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Sales Up, Units Flat in Sheets

Jeff Linville, Jill Rowen -- Home Textiles Today, August 2, 2013

Sheets and PillowcasesNEW YORK - Sales for sheets and pillowcases in 2012 grew less than 1%, with sales totaling $2.59 billion for 2012 in HTT's third and final report on the bedding segment's performance last year.
     But for the most part, industry watchers say the increase was a result of growing retail prices, with unit sales flat overall.
     "The volume is in opening prices points and promotional items," noted Frank Snow, vp, merchandising, Royale Linens. "We see that U.S. total bed sheet sales were up slightly in dollars primarily due to higher retail prices. Unit sales suffered," agreed Dan Harris, vp, retail sales, Bari Textile Mills.
     Rich Yanowitz, president of Divatex, noted that the overall sheet business was up slightly last year, adding that the microfiber sheet business continues to do well because "it's relatively inexpensive, it feels good and washes well." When it came to retailer's regular cotton sheet programs, "pricing settled down," said Yanowtiz, which allowed stores to create sharper promotional offerings.
     "Cotton pricing has normalized for the most part, but spinning prices have gone up. Many of the changes such as the growth of growth of blends will remain. Also remaining: the change to microfiber on the low end, which has really affected Pakistani mills at the promotional end of the sheet market," said Harris. "Poly/cotton blends on 300 thread count and under is a very important part of most retailers' assortments at the moderate promotional level. Anything over 300 thread count should be a quality 100% cotton product in my opinion." Bari Textile continues to focus on its niche.
     According to NPD Group research, the average retail price for sheet sets stayed stable over the last year. Open stock sheet prices did continue to inch up. NPD also saw open stock items - generally higher-price point products in this category - selling better than sets. According to Debra Mednick, executive director and home industry analyst, NPD Group, consumers are still not readily parting with their disposable income, but when they are ready to buy, they are sometimes willing to "spend on little luxuries."
     According to HTT's results, Discount stores showed the largest gains within the sheets category. Direct to retail was up slightly, but unlike a more decorative category like top of bed, the internet doesn't provide the volume numbers for a core category such as sheets and pillowcases.
     "The internet is a good way to see what is selling," said Snow. "But the consumer that is using it is looking for very particular things. It is an interesting barometer of design style."

SHEETS AND PILLOWCASES

Distribution channels

2012 total retail sales: $2,590 million up 0.6% from $2,575 million in 2011
 

2012

2011

% CHANGE

Discount department stores

$1,353

$1,340

1.0%

Mid-price chains

$486

$482

0.7%

Home textiles specialty chains

$374

$371

0.7%

Off-price chains

$96

$96

-0.5%

Variety/closeout

$79

$79

-0.3%

Direct-to-consumer

$57

$57

0.6%

Department stores

$57

$56

0.7%

Other*

$46

$46

-0.3%

Warehouse clubs

$23

$23

-0.4%

Single-unit specialty stores

$23

$23

-0.5%

Total

$2,590

$2,575

0.6%

* Other includes interior designers, military exchanges and other channels.

Figures have been rounded.

Source for all tables and charts: Home Textiles Today market research

     "The internet retail business continues to grow at a fast pace. The challenge is the high risk and expense for the supplier's side," noted Harris. "We have committed to it because it will continue to grow in the future. The internet business is still on a learning curve for many suppliers, including how it affects other customers."
     While the "Made in USA" banner is being bandied about throughout the textile industry, two major players in the sheets and pillowcases category made moves in this area, essentially putting their money where their mouths are. At the most recent New York Market, Ellison First Asia introduced a line of sheet sets that had been completely produced in the United States, from the cotton to the spinning to the weaving to the finishing to cut-and sew. In addition, HTT reported last month that Alok Industries plans to open a spinning mill in the United States. Other suppliers reported that the ‘Made in the U.S.A' concept is in their sights, with most of them open to doing cost analysis on homegrown products.
     The issues causing worry lines: rising cost of yarn and the overall economy. It may be improving, but folks don't feel ready to spend. According to Mednick, consumers are holding on to their money and making smaller purchases rather than remodeling or redecorating. And issues such as U.S.- made goods are certainly not enough to get people to spend money.
     "Customers may not care about ‘Made in the U.S.A.' as much as we'd like them to," said Scott Howard, svp, sales & licensing, JLA. Business in this category is in transition, not on fire. You have to get customers back into the stores at the end of the day. And it's not all about the retailers, because some have never looked better."
     Going forward, Bari Textile is focusing on its growing knit sheets business, which Harris says is "becoming an important basic business in the heavier gram weight fabrics with new constructions like heathers, stripes, and plaids." According to Harris, "Quality at a fair price will always sell. Being diligent about controlling the costs all along the supply chain is critical at being competitive."

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