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Northwest grows showroom for throws, pillows

Don Hogsett -- Home Textiles Today, October 14, 2002

After steadily expanding its roster of licensed throws and pillows, and planning to add even more, The Northwest Company is virtually tripling its showroom space to show off all of its product as it moves to new quarters at 295 Fifth Ave.

Shay Auerbach, chairman, said the rapidly growing novelty throw supplier is moving to the seventh floor of 295 Fifth Ave. from tight quarters on the 16th floor.

"We're taking the former Mohawk space, the whole thing," said Auerbach. "It's a lot of space, about 8,000 square feet, but we need it. It's a really big step for us, but we've outgrown the old showroom, which was about 2,700 square feet."

Building its jacquard throw business in novelty and sports licenses, then adding decorative pillows to the mix, Northwest has grown rapidly, more than doubling its sales over the past few years. In 2001 it was the nation's fourth-largest throw supplier recording about $33 million in sales.

"Our business has really taken off as we've focused on the licenses," said Auerbach. "A few years ago, we were this nice little company, and now we're a major force in sports licensed product. And we're a force in licensed juvenile products. And now we need the space to show off the licenses we have and the ones we're going to be getting. There's a bunch of important new licenses we're going to be announcing shortly."

Auerbach said, "We also need the space because our licensors want it. They want to see the product well-displayed, and they want to see you do what you say you're going to do. In the old showroom we just didn't have the space to show half the product we had. Now we can give all the licenses and all the product the kind of presentation and display they really deserve."

Originally begun as a marketing company, Northwest originally farmed out production of its throws to contract suppliers and only a few years ago acquired its own manufacturing plant to produce its lines of jacquard throws. Now, Northwest has expanded heavily into printed fleece throws, becoming an importer, said Auerbach. "We'll probably bring in 200 containers of printed fleece from China this year," he said.

The next step in the company's expansion, said Auerbach, is international, heading north and south simultaneously. "We're working on building our Canadian business now. It's not a large business, but it's a good business. It's a sports-oriented market, and that fits in well with our product line.

"And we're also going for the Mexican market. We're developing the Hispanic market. You've got to develop all these new businesses. You have to, just to replace what you lose in the U.S. when a [chain like] Ames goes under. You need to expand your horizons, you've got to keep exploring new niches. If you stand still even a minute these days, you've got a big problem."

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