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WestPoint Home Aims for New Markets

WestPoint Home is taking a "glass half full" approach the recession and housing crisis by expanding distribution with its primary customers, going after the grocery and drugstores channels, and opening markets abroad.

"The reason we're attacking the market so aggressively is because we're trying to expand the retail pool," said president and ceo John Piazza.

After exhibiting at Heimtextil in January for the first time in a decade, WestPoint has contracted with sales groups in Spain and Mexico and is interviewing potential sales representation in South America and Europe. "It's starting off small, but it's going to grow," Piazza told HTT.

The company has put a sales structure in place manned by people who specialize in the grocery and drugstore channels, and has made its first placement with a group in the Midwest, he said. He pointed to Stay Bright kitchen towels and the Rachael Ray Moppine towel as items suited to those segments. WestPoint also exhibited at the Private Label Manufacturers Show, which has a strong grocery constituency, "to talk to customers about what they do with dry goods — if they do dry goods," said Allen Kennedy, svp of sales.

"We're putting boots on the ground," said Piazza. "Now the challenge is to turn up the dial."

WestPoint last year whittled its operating loss to $95 million, down from $159 million in 2007, and Piazza said the company will squeeze out more this year — by reductions in cycle time and disposable inventory.

In design trends for this month's market, svp of design Albert Sardelli offered the idea of warmth in the Bold Expressions fashion bedding segment.

"If people are experiencing something bad right now, or if they're worried about experiencing something bad, home is where we turn to, to feel safe," said Sardelli. He called the style "little touches of country, but not in a corny or cheesy way." Bold Expressions debuted intensely colored quilts in Stay Bright fabrics, inspired by Amish designs of Lancaster County, Pa. Contrary to popular belief, the Lancaster County Amish "are all about big planes of color," he said.

WestPoint Home also tossed Merino wool plaids into the mix in throws and dec pillows. Duvet designs include a yarn-dye with plaid border, ticking stripes in three paired colorways, and an open buffalo check with bias-cut gingham accents.

Elsewhere in the showroom, WestPoint pulled together products from several product categories to address two solution stories, with a Save Energy Shop and an Eco/Sustainable shop.

Save Energy offers quilts, dry fast sheets, blankets, heated blankets, heated mattress pads, Comfort sheets, Couch Cozies (blanket-robes), throws, Easy Care sheets, and Dry Fast towels.

The Eco shop displays 2nd Nature towels of recycled yarn; Eco-Pure comforters, mattress pads, pillows and blankets; Simply Cotton sheets; and Stay Fresh anti-bacterial sheets, towels, pillows and blankets.

WestPoint is extending its Stay Bright bleach- and fade-resistant tech to beach towels, and "we're telling very specific [packaging] stories in bath," said Nancy Golden, vp of marketing and brand management, like washcloth sets, workout towels and kitchen towels made with both Stay Bright and Stay Fresh; and Dry Fast towels.

The company also introduced a patented bed skirt with storage pockets. Designed to hide under a dust ruffle, it wraps around three sides of the bed.