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SureFit capitalizes on slipcover growth

ALLENTOWN, PA — Over the last several years, slower retail sales and a slowdown in retail orders have squeezed many home textiles manufacturers, but SureFit has been able to post strong numbers year after year, and 2001 looks to be no different.

The company has parlayed its humble beginnings as a family-owned business into the leading manufacturer of one-piece slipcovers, capturing nearly 85 percent of the market. In 1999, the slipcover specialist, based here, under the direction of ceo and president Bert Shlensky, posted $75 million in sales. In 2000, that number rose to $100 million, while in 2001, Shlensky said he expects the company to make $135 million, gains of 33 percent and 35 percent, respectively. SureFit is fully taking advantage of a category that is projected to grow at a rate of 20 percent to 30 percent every year.

"We say we're the best kept secret in America," Shlensky said. "If you look at our numbers over the last 10 years, we've grown at a rate of 20 percent annualized every year since 1990."

Shlensky attributes the past and ongoing success of SureFit to several factors, key among them the continual upgrade in construction and fabrication of its products. From days long gone of generic and bland polyester/ cotton blends that never really truly fit your furniture, SureFit now manufactures slipcovers of cotton duck, denim, velvet, matelasse, damask, suede and microfiber in more than 350 patterns.

"We just completed a study which says this should be a billion-dollar market," Shlensky told Home Textiles Today. "This isn't the scooter. This is an ongoing product that has appeal to everyone."

Shlenksy is hoping SureFit's $8 million budget for television and print advertising will play a significant role in making consumers aware of SureFit's products and the ease in which they can be used. The company has appeared on various cable and network television shows such as ABC's "Live with Regis" and has, according to Shlensky, been on virtually every cable TV decorating show and in every decorating magazine.

Its website, www.surefit.com, can be used as an informational source by consumers as well as a link to retailers that sell SureFit products. SureFit also publishes its own full-color catalog, which includes frequently asked questions about slipcovers as well as measuring and styling tips and complete instructions on how to put slipcovers onto furniture.

In addition to its one-piece slipcovers, SureFit also manufactures and markets furniture throws, decorative pillows, dining room chair covers, wing chair and ottoman covers, recliner covers and table linens.

"We continue to increase consumer awareness through advertising, to continue to develop our home accessories business and to upgrade our mix," Shlensky said. "The only thing holding us back is when retailers go out of business."

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