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P'tex to restore cachet to Royal Velvet brand

Marvin Lazaro, Andrea Lillo -- Home Textiles Today, June 16, 2001

KANNAPOLIS, NC — Fifty years after introducing the Royal Velvet Classic bath towel to the public, Pillowtex Corporation has made major changes to significantly upgrade its specs as the first step in an initiative to restore the brand's upper-tier brand positioning.

Toward that end, Pillowtex will back the introduction of the new Royal Velvet Classic with an aggressive retail program as well as an extensive point-of-sale and a product-specific advertising campaign.

The changes were introduced during the Kannapolis, NC-based major mill's Color College 2001, an annual event that draws large and small retailers to the company's corporate headquarters for a first-hand look at the new colors, collections and ensembles Pillowtex is betting on to be hot for the upcoming year.

The main change made to the Royal Velvet classic bath towel was to its size. Formerly 27" x 50", the towels are now a generous 27" x 54". In addition to its larger size, the terry is now plusher, thanks to longer loops and more loops per square inch, making it more absorbent and giving the towel a better hand. Despite the changes, the towel is comparable in weight to the original size, said Bob Hamilton, vp, advertising, making it easier for consumers to care for.

"There's a whole new energy, feel and perception out there now," Hamilton said about retailers' reactions to the improvements made to the bath towel, which he felt were very favorable. "This is very exciting stuff. I would not like to be the competition when [the new towel] hits the market."

An extensive program to help retailers make the transition from the old to the new version of the towel was also unveiled. From Nov. 16 to Dec. 2, during Pillowtex's "lowest price of the season" event, the old construction of the bath towel will be offered for a retail price point of $5.99, with hand towels and wash cloths offered at $4.49 and $2.49, respectively. From Dec. 7 to Jan. 6 another promotion, which will help move the old towel to make room for the new towel, which is shipping on Dec. 15, will take place with both towels being offered at $5.99. After Jan.6, the towel will go back to its regular suggested retail price point of $15.99.

An extensive point-of-sale program will also be given to those retailers that carry the Royal Velvet towel line. Two kinds of cubby covers, a reusable crown, poster, and a banner with a banner stand will all herald the arrival of the new towels and the brand's anniversary. An ad campaign specific to the improved bath towel will also be launched in July 2002, and samples will be sent to retailers' sales associates so they can endorse the towel first-hand.

"The American consumer will know there's a big, big thing happening in your towel department," Hamilton told assembled retailers.

Asked about the changes and the reason behind them, Eileen Philips, marketing manager, fashion bath, replied, "The Royal Velvet Classic line has been challenged within the last few years. Although other manufacturers' towels weren't necessarily better, they had a better perceived value. We changed our towel in response to that so consumers would actually not only be getting a better towel, but they would perceive it as the better towel, too."

Color College 2001 also lived up to its name by unveiling many new colors as well as new styles for the Royal Velvet towel and Velur II rug lines. Six new beds were also introduced for the mill's Royal Velvet Interiors bagged bedding ensemble line.

In direct response to the flood of European-inspired styles in its assortment, Pillowtex used a distinct American theme to name its new colors, which are deeper and richer "saturated brights." Aloe, Pacific, straw, mesa, Central Park, Niagara, azalea, mesquite and salsa will be introduced in towels and bath rugs for three new collections, each of which will also ultimately carry names with American themes. Central Park, Pacific, azalea, salsa, aloe, Niagara, canvas and straw will all be utilized for three new Royal Velvet sheeting collections constructed from 100 percent, 275-count pima cotton. RV 275 is a solid collection, while white polka dots adorn Dot. Also new is the Cape Cod sheeting, which is a multi-colored stripe done in the new colors and finished with a solid ivory hem.

"To suggest that things coming from offshore are the only trends is simply not the case," Hamilton said about the reasons behind the American flavor. "Our introductions are all about the Americanization of style and [the American] influence and attitude."New for Interiors are Cortland, Dominion, Fresco, Gabrielle, Jakarta and Tibet. Cortland, in burgundy and gold and made from 100 percent cotton, is a damask with woven diamond fabric and printed stripes on the top of bed and accessories. The coordinating sheets incorporate an engineered printed hem and stria stripe. Dominion, in a 60/40 cotton/polyester blend, is a jacquard woven which combines an ottoman stripe with chenille cording and brush fringe, all done in mink and ivory tones. A detailed jacquard patchwork in basil greens and beige, Fresco is a 100 percent polyester ensemble with tailored pinstripe woven fabric and stria textures on the top of bed. Gabrielle is constructed from 100 percent micro-denier cotton with 100 percent polyester accessories. A floral motif adorns the silvery blue and ecru top-of-bed and sheeting.

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