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Biggest Producers Get Smaller in Competitive Market

Group Down by $1.5 Billion since 2000

The nation's Top 15 home fashions suppliers lost more market share last year, with overall sales for the group falling 4.8% to $6.9 billion from $7.3 billion in 2005, a drop of $351 million — the equivalent of a company the size of Pacific Coast Feather, with its $315 million in sales, evaporating.

And last year's drop in sales for the Top 15 was even bigger than the 3.6% decline put up the prior year.

This is all part of a six-year decline trend for these giants. Indeed, sales of the Top 15 have barely moved since 1996, edging up just 2.6% over that 11-year period, advancing a paltry $173 million during the decade, an average annual growth rate of 0.2% for the industry's top tier group of companies.

Sales of the Top 15 have skidded down by 17.3% since a high-water mark of $8.4 billion in 2000, dropping a heart-stopping $1.5 billion in just six years.

To put that number into perspective, that's roughly what would happen if WestPoint Home and Mohawk Home simply disappeared. It's also equivalent to all the combined sales of the companies ranked 9-15 in this year's profile, as if Maples, Franco, Croscill, CHF, American Pacific, Dan River, and Louisville Bedding all ceased to exist during that period.

And it's not as if a lot of companies didn't go away.

Consider the composition of the Top 15 a decade ago, in 1996, when aggregate sales for the group totaled $6.8 billion, roughly what they are today. Among the nation's premier suppliers were names like Pillowtex, Fieldcrest, Burlington, Thomaston, Bibb, and Decorative Home Accents: all casualties, along with the thousands they once employed, of the tide of imports that has swamped smoke-stack America.

That's not to say there aren't survivors, even thrivers.

The industry boasts a handful of companies generating solid growth, most of them nimble mid-sized companies like Hollander, up 13.5% or CHF, up 6.6%.

And in perhaps the biggest shift of all, emblematic of the new global playing field, more off-shore companies are showing up on the list.

This year it's Welspun of India, which joins the top tier in the No. 8 position with $277 million in U.S. sales, up 52.2% from $182 the year before. Swaagut, Welspun! Subhkamna!

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