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Disney's no small world for WPS

NEW YORK — The reintroduction of Disney home textiles by WestPoint Stevens marks a turning point in the evolution of the licensed product line, launching with a sku-rich assortment of coordinating product and a long-term strategy for ramping up the brand.

The partnership will also take WestPoint into some product areas that it has previously dabbled in only through sub-licensing, including decorative pillows, plush pillows, bath rugs and accessories, and beach towels.

The product line, to be introduced during spring market, was picked up by the New York-based WestPoint Stevens after competitor Springs Industries did not renew the license at the end of 2000. The result, which comes from several months of planning, is what executives at WPS are calling a "fresh new approach to a juvenile classic."

The collection will debut under one umbrella brand name, Disney Home, a change from formerly marketing

the product under various

character names. Now, individual characters will have their own collections under the Disney Home label.

"This is the first time juvenile products will be contained under one name," said Michael Delia, product manager, WestPoint Stevens, noting that five perennial character collections will be carried, at launch, with the possibility of adding others as Disney dictates.

"Disney has been absolutely wonderful to work with," said Nancy Golden, director of licensing and marketing coordinator. "They have been terrific partners, willing to step out and take risks and be very proactive."

Mickey, Princesses, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Buzz Lightyear will all have separate bedding collections complete with accessories for the bedroom and bathroom as well as a line of beach towels. Sizes for the printed sheets will be twin and full with 120-count, 70/30 polyester/cotton construction.

Depending on popularity, certain characters will have either one or two ensembles introduced this spring. Cowboy Mickey and Lil Buckaroo will be the first Mickey ensembles, while Starburst Princess will be the Princess' collection initial entry. Pooh will debut with A Buzz in the Air and A Friend for Everyone, Tigger with The Tiggerific Tigger, and Buzz Lightyear launches with Buzz vs. Zurg.

"We are very, very excited about Disney," Kathleen Cwirko, senior vp, marketing, told Home Textiles Today. "We are doing things very differently, and we think it will all be very successful."

According to Cwirko, the Disney Home label will be ready for shipping by June or July. Price points will also be competitive, she added.

Accompanying the character-driven, open-stock items will also be a Disney Home solid sheet collection. Ten colors are included, which will coordinate with many of the individual character's ensembles and may be mixed and matched with them. Consumers may update or change an ensemble's look with the solid collection, said Delia, or, by using a solid comforter, subtly downplay the vibrant designs. The solid construction is still being determined but will probably follow the construction of the print collection or be 180-count, 50/50. A nice complement to the solid collection, Delia added, will be a solid jacquard border tape subtly printed with various Disney icons. Since adults are also fans of Disney, the solids will range from twin to queen size.

As new Disney movies hit theatres around the country, so too will bedding ensembles be available for retailers and consumers. Although the movie ensembles will fall under the Disney Home label, they will not be included as perennial parts of the collection unless they exhibit the same kind of longevity and popularity as Buzz Lightyear, for example. Patterns for the new Disney/Pixar film, "Monsters, Inc.," are in development and will be ready in time for the debut of the film in October.

New concepts in packaging are also being introduced for the Disney Home collection, which should make it easier for parents to coordinate their purchases. Following the lead of Granimals children's clothing, which used color-coordinated tags to help consumers choose matching pieces of clothing, WestPoint Stevens has color-coded the Disney Home packaging for the solid and print lines. Bedding for a certain character has been assigned a color and matching items assigned the same color, thereby making it easier for parents to see and choose the items — print or solid — that go with the items they are purchasing.

Pictures on the back of the new packaging will also show how the ensemble will look when completed or when some suggested solid-color items from the solids collection are used in various combinations.

Rounding out the ensembles will be four styles of plush pillows. A 14-inch square, a cuddle pillow, a 24-inch floor and a bed rest will be available. Each pillow will have its own unique features, such as the cuddle pillows, which has arms and legs extending out from the pillow itself, which will be the body of the character. Delia said when the cuddle pillows were given to children's focus groups, many used them as toys.

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