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Kay Dee Presses New Designs

Cecile Corral, Michele SanFilippo -- Home Textiles Today, January 26, 2009

Kitchen textiles supplier Kay Dee Designs is ready to meet head-on what it expects will be a "tough" 2009 with its largest ever batch of new introductions.

Rick Rakauskas, president and co-owner, told HTT 50% of its line will be new and debut in March during the New York Home Fashions Market.

That translates to 10% more new products — including more than 30 new kitchen textiles groupings, among other new products — than the company typically shows at this spring market event, he said.

"2009 is going to be a tough year. But product is one way out of it, and being able to deliver is another," he said. "We saw the recession coming and we decided new product was going to help us through the year, and that is exactly what is happening."

Already, earlier previews have proven successful, he said, pointing to strong response during the recent gift fair at Atlanta's AmericasMart, where the company operates one of its main showrooms.

A $10 million-plus company that carries more than 2,000 skus in kitchen textiles and specializes in terry ensembles and aprons, Kay Dee Designs is experiencing in its apron category alone "tremendous growth" across the board, Rakauskas said.

And based on customers' initial reactions to the new assortments, "We expect steady business going into 2009," he added.

While there is no real design departure for 2009's new products, Rakauskas said certain themes prevail this year, namely novelty looks in bright colors and popular subjects like wine, coffee and Tuscany.

Licensing is another important facet. Up to 30% of its lines feature licensed work of popular artists such as Paul Brent, Jennifer Brinley and Susan Winget.

Rakauskas, with his partner and vp finance Chuck Donnell, purchased the company in 1990 from General Housewares Corp. Its origins were in specialty screen printing of linen towels, regional products and calendar towels — "which we still make and sell a lot of," Rakauskas noted.

Today, Kay Dee Designs domestically produces about 25% of its lines and imports the other 75% from China and India.

"We still run our own screen printing operation," in a 50,000-square-foot facility adjacent to the company's offices here, he said. Kay Dee also owns and operates a 60,000-square-foot warehouse in Exeter, R.I.

Its products span heat sublimated, screen printed, embroidered and "tons of regionally designed" kitchen textiles and table lines — the later comprising mainly placemats.

While the breadth of product has been expanded for 2009, pricing has been kept flat with previous seasons. Rakauskas said Kay Dee Designs continues to service mid-tier gift stores and national chains — evenly split at 50/50 — at mid-tier price brackets. The targeted consumer demographic also remains steady.

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