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What's next? What's new

Searching for market clarity through the fog of war, terror and a softened economy

New York — The New York home Textiles Market gets under way later this week at an unprecedented moment for the both the nation and the global network of suppliers that create product for the country.

The industry's buyers and sellers find themselves wading into a market environment churning with elements they are powerless to control — the war in Iraq, the escalation of raw material prices, an economy in suspended animation and a once-resilient consumer base that no longer seems willing to prop up the economy on its own.

While no immediate remedy lies in view, the top U.S. suppliers told Home Textiles Today they plan to move forward and work toward building their business as best they can under the circumstances.

Volume suppliers continue to focus on volume retailers, and most of the majors said they will look for growth among specialty chains, mid-tier retailers and discounters — which collectively account for more than $14.0 billion in home textiles sales to consumers —while continuing to service the major department store sector, with its roughly $1.2 billion in category sales.

"Balance is a benefit," said Chip Fontenot, president and coo, WestPoint Stevens. "Retailers have proven to be a very resilient group. The channels take care of themselves."

A few, however, are looking beyond traditional retail classifications. Louisville Bedding is exploring non-traditional channels of distribution, according to David Roshberg, national merchandise manager, bedding.

"The customer base is shrinking, leaving and we're all battling it out with the same guys," he said. "But there's a whole other world we could potentially be selling to."

Mohawk Home is spreading its wings through the acquisition of Karastan in late December 2002, which plugs the company into department stores and high-end dealerships, noted president Bill Kilbride.

"We're doing a lot to add to new designs and products to the Karastan line and to understand priorities of dealers on that side of the business," he said. However, Mohawk is primarily relying upon its existing business across several categories in the mass market to drive volume. "Organic growth is our No. 1 priority."

If the strength of the channel leaders provides volume suppliers with some assurance about their potential to grow the business in 2003, the increasing demands for faster cycle times remains a challenge, several vendors told HTT. So, too, is the prospect of rising raw material pricing.

"History tells us that retailers are not open to price increases," said Barry Leonard, ceo, Glenoit Corp., parent of Glenoit Rugs and Ex-Cell Home Fashions.

The solution, vendors said, is to fight off what they can, shift construction where they have the opportunity, and hope that they can make up for higher costs now with better sales in the back half of the year.

"Raw material prices fluctuate," said David Kahn, president, Croscill. "Oil is $30 a barrel today, but it won't be a year from now."

Overall, value was the prevailing theme among leading suppliers preparing for the market.

"Suppliers, retailers and consumers are looking at value more closely at each price point and every quality level," said Tom O'Connor, executive vp, Springs Industries.

None of the suppliers surveyed by HTT said they expect retailers to significantly step up promotional activity. The direction of the economy may be uncertain at the moment, but "I haven't sensed any panic among retailers," said Wade Maples, president, Maples Rugs.

That may constitute the greatest promise for suppliers in 2003, and the leaders said they have been designed their lines to meet the industry's value demands. Product development details that were either shared with, or previewed by HTT include the following:

Brentwood Originals, Carson, CA
What's new: Highly stylized jacquards from India; a collection of dried flower tapestries from the photo collection of Janie Gross; new kilims; and color coordinated plaids to complement the existing silk pillow collection. The Hermosa collection of cotton chenille tufted pillows and floor cushions is also new.

CHF, New York
What's new: "It's All In the Bag," an adult bed ensemble concept that includes a range of margin-building coordinate room accessories, including dec pillows, bath rugs, floor cushions and mosquito netting. Components include 200-count blended sheets and printed jacquard top of bed.

Also in adult bedding, CHF will debut "Life Style," a bed-in-the-bag with 200-count blended sheets for the 20-something generation.

CHF is broadening out from its youthful OP license into the more adult Ocean Pacific licensed bedding, featuring coastal living motifs.

In bath, CHF will debut licensed coordinates from designer Lynn Chase, whose porcelain tableware, figurines and home accents are sold by Neiman Marcus and Scully & Scully. Shower curtains will be engineered prints on cotton sateen cloth. Other components will include porcelain and ceramic accessories.

In window, CHF is adding decorative window hardware under the Peri brand.

