaneously at the Chandler Hotel.

The initial collection was launched with 30 styles, and was expanded by another 30 styles during the October International Home Furnishings Market in High Point, N.C. There are also 10 designs for the youth market. “I think a maximum of 70 designs is right for the open program. Some didn't make the cut, and we'll be changing the assortment as styles, fabrics and colors change,” Hoffman added.

Fabrics run the gamut from wovens and heat transfer prints, to conventional prints.

Each style is offered in a queen or king size set of nine pieces for the queen, 10 for the king. Included is a comforter, a 17” bed skirt, two Euro shams and two standards shams plus three decorative pillows. The king has one additional Euro sham. The set is packaged in one bag with retail price points from $99 to $189 for the queen; and $15 more per range for the king.

The top-of-the-bed launch was targeted to the Ashley Furniture HomeStores network — which at the end of 2005 numbered 215 units doing $1.58 billion in sales — as well as independent furniture retailers that carried the Ashley line and others that didn't. The move to expand beyond furniture retailers is designed to dramatically explode the top-of-the-bed business, Hoffman related. “Our goal is to open every channel of distribution.”

The bedding is produced in the company's owned two-million-plus square-foot facility near Shanghai, which already has 350,000 square feet allocated to the top-of-the-bed program. The company has five distribution centers and its own truck fleet in the U.S. to “deliver containers or one at a time orders,” Hoffman said.

As the company expands its distribution reach, it will create proprietary designs for specific retailers using its team of fabric designers who already create the company's upholstery fabrics. Currently, Hoffman said, the fabrics for the bedding are the same as the upholstery fabrics with all the high performance characteristics. In addition, the bedding can be coordinated to the company's area rug program, which has been in place for a number of years.

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