Costco, WPS launch towels

Brent Felgner, June 1, 2001

ISSAQUAH, WA — Costco has launched a 100 percent ring-spun Egyptian cotton towel program with WestPoint Stevens' Martex label, exclusively branding it with the "Bare Necessities" name.

Currently at the top of the line is an 18-pound 30" x 56" bath towel priced at $5.99. A 35" x 70" bath sheet in seven colorways is scheduled for delivery during the summer. The program, rolled out in May, was prominently featured in a colorful two-page spread in its members' magazine, The Costco Connection, authored by Pat Volchok, identified as a "TV consumer reporter, educator and mom."

The feature attempted to be informative as well as promotional in tone, offering point-by-point advice on how to shop for towels along with a "Costco vs. the competition" comparison of four similar towels sold elsewhere. It offered an unusually detailed explanation of Costco's specifications and vendor selection, as well as the advantages of Egyptian cotton.

A short promotional piece pointed up a one-time, in and out 63" x 70" "Beach Towels for Two" offering under the same program.

Varying in size, weight and construction, the side-by-side towel comparisons were nonetheless compelling, pointing to a pair of WestPoint and a pair of Springs products:

  • A 30" x 54" 16-pound 75 percent ring-spun Egyptian at $5.99 from Springs' Martha Stewart Silver line.

  • A 27" x 56" 16-pound 75 percent ring-spun Egyptian at $7.99 from the Springs Simply Elegant line.

  • A 30" x 54" 18-pound 100 percent combed, ring-spun Egyptian at $14.99 from WestPoint's Grand Patrician line.

  • A 30" x 52" 16-pound 100 percent uncombed Egyptian at $5.99 from WestPoint's Royal Legacy line.

Pushing the value quotient further, the article noted members could purchase two 13-inch square washcloths, a 16" x 30" hand towel and the bath towel for less than $15.

Colorways are typically changed semi-annually in January and September, according to the article. Currently the most popular color is blue moon, with ivory, titanium, hydrangea, pale yellow and sage rounding out the assortment.

The program was also featured elsewhere in the magazine's product pages, along with an apparently broader representation of home textiles merchandise including place mats, kitchen towels and rugs.

The WestPoint towel program appears to be at the fulcrum of a slowly but steadily expanding basic home textiles presence taken by Costco. For example, the wholesale club has recently expanded its scatter and area rug assortments located just off one of its main aisles, bringing in new labels and additional skus. And several months ago, it reworked the department, opening it up to a more natural adjacency with apparel.

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