New DuPont div. eyes furniture, fabric growth

Retail Editor 8, Carole Sloan, February 18, 2002

Wilmington, DE — DuPont Textiles & Interiors, a wholly owned DuPont subsidiary formed last week, plans to move aggressively back into the furniture and fabric businesses.

DuPont Textiles & Interiors includes the Apparel and Textiles Sciences unit formed in 2001, which includes apparel, home, industrial and flooring. Intermediates, which also includes joint ventures, nylon and specialties, make up the balance of the $6.5 billion unit.

One of the critical changes in the formation of the new business unit, according to Steve McCracken, president of apparel, home, industrial and flooring, will be to move "from saying, We've got a bunch of molecules here; how can we sell them?" to a point of view of fiber/product development and marketing. Producing the product will change, said Richard Goodmanson, chairman of the new unit, "to source from the lowest possible cost opportunity, whether that is from our own captive plants, co-manufacturing in Asia or having contract production."

The new business plans to put a lot of marketing muscle behind its major brands, including Stainmaster, Teflon, Lycra, Comforel and Dacron, which also will include major brand extensions into new product areas.

For the decorative fabric market and perhaps some home textiles product areas, this change will see the re-entry of Teflon as a fabric ingredient as well as the brand extension of Stainmaster, the company's dominant floor coverings brand, into furniture and fabrics, and the launch of new product developments.

For Stainmaster, which McCracken sees as a brand for better carpeting, the brand extension could well extend into moderate to upper-end furniture as well as decorative/upholstery fabrics.

Stainmaster, McCracken related, is viewed by customers as a product that preserves the aesthetics of the carpeting, and is comfortable and warm. Teflon, on the other hand, is an ingredient in fabrics that elevates performance and is a tough protector, is high-tech, and makes things work better and easier.

Further opportunities, could include mattresses with Comforel fiberfill, an extension of that brand from the comforter and bed pillow markets and high-tech fabrics using different polyester fiber developments. Lycra spandex is seen as having potential in sheets and decorative fabrics and will be shown in a market-ready state in a stretch leather at the April furniture market in High Point, NC.

In flocked nylon, according to Meg Burich, brand manager, home and industrial textiles, "our Tactel brand, while now used in nylon filament, is part of our approach of 'looks you have to touch,' and nylon flock is being expanded to different lusters and fabrics."

To support the new venture, $170 million is earmarked for product and process innovation in 2002. McCracken added, "We will be investing over $300 million to increase our and our partners' businesses via differentiation and penetration by delivering newness to our largest customers." The company has 17 labs globally, and the new organization will enable it to have more critical mass. At the same time, Goodmanson remarked, "We have a long-term relationship with DuPont's R & D departments."

In the new organization, Dave Tretorola is president of home and industrial textiles, Alan Wolk is president of flooring, Bill Ghitis is president of apparel and Carol Gee is vp, global brands, all reporting to McCracken.

The corporate objective is the separation of DTI from DuPont, perhaps through an initial public offering, no later than yearend 2003.

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