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Trying times for Top 5 with small sales gains

Textiles manufacturers just completed a challenging and highly competitive year, and the results are in.

For the eighth consecutive year, Home Textiles Today has compiled the numbers for the Top 5. The listing, an exclusive to Home Textiles Today, covers 16 distinct product categories and ranks top vendors by sales for 2001.

The Top 5 reflects estimates of calendar 2001 sales — unlike the Top 15 ranking (see story and listings on page 32) — which does not always coincide with the same time period.

Home Textiles Today's editorial staff conducted interviews with manufacturers in all of the product categories (including some that didn't make the Top 5 in their products). They gained estimates of calendar 2001 sales for their own companies and some of their competitors.

Where it applied, the vendors combined sales data from various divisions within their companies.

The figures here reflect the staff's best estimate of sales in these products. They may not reflect the specific sales data provided by manufacturers.

The biggest shifts occurred in blankets and sheets and pillowcases, where the top four companies in each category saw their rank change.

The listings begin below.

Area rugs

'01 sales ($mil.) '00 sales ($mil.) % Chg. Comments
( ): Denotes decline
1. Mohawk Home, Sugar Valley, GA $245 $252 (3%) Added new high price-point offerings within woven rugs and experienced continued growth in printed rug collection.
2. Maples Industries, Scottsboro, AL 132 125 6 Print and soft olefin rugs drove the business, drawing placement at new key accounts; continued to expand facility to handle growth.
3. Beaulieu Home, Dalton, GA 125 125 0 Introduced new 12-color print chromajet rug collection.
4. Shaw Rugs, Dalton, GA 115 95 21 Expanded distribution to 15,000 retailers in all channels; rolled out exclusive programs with home center accounts; expanded Kathy Ireland licensed program; launched new Tommy Bahama licensed program in the fall.
5. Oriental Weavers, Dalton, GA 74 70 6 Introduced new rugs every month; continuously added new offerings to licensed programs; experienced growth in all channels.


Wrap-up

Early in the year, the area rug category's top five players said good-bye to a longtime competitor — Burlington House Floor Accents, which sold off its Bacova division to space-dyed yarn supplier Ronile Inc. this summer. Shaw Rugs, which has made a name for itself over the past year with its rapidly growing licensed programs and its efforts to step up its imported offerings, gained the No. 4 position. Overall, importing became a bigger focus for the top five area rug companies, with the exception of Maples Industries.

Bath accessories

'01 sales ($mil.) '00 sales ($mil.) % Chg. Comments
( ): Denotes decline
1. Springs Industries, Fort Mill, SC $70 $70 0% New licensing partnerships were forged with folk artist Warren Kimble and home textile designer and supplier Susan Sargent.
2. Allure Home Creation, Boonton, NJ 60 60 0 Focused on programs at key accounts; expanded placement at discount level.
3. Creative Bath Products, Central Islip, NY 45 45 0 Experienced a sales slowdown over the third and fourth quarters due to increased competition.
3. Croscill Home, New York 45 35 29 Continued to expand collections and licensed programs, including introduction of Portmeirion license; stepped up imported goods offerings.
5. Ex-Cell Home Fashions, New York 5 8 (38) Moved away from decorative offerings in favor of basic goods at promotional price points.


Wrap-up

The bath accessories leaders in the aggregate experienced little growth at the retail level. Only Croscill Home saw a strong leap in sales. Otherwise, most top five players experienced flat sales. Suffering the most was Ex-Cell Home Fashions, whose sales declined by more than one-third — a factor which might have instigated the company's recent efforts in the fall to greatly enhance its basics lineup. Imported product remained the thrust of the category vs. domestically made goods.

Bath rugs

'01 sales ($mil.) '00 sales ($mil.) % Chg. Comments
( ): Denotes decline
1. Mohawk Home, Sugar Valley, GA $218 $200 9% With Newmark and Townhouse divisions fully integrated into the company, Mohawk experienced growth at the specialty and high-end retail levels.
2. Springs Industries, Fort Mill, SC 147 150 (2) In a year when key accounts became heavily promotional, Springs experienced some erosion on the top line.
3. Maples Industries, Scottsboro, AL 49 49 0 Experienced repetitive sales and maintained placement at key accounts for private and branded label goods.
4. Pillowtex, Kannapolis, NC 45 50 (10) Lost placement at a key discount account.
5. Georgia Tufters, Calhoun, GA 35 35 0 Gained programs at new accounts but also lost placement at some key retailers.


