• Cecile Corral

Ex-Cell undergoes change at the top

At The New York Market — There's a major changing of the guard taking place at Ex-Cell Home Fashions this April market.

After a 36-year career with the company, Sam Samelson is stepping down from his perch to make room for Ex-Cell's new president and ceo, industry veteran Barry Leonard.

Last week, Leonard became the company's president. He will assume the ceo title as of April 30, when Samelson officially resigns from the company.

Scott Kauffman, executive vp and cfo of Ex-Cell's parent company, Glenoit Corp., told HTT that Samelson has not divulged his future plans.

"Ex-Cell is ahead of the curve on international sourcing by having a facility in China, and with quotas on the categories we're involved in having gone away already, it allows for us to be that much more competitive in the marketplace," Leonard told HTT.

"I am very happy to be back in the business. I am as happy as I can be to be here."

Leonard — who will be based in Ex-Cell's main offices in New York — said that since he arrived at the company last week, Samelson has been helping him make the transition.

"I've been on board [several] days so I'm still trying to find out where the restrooms are," Leonard joked, "so it's still too soon to talk about my goals and strategic direction for the company. But based on Sam's work of having built a tremendous business here, importing continues to be a crucial aspect. It's the nucleus of the growth of Ex-Cell going forward, and I want to build on that."

Leonard's career in home textiles was built mainly at Fort Mill, SC-based Springs Industries, where he spent 20 years — 1979 through 1999 — steadily climbing the ranks.

At Springs, he started out doing facilities planning before becoming a sales representative under the company's Springmaid bedding business. Then he had a nine-year stint with Springs' importing business with Ultrasuede and Skinner fabrics. From 1992 to 1994 he was assigned to start up a factory outlet retail operation, today a 50-store chain known as Springmaid Wamsutta Factory Stores.

In 1994 he became president of Springs' bath division. Then three years later he was promoted to president of the department and specialty store bed and bath business.

Leonard subsequently became president and ceo of Spartan International, where he remained until May 2001, when the 111-year-old textiles producer was shut down by financial backer G.E. Capital Corp. due in part to the economic downturn, the steady flow of imports and increasing financial obligations.

Leonard spent the past 10 months operating his own private textiles consulting company, Neo Enterprises LLC.

"I was doing consulting internationally. I was in China for a significant amount of time and Eastern Europe, as well," Leonard said.

He noted he mainly did consulting within the textiles industry for American companies looking to import from overseas and for foreign-based companies looking to export to the U.S. market.

"I'd go and look at what they were doing and help them develop a business plan," he explained.

Samelson could not be reached for comment at press time, but in a press release issued by Ex-Cell he stated that his decision to leave the company "was a soul-searching and difficult one to make, as I have spent the greater part of my life building Ex-Cell Home Fashions from a small company into a global business entity."

Samelson is credited with sourcing globally decades before it became a common avenue of marketing home textiles for the U.S. market. Under his leadership, the company was one of the first to invest in overseas manufacturing. Samelson is also credited with having come up with many of the concepts used in the company's bath division.

Samelson's former partner, Irving Anderman, retired three years ago when the company was sold to Glenoit Corp. Ex-Cell is the bath, table linens, kitchen textiles and decorative pillow division of Glenoit Corp.

Cecile CorralCecile Corral | Senior Product Editor, Home & Textiles Today

Cecile B. Corral has been a product editor with Home Textiles Today since late 2000. She covers the area and accent rug, kitchen textiles, table linens, beach towels, decorative bath and decorative pillow categories, as well as some retail subjects.

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