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'Sweet spot' aided by sourcing

Croscill is tapping its expanded sourcing capacity to step up fabrications and build a greater breadth of offerings into what it calls "the sweet spot" for comforter sets — around the $299 price point.

At its semi-annual style-out here, which concluded last week, the company said it is pursuing three goals: to provide more value and embellishment at existing price points, to lower some price points without compromising quality, and to appeal to a larger cross-section of the population, including masculine, ethnic and younger segments.

"We've got better fabrics, better constructions and better sourcing," said president David Kahn, who noted that although the company is loading more features into lower price tiers, Croscill is not in a race to achieve bottom-of-the-barrel pricing. "What was $349 is now $249 — but it's not $199," Kahn said.

Croscill's sourcing operation is growing by necessity, according to Doug Kahn, coo. "It's growing by the fact that there are new fabrics, by pricing pressure, by the fact that many of our own vendors domestically are choosing now to compete globally," he said.

The company opened an office in Shanghai, China, last year, and earlier this month brought on board a pair of global sourcing vps — former Philips-Van Heusen sourcer David Halley and former Elrene sourcer Steve Abramowitz.

About 60 percent of Croscill's bedding is now sourced abroad while the rest is produced in the company's cut-and-sew facilities. All freestanding window treatments and bath accessories are sourced from overseas. And many components of the company's new fashion basics lines will come from exporters as well.

"At the end of the day, we were always a sourcing company because we never woven, dyed or printed anything," said David Kahn. "But wherever it comes from, styling is still the key."

The styling for spring, as seen during the preview last week, is softer and cleaner, with a greater breadth of offerings. While texture remains an important part of the Croscill fashion statement, surface interest is now provided by fabrics and constructions rather than heavier weaving techniques. Palettes also eased up.

"From a color standpoint, we felt that it was time for a lighter, fresher palette for Croscill," bedding design Jerry Mobley told HTT.

New looks included Bartlet, a haberdashery-style patchwork of English country patterns with box gusset Euros; Island Breeze, a painterly transitional tropical wet print on textured cloth paired with yarn-dyed stripe accents; Margarita, a patchwork of vintage prints boxed with gimping and pink ribbon; Evergreen, a photographic lodge design suggestive of tapestry weaves; and Cotillion, a patchwork of jac fabrics interspersed with champagne panels beaded with small pearls.

"We're working to keep fashion from being de-valued," Mobley said.

In window, the mood is dressy and pretty, with a strong trend toward blushes, lavenders and celery tones.

"I think it's important to be elegant for spring," said Cheryl Johnson, window designer.

Apparel references abounded — with a bead valance suggestive of a multi-tiered necklace, lingerie-inspired panels with lace top treatments, and summery chiffons with spaghetti-strap tabs that recall cocktail party dresses.

In bath, natural elements moved to the fore in a variety of wood offerings, including Woodland, which marries wooden accent pieces with rice paper accents, and Bamboo, which includes a toothbrush holder made of four hollowed reeds affixed together.

"Retailers believe young is selling, casual is selling," said Carl Legreca, vp, merchandising and marketing, bath products and decorative accessories.

Previews of the company's new fashion basics collection of free-standing comforters, duvet covers, shams, cotton blankets, mattelassé coverlets, throws and dec pillows was encouraging, with interest running highest for additional sheet programs, solid color comforters and throws, said David Kahn.

"They're fashion basics, not 'basic' basics," he added. "We're going to have a menu of products that will create a certain specificity for each customer."

Croscill will open a new 126,000-square-foot distribution facility in January '04 to replace four leased facilities and accommodate new categories.

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