Wrap-up

Discount retailers slimmed their bath rug offerings, making competition even fiercer among suppliers. But for Mohawk, which enjoyed the first full year of ownership of its new Newmark and Townhouse divisions of more high-end product, business experienced a growth spurt. And even under its dark cloud of Chapter 11 and a 10 percent plunge in sales in bath rugs, Pillowtex recently vowed to maintain its bath rugs facility in Scottsboro, AL, rather than sell off the plant, which has been part of the division since 1969.

Bath towels

'01 sales ($mil.) '00 sales ($mil.) % Chg. Comments
( ): Denotes decline
1. WestPoint Stevens, New York 550 575 (4%) Even though sales eroded slightly, WestPoint ascended to the top.
2. Pillowtex, Kannapolis, SC 495 550 (10) Pillowtex lost ground in the midst of its reorganization but introduced an improved Royal Velvet program in the second half
3. Springs Industries, Fort Mill, SC 221 225 (2) Springs believes it can grab a much bigger piece of the pie in this category, and its partnership with Brazilian mill Coteminas is intended to help it get there.
4. Santens, Anderson, SC 50 44 14 By focusing solely on the jacquard, embroidered and holiday lines, Santens believes it can grow its niche.
5. 1888 Mills, Griffin, GA 29 27 6 1888's specialized line continues to drive its business and differentiate it from competitors.


Wrap-up

There was some shakeup here as both Pillowtex and WestPoint amended their sales numbers from 2000. WPS had reported its 2000 numbers at $620 million, while Pillowtex reported at $630 million, so the switch should have actually occurred last year. What's disturbing is that both have lost a combined $265 million in sales since 1999. The player to watch over the next two to three years will be Springs, which in late summer 2001 forged an alliance for bed and bath with Brazilian textiles mill Coteminas. Also worth watching: the reorganized Pillowtex.

Blankets

'01 sales ($mil.) '00 sales ($mil.) % Chg. Comments
( ): Denotes decline
1. WestPoint Stevens, New York $140 $108 30% Grabs the No. 1 spot after buying the Chatham blanket business and continuing to grow its fast-track Vellux franchise.
2. Sunbeam, Boca Raton, FL 110 110 0 Holding its own in spite of fresh competition from two new suppliers in automatic blankets, with even more competition likely to show up.
3. Charles D. Owen, Swannanoa, NC 95 94 1 Still adding capacity as it beefs up its own lineup with a new range of Wamsutta product produced under license from Springs.
4. Pillowtex, Kannapolis, NC 32 91 (65) This once-dominant player stumbled, neglected in the midst of financial problems. Sold in September to a management group and now operated as Beacon Blankets.
5. Beacon Blankets, Swannanoa, NC 29 NA NA Getting off to a late start after its buyout, most sales were generated from the closeout of obsolete inventory acquired in the deal.


Wrap-up

For a second straight year the playing field was altered by acquisition. A team of managers and a private investor acquired the blanket business of troubled Pillowtex, restoring it to its former identity, Beacon Blankets. Not to be outdone, Charles D. Owen Mfg. joined forces with Springs Industries, producing blankets under the venerable Wamsutta name. Keep an eye on the smaller players as well. Biederlack of America is starting to make inroads, Pendleton Woolen Mills wants to be a player, and Biddeford Blankets stages a comeback under new ownership.

Comforters/Bedspreads

'01 sales ($mil.) '00 sales ($mil.) % Chg. Comments
( ): Denotes decline
1. Springs Industries, Fort Mill, SC $412 $400 3% Broad distribution — especially at Wal-Mart — helped nudge sales ahead despite heavy pressure on price points.
2. WestPoint Stevens, New York 240 195 25 The addition of Ralph Lauren and the rollout of Disney Home at mass propelled sales.
3. Dan River, New York 203 195 4 The Martha Stewart program continues to drive this mill's bedding sales. Juvenile is also very strong.
4. Pillowtex, Kannapolis, NC 116 135 (16) The loss of a major account hurt Pillowtex across the board, and this category was no exception.
5. Croscill Home Fashions, New York 130 134 (2) The only category in which the luxury manufacturer posted a loss. Don't expect it to be a trend.


Wrap-up

Three of the four major mills were on the winning side here, which goes to show how the loss of one single account by Pillowtex can impact the numbers. Dan River continues to ride the Martha Stewart wave and also cash in on its strong assortment of juvenile licenses. WestPoint has loaded the Designers Guild and specialty/ department store tier Disney Home licenses into its arsenal to push 2002 sales. Springs easily retained its No. 1 rank, helped by its broad distribution, most notably at powerhouse Wal-Mart.

