Sunham Debuts Lacoste Home

Carole Sloan, August 8, 2007

The iconic Lacoste crocodile comes to home furnishings in the United States with the launch this week of Lacoste Home by Sunham Home Fashions, the licensee for bed and bath fashions in North America.

The worldwide Lacoste Home license, except for Singapore and Japan, is held by the Zucchi Group of Italy from the French clothing, accessories and fragrance house Lacoste Group. Lacoste began in 1933 with the introduction of a radical sportswear shift for the tennis world — a cotton pique polo shirt rather than the more formal tailored cotton shirt that was de rigueur for the courts.

The Sunham Lacoste Home launch embraces both bed and bath on two levels: the Club collection, looking to elegance and luxurious fabrics with European detailing, and the Casual lifestyle based on fresh, lively colors with mix and match capabilities for the bedding.

In bath, towels, bath rugs and mats, men's robes, beach towels and sport towels are key items as are bath accessory items. Throughout the collections, the signature crocodile is used as a fashion statement.

Lacoste Home is planned for upscale department stores such as Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Dillard's and Belk's, and specialty stores like Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Ave., and Neiman Marcus, said Ken Rood, ceo of KJR Home, a brand management/marketing company specializing in the luxury home furnishings market, who is working with Zucchi Group and Sunham.

The goal for distribution is about 50 shop-in-shop dedicated departments for bedding, and about 200 target departments for the bath products. Bath will be expanded from the first towel and rug launch, to gift items for beach and cruise, and also for holiday gift.

For the specialty stores, Rood sees the collection focusing on beach towels ($19.99 to $29.99) and accessories as well as robes.

The Zucchi Group has had the worldwide license for home since 2001, but has focused mainly on the European market, according to Filippo Zucchi, president, licensing. The new alliance with Sunham, he explained, "is to better work in marketing and distribution, since the U.S. is becoming one of the best of the markets."

Since the renewal of the Lacoste program began with a more fashionable, luxury approach, Zucchi reported sales have doubled from 2003 to now.

In addition, the Lacoste stores in this country including the flagship here on Fifth Avenue, will be invited to participate in the Lacoste Home program, Rood said, and a website is in the works. Both distribution channels will focus on giftables, he noted.

And the selling job, Rood added, "will be with the salesperson who will have to know quality, and especially European quality." When the brand was relaunched it went for a higher level with a timeless, young, all-about-color statement, he said.

Asked why Sunham, which typically has grown as an under-the-radar, offshore supplier to department stores, now is going high profile, company president Jane Bognacki explained, "Sunham is creating a new image for itself. Brands are the key to the future development of the company and the business. In the past we always were a well-kept secret, focusing on private label for department stores."

Bognacki emphasized, "The next step is to branch out with brands — and the right brands."

While department stores are the primary target, Rood pointed out that there are three significant criteria within this channel: "It has to be the right door, the right market, and where the Lacoste brand already is doing well."

The Club Collection will feature three luxury beds: Signature, a white-on-white

Diamond textured jacquard duvet with a deep olive, marrow-stitch embroidery with sheets of a stylized tennis racquet motif; Cravate, a menswear pinstripe; and Heritage, a solid color sheet and duvet in a sateen jacquard with a mini-tennis ball and crocodile motif. Heritage solid color sheets are 400 count sateen in colors such as strawberry ice, twilight blue, and green banana — "a bright, vibrant breadth of color," explained Jerry Haggerty, national sales manager for Sunham's Lacoste Home division.

The Casual bedding features three beds with two sheet styles and a collection of bedding accessories. Cocoon is a chambray mixed with a satin weave ombre strip; Madras is a vibrant plaid; and Crocopois is an interpretation of the crocodile logo. The sheets are 300 count percale.

The home products are designed by Lacoste in France but with an eye toward specific market needs and criteria as in this country. "The design is European and French in flavor but there is a consideration of the needs of the American market," Zucchi explained.

Sunham is sourcing primarily in China for both the United States and Europe in bedding, but the Club prints are done by Mascioni in Italy.

Towels are a different story. "The two markets have different needs in terms of weight and quality," Zucchi explained. For the European market, towels will be produced on the Zucchi equipment in Italy, while the American towels will primarily be sourced in Asia.

Price points for the bedding are $229.99 for the queen duvet in Club; $179.99 for the Casual; Club sheets are $69.99 and Casual are $49.99 — both open stock. The core solid color towel in 33 colors will retail for $19.99.

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