Category Leaders Shift as Giants Drift

Downturn Savages Some Top 5 Suppliers

James Mammarella, Carole Sloan, January 7, 2008

With the strategic repositioning of home textiles industry titans Springs Global and WestPoint Home in 2007, the winds of change coursed through the sales volume rankings of the HTT Top 5 Supplier Giants.

Springs and WestPoint each shed vast sales volume throughout the year, as their relatively new ownerships accelerated workforce belt-tightening and sent the bulk of manufacturing overseas.

The effect showed in the Top 5 as Springs fell in the rankings amid competitors in the Bath Accessories, Bath Rugs, Bath Towels, Blankets, Curtains & Draperies, Mattress Pads, and Shower Curtains categories — and dropped out of Top 5 status in Rugs.

WestPoint's rank fell in the Blankets and Comforters categories, and it dropped out of the Top 5 producers of Sleep Pillows.

Meanwhile another Top 15 powerhouse, Welspun US, drew upon its established India-based sourcing and recently acquired international assets to advance in two categories: Bath Towels and Sheets & Pillowcases. While the No. 1-ranked Top 5 companies from 2006 held their positions in each of the 17 product categories analyzed in the 2007 Top 5 report, the changing fortunes of the biggest-of-the-big market-makers caused marked shifts among the competitors in 13 of the 17 sectors.

Four companies emerged into the Top 5 rankings for the first time: Sleep Studio in the Foam Pillows/Toppers category, Nourison in Rugs, Royale Linens in Sheets & Pillowcases, and Perfect Fit in Sleep Pillows.

In four of the 17 categories, there was no change in the rankings: Down & Down Alternative Comforters, Kitchen Textiles, Table Linens, and Throws.

All of this came in a year of obvious difficulty. There were 37 volume gainers in the 2007 Top 5, vs. 47 gainers in 2006. Just under one-third of the gainers scored double-digit percentage advances in 2007 — vs. nearly one-half with double-digit increases in 2006.

Among the 29 percentage decliners in 2007, 25 fell by double-digits. Last year, fewer than half of the decliners fell by double-digits.

The top percentage gainer was Carpenter, which cut its activity in the Mattress category while winning a 39% gain in Foam Pillows/Toppers, with sales of $201 million. Product innovation was the driver, and is likely to win entry into new retail channels.

The steepest percentage decliner was Style Lab (Avonhome) in Table Linens, with a 60% fall as the company refocused on other categories after its mid-year acquisition by Atico. WestPoint was close behind with a 54% decline in the Comforters category.

There was one category in which every company gained volume in 2007: Down and Down Alternative Comforters, where suppliers built momentum even in the face of recent challenges such as the avian flu scare and the push by retailers for cheaper, synthetic fills. The manufacturers used product innovation on the one hand, and championed luxury goods and emphasized their natural-fill quality control prowess on the other, resulting in warmer reception of some better-margin lines by consumers.

Ironically, the single category in which every company experienced volume declines was: Comforters, which is dominated by the bed-in-a-bag business, a pack-in-the-pieces and duke-it-out-on-price category that has a way of punishing brands and shredding margin dollars.

Category % increase
Carpenter Foam Pillows/Toppers 39
Perfect Fit Industries Sleep Pillows 25
Hudson Industries Foam Pillows/Toppers 21
Elrene Home Fashions Kitchen Textiles 20
Maytex Mills Shower Curtains 17

Category % decline
Style Lab (Avonhome) Table Linens -60%
WestPoint Home Comforters -54
Dan River Comforters -38
Style Lab (Avonhome) Kitchen Textiles -31
Springs Global Bath Accessories -29
Springs Global Mattress Pads -29

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