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WPS to Strike U.S./Offshore Balance

WestPoint Stevens' chief calls the mill's recently completed reorganization plan, "the most sweeping plan this company has ever put together."

Although the company can not yet publicly disclose the details, WPS President and CEO Chip Fontenot said that if the plan is accepted, the company will move to strike the proper balance between domestic and offshore production.

Over the summer, WestPoint opened a Chinese sourcing office in Shanghai, and Fontenot said that offices in Pakistan and India also are on the agenda.

"We've made the decision, but the question is when. You've got to have the right people," Fontenot said.

He added, "These offices won't change our lives. We're looking for these offices to accelerate our abilities. The fact is we will source $400 million worth of merchandise this year — from greige goods to finished products."

On the showroom floor, which WestPoint shifted to a message-oriented format offering merchandising solutions last year, the broad theme was "Solid Foundation."

"The message is that we're a solid company, we're big in the solid color business and that offers us a solid basis to build off of for prints," said Steve Hoffman, vice president of marketing services/licenses.

Various spots across the floor offered new packaging ideas as well as innovative display suggestions, such as lighted shelving to vivify the presentation of blankets and solid color towels.

Other displays offer ideas for building out businesses, such as merchandising coordinated print sheets alongside solid color sheets on the sheet wall — and extension of WestPoint's Chromatherapy program.

On the branded side, WestPoint put more emphasis this market on the better segment of the business.

The company introduced a new solid color towel under its Grand Patrician program: Ultra Touch. The 20-lb. towel is 100 percent Supima, has 1 million loops per towel and will retail for $20.

WestPoint is expanding out its Seduction brand, which launched originally as a luxury towel program, then moved into luxury sold color sheets in 300- and 400-count threads made exclusively of compact yarn. Seduction now includes duvets, shams, coverlets and bath accessories.

"This company has a large number of brands, and we've tried to elevate each of them," Dale said.

The development cycle for Grand Patrician comforter sets has been reoriented to align with better retailers' recent embrace of in-and-out fashion merchandising. The line is grounded in a fashion story, with components that can rotate in and out simultaneously to evolve new fashion looks while addressing the tricky issue of exiting skus.

The Answer Bed bed-in-a-bag is being slightly rebranded as an umbrella label and will become The Answer Bed by Utica, The Answer bed in Martex, etc.

WPS continues to push forward its dec pillow business, again devoting an entire room to displaying the category. Said Paul Donahue, director of decorative pillow and department store bedding, "We're a lot about solid colors, but also about textures. It's living room."

The company's most expensive dec pillow retails at $25, "So we think we're right in the belly of the business," Donahue added.

Bob Dale, president of bed and bath, said, "We're prominent players in towels in the middle of the field. We've gotten out of the low end, but we can do more at the better end. We do towel business offshore with at least 20 different suppliers."

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