Victoria Classics on the rise

Carole Sloan, April 5, 2004

As the third generation in a family long involved in the textile world, Toby and Joe Cohen, owners of Victoria Classics, are making a mark on the American home textiles world.

The Syrian emigres, who started the company in the mid-'90s, first in retailing and then evolving into an importer/distributor of home textiles, consider their background as "enabling us to look for a void in the market," said Toby , the 39-year-old product maven. His brother, Joe, is the financial and real estate specialist for the rapidly growing company.

"Four years ago, we developed a national retail base," Toby related. Retailers from Wal-Mart and JCPenney to national specialty stores now are on their customer roster, he said.

The company currently is in the midst of major expansion, both in terms of people and facilities. Home textiles veteran Tom Coughlin joined the firm in December in the new position of executive vice president, sales and operations. "I fit in between Joe and Toby. I have a relationship charge — go out and find the best fit for the company."

To that end, Wendy Keryk, another home textiles veteran executive, signed on in January, and this month Geri Wylie, formerly with the JCPenney team at Springs, joined as the JCPenney sales executive, Coughlin said.

On the operations front, the company has been working out of five distribution centers, including two public warehouses, and three owned facilities, Coughlin said. "We're now down to two owned facilities and are moving everything into a million-square-foot DC in Edison, N.J."

Toby sees the landscape in home textiles as having changed radically. "Product direction came from the mills. They were dictating trends. Now it's a global thing. There are many people like us who are bringing new things to market. It's more fashion, more ready-to-wear related and much faster changing."

Now and in the future, Toby maintains there will be 30 or 40 companies replacing the few mills. And even with this change, "The challenge today, even with the fashion emphasis," he said, "is fighting for margin."

The company, Toby said "is one of the most aggressive. We're the new kid on the block — but we have a passion for product."

The product mix today embraces a wide gamut of home textiles from bedding — promotional comforter sets to fashion bedding — window, decorative pillows, and shower curtains. Sheets tie into the fashion bedding with embellished hems and thread counts from 230 and up.

"We offer high quality at value prices," Coughlin explained. Fashion bedding includes bed sets, quilts, and bedspreads. Price points are from $100 for promotional comforter sets to $400 for fashion comforter sets.

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