Croscill, New York
What's new: Croscill is entering the throw category with a variety of constructions aimed at a better/best position.

Inaugural offerings include chunky acrylic/wool knits, sweater knits with a touch of mohair, crochet/knit combinations and tonal boucles as an alternate to chenille. The upper end of the assortment includes faux fur throws backed in suede.

The new Canyon collection of bed and bath combines Native American, Central American and South American accents. Fabrications include printed grasscloth, fine printed chenilles, a snakeskin print over which is woven a silver and turquoise belt buckle design and accents of brightly colored novelty yards, suede fringes and faux fur trims.

In window, Croscill is heralding the return of the pilot valance as a top treatment. Key trend groups include sueded looks, sheers and organzas with metallic embroideries, macrame and crochet flourishes, textured chenilles, metallic printed velvets and voiles with engineered jacquard borders.

Dan River, Roswell, GA
What's new: The Supreme Dimensions brand, a print bed-in-a-bag program positioned as a high-value print offering at an upper-moderate price point. The collection has three constructions — a 310-count sateen made of 100 percent ring-spun cotton and a specially constructed Supreme Loft fiberfill with extra lightness; a 300-count 100 percent ring-spun cotton sheet with all-cotton outer bed; and a 300-count cotton-rich sheet with a blended outer bed. All bed components are oversized and overfilled, and construction techniques include engineered, computerized quilting designs, special fabrics that emulate fortuni, chenille accents and applique-style designs.

Hollander Home Fashions, Boca Raton, FL
What's new: Hollander will launch the Opus Down collection of comforters and pillows using 660-fill power Hungarian goose down that has been Aquadeq processed, making it hypo-allergenic.

Louisville Bedding Co., Louisville, KY
What's new: Louisville will introduce a new line of DuPont Comforel luxury bed pillows and mattress pads. In an exclusive arrangement with DuPont, Louisville introduces three new DuPont Comforel Cluster Fiber blends for bed pillows and a new combination of DuPont Comforel fibers for mattress pads.

Mohawk Home. Sugar Valley, GA
What's new: Mohawk is launching its licensed program with designer Susan Sargent, consisting of 30 hand-tufted wool area rugs, 20 acrylic tuft and loop scatter designs and 20 print scatter rug designs.

The collection coordinates with 30 pillow designs made of poly silk and printed cotton. The core of the line is 10-color solid textured cotton in Sargent's signature bright color palette and a new spice palette. This collection coordinates with a new collection of rugs.

In blankets and throws under the Mohawk Home brand, the company has an extensive new line: Solstice, an opening price point rayon woven throw with knotted fringe; Rochaille, a jacquard woven patchwork chenille with velvet binding price; and Mount Vernon, matelassé pre-dyed warp in new colors blue, green tea and ice.

Pillowtex, Kannapolis, NC
What's new: The Cannon brand, which relaunches with a distinct design positioning that is the fruit of a two-year research and development effort. The line will be presented in three tiers: mass market, mid-tier and department store, and includes bedding, solid color sheets, quilts, towels, bath rugs, blankets and utility bedding. Tags featuring an updated version of the original Cannon logo will be stitched on to reinforce brand identification. The launch will include three solid color sheet sets.

Towel offerings will include a sore solid Cannon Dry Fast/Absorbency towel and Signature Check Border towels, chambray border towels and coordinate jacquards towels. The towel selection also includes The Anniversary Towel and the reintroduction of the Santa Cruz velour towel, a Cannon classic sheared jacquard. Upper tier offerings include the Cannon Egyptian towel, available in 10 colors, and The Softness Towel, a zero-twist towel with coordinating rug in 10 colors.

Springs Industries, Fort Mill, SC
What's new: The Court of Versailles collection, previously licensed to Pillowtex. The line will be "celebration-oriented," but made more up to date.

Springs will introduce a new category in bed in a bag: print on textured ground with the 280 sheet coordinate in step-up pricing of $149/$179/$199. Previously, Springs had printed on a flat weave and tucked a 250-count sheet into the package.

Springs also will introduce a new upper-end towel, the 20-lb. Wamsutta Supima, which will be a step above its $14.99 Wamsutta Centennial towel.

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