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Competitive pressures and a conservative retail climate prompt major textile players to choose their targets with care

NEW YORK -Although plenty of new bed and bath ensembles will be unveiled during spring market later this week, few of the major bedding manufacturers will attempt to be all things to all channels. In many instances, manufacturers have pared their offerings in order to focus their resources on market segments where they anticipate the greatest opportunity for growth.

Inventories may have begun to loosen a bit, but no one expects retailers to significantly step up the pace on orders anytime soon. Instead, manufacturers are concentrating on adding higher perceived value into their programs.

In a continuing trend from last market, manufacturers are continuing to push and introduce more luxury and high-end ensembles and sheeting, but not as bagged ensembles. While bed-in-the-bag promotions remain a mainstay for the majority of companies, it is the accompanying sheeting programs that have taken the step up in construction.

Virtually every manufacturer said this market would not see as many new products or additions to lines as previous markets. Instead, many opted to update or modernize their assortment, as is the case with Thomaston, GA-based Thomaston Mills, or, as WestPoint Stevens, trim their offerings to cut down on the cost of developing new patterns that would not make it to retail shelves.

Others, such as the New York-based Croscill Home and Revman Industries and the Danville, VA-based Dan River, solidified their respective product bases by offering new beds that underscored what the companies have built their reputations on.

On the flip side is the expansion of high-end offerings from WestPoint Stevens, Springs and Pillowtex. All three introduced new sheeting programs or new line additions for this market.

The latest from the Fort Mill, SC-based Springs' is its 400 Sateen Solid Color line, a step up from the 310 program introduced last market that is available in white, ivory, pearl, dove, feather and shadow. The mill feels that a consumer looking for higher-end sheets will be attracted to the soft, muted color palette offered by this program. Consumers with smaller beds will have no luck here, either, as the sheets will be offered in queen and king sizes only at $59.99 and $69.99 retail price points, respectively.

Just a few miles away in Kannapolis, NC, Pillowtex unveils its newest and highest tier for its Fieldcrest Versailles collection, Empress. Two new beds, both with a distinct French Imperial feel, will be introduced. Marie Antoinette and Dauphine, both available in queen and king sizes only and with 300-count sheeting, will carry retail price points ranging from $399 to $499.

Not to be outdone is WestPoint Stevens, based here, which rolls out four new beds for its Grand Patrician, Seduction line. Available with 310-count, 70/30 Egyptian cotton/ Modal sheeting, this line is positioned above the manufacturer's Egyptian cotton line. Belladonna, Jewel Chenille, Kashmir and Zephyr utilize several fabrics and dramatic colors for a strong presence in the high-end market.

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