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La France Home eyes mass market channels

LA FRANCE, SC -Mount Vernon Mills' fabric-producing La France division is making the leap from manufacturer's supplier to a finished goods manufacturer for the mass market.

The transition has spawned a new brand name, La France Home, and the La France logo has been updated with a more consumer-oriented look. "It's a fashion-oriented value brand," said Al Fenstemacher, La France vp, retail sales and merchandising. "This division has never been in the consumer products market, so we're certainly starting fresh."

The company is pursuing the mass market, catalog and big box specialty channels for the line, and a sales team has been out in the field since late fall promoting the brand. Products include decorative pillows, throws, runners, place mats, tapestry rugs and chairpads. The pricing parameters will be decidedly in the low to moderately low range. Retail on a 17 x 17 dec pillow, for example, will run from $12.99 to $19.99, Fenstemacher said. Throw prices will vary from $19.99 to $39.99, depending on whether they are acrylic or cotton.

"We're vertical, which is a very important thing," said Scott Goodman, vp, sales and marketing. "We're going to be able to give our customers a few more bells and whistles at a better price [because] in a lot of cases, you're eliminating a layer of profit."

That layer, of course, consists of the many finished goods manufacturers for which La France currently weaves fabric. La France will continue to supply those manufacturers, Fenstemacher said. "We feel like we can all co-exist because there's enough market out there to share," he said.

To get its new line going, La France piggybacked off Mount Vernon's consumer products division, whose systems were already linked with many of the retail accounts La France is targeting, Goodman said. It also leveraged that connection to rework its distribution, which previously shipped only roll goods. In addition, La France partnered with a nearby cut & sew facility.

Pieces from the 180-sku spring line will begin shipping in February, according to Fenstemacher. The La France Home label will make its debut at Winter Market through Mount Vernon's showroom at 104 West 40th St., New York. The holiday line will encompass roughly 55 skus, featuring chenille, lurex and novelty yards.

"This is our coming out party," said Goodman.

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