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Supplier Giants: Less Gigantic Than Before

Susan Andrews, Jennifer Marks -- Home Textiles Today, January 19, 2011

Less GiganticNEW YORK - In what is surely a product of years of globalization, price defl ation and the atomization of the home textiles industry, this year's Top 15 supplier ranking is remarkable for what's happening at the top of the chart.
     Last year's Supplier Giants report marked the first time in more than 20 years in which the lead supplier generated less than a billion in sales. Just 10 years ago, the top three suppliers all generated well over a billion in volume.
     This year, Mohawk moves into the top spot with just $620 million in sales.
     Also notable - and perhaps unexpected - Springs and WestPoint both held onto the ranking each claimed last year, No. 2 and No. 4, respectively. Their results for the year, however, couldn't be more different.
     Springs Global's U.S. sales tumbled mightily - down 45%. WestPoint Home, on the other hand, had a good year - on the top line, at least - with sales up 12%.
     But neither figure should be taken on its face as a sign of trajectory. Springs Global invested heavily last year in the U.S. brand division, unveiling an ambitious program under license from Diane Von Furtsenberg that includes hard home as well as Spring's traditional home textiles products. The company inked additional licenses as well, nearly all of them, like DVF, multi-category (including hard goods), intended to be distributed internationally as well as domestically - and with retail flagship stores on the board in some cases.
     WestPoint late in the year received some bad news: After 29 years of working with West- Point for its bedding and bath programs, Ralph Lauren Home announced last month it is taking production in-house. West- Point hangs on to the utility bedding piece of the program, and executives there say some Lauren production will take place at WestPoint's offshore plants. But the extent to which that will play out is uncertain, and WestPoint will have to scramble to replace the business.
     Welspun USA continued to amass more market share, but with its corporate parent in India devoting energy to expansion elsewhere (not to mention the U.S. economy), growth came at a slower pace. Given the investments the company has made in capacities for manufacturing fashion bedding, bath rugs and utility bedding, as well as a recent foray into decorative pillows, it's likely Welspun will become a top 5 supplier in multiple categories in the coming years.
     Rapidly diversifying Alok US makes it debut appearance on this year's ranking at No. 5. The company in recent years has diversified beyond sheets and is making a bid to become a leader in fashion bedding, blankets and decorative pillows. Alok is also growing its bath towel business.
     Also new to the Top 15 is 1888 Mills, the U.S.-based manufacturer that also has production in Pakistan and Bangladesh. But towels were the catalyst for growth last year, bedding was, and 1888 Mills is also branching into apparel for the healthcare and service industries through its new cut-and-sew facility in Ghana.

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