Curtains/Draperies

'01 sales ($mil.) '00 sales ($mil.) % Chg. Comments
( ): Denotes decline
1. S. Lichtenberg, New York $125 $125 0% Expanded presence at key accounts helped make up for the loss of business due to retailer bankruptcies.
2. Burlington Industries, Greensboro, NC 113 125 (10) A Chapter 11 filing earlier this year and the loss of some major accounts dealt this powerhouse two hard blows.
3. CHF Corp., New York 109 97 12 Expansion of the higher-end Peri business combined with broader placement of hookless window helped drive sales.
4. Croscill Home Fashions, New York 80 70 14 The growth of its coordinate business and the introduction of better constructions made this category a winner all year long.
5. Miller Curtain, San Antonio 68 75 (10) With its concentration on one major account during a weak retail year, Miller falls one spot.


Wrap-up

While Lichtenberg remains king of the hill in this category, Burlington could drop to No. 3 behind CHF this year. In fact, since CHF's numbers do not include window programs that coordinate to its bedding lines, CHF may well be No. 2 already. The expiration of troubled Curtron in mid-2001 shook loose some business in the discount and mass market department store channels. But the real challenge for vendors remains the dearth of general merchants that carry the category, which is driving suppliers such as Croscill to expand business with home center operators.

Decorative pillows

'01 sales ($mil.) '00 sales ($mil.) % Chg. Comments
( ): Denotes decline
1. Brentwood Originals, Carson, CA $111 $107 3% Made price points more value-oriented. Worked on stepping up execution, improving turnaround time for product delivery to retail partners and increasing completion rate.
2. Arlee, New York 63 53 19 Added new key discount account; moved aggressively into independent gift shops.
3. Mohawk Home, Sugar Valley, GA 24 24 (4) With full implementation of the Crown Crafts division, Mohawk continued to grow woven offerings; imported goods played a stronger role; and forged new licensed programs.
4. Newport, Portland, OR 23 23 0 A strong seasonal business in the third and fourth quarters helped maintain sales as competitors picked at its market share.
5. Fashion Pillows, Griffin, GA 21 21 0 The company directed its energies toward the debut of area rugs and expansion of table linens.


Wrap-up

Seasonal goods, basic solids and value prices proved to be the strongest drivers of the decorative pillow business. With the economy soft for the entire year, decorative pillows suffered a lack of growth overall for the top five players, with the exception of the top two players — Brentwood Originals and Arlee, which both saw spikes in sales. Industrywide, any designs with animal motifs — whether in texture or pattern — also proved sales drivers. Also, mass discount retailers and some mid-tier stores helped motivate sales more than other retail channels.

Down comforters

'01 sales ($mil.) '00 sales ($mil.) % Chg. Comments
( ): Denotes decline
1. Pacific Coast Feather, Seattle $111 $105 6% New product introductions helped PCF hold on to the top spot.
2. Pillowtex, Kannapolis, NC 70 76 (8) Pillowtex had its share of problems, but this major mill may be back on its feet under a new reorganization plan.
3. Hollander Home Fashions, Boca Raton, FL 52 52 0 Hollander weathered a tough year and came through relatively even. Expectations for 2002 are high, though.
4. Phoenix Down, Totowa, NJ 43 31 39 Phoenix takes the prize, posting the strongest gain for the category.
5. Down Lite International, Loveland, OH 40 32 20 New customers and additional products with existing customers helped Down Lite post a strong gain.


Wrap-up

The big questions are whether Pillowtex can turn the tide as it emerges from Chapter 11 and whether Phoenix Down can continue to sustain the level of growth it has posted for the last two years. Phoenix followed last year's strong rate of growth (a 23 percent jump from '99 to '00) with a 39 percent jump this year. Although United Feather & Down was knocked out of the Top 5 by Down Lite International, the Des Plaines, IL-based company remains a significant player in the field.

Kitchen textiles

'01 sales ($mil.) '00 sales ($mil.) % Chg. Comments
1. Barth & Dreyfuss, Los Angeles $60 $59 2% Focused on styling, design and full coordination of kitchen textiles with product from other categories; stepped up licensed programs. Added placement with major discounter.
2. Franco Mfg., Metuchen, NJ 51 48 6 Experienced growth at all levels, especially distribution and licensed programs.
2. Cecil Saydah, Los Angeles 51 48 6 Gained placement with new home center customers; maintained business with key accounts.
4. John Ritzenthaler Co., W. Conshohocken, PA 32 30 5 Growth based on new product offerings featuring new designs and increased focus on seasonal styling.
5. Charles Craft, Laurinburg, NC 20 19 3 New equipment at its greige plant helped drive down production costs, which helped company avoid turning to imports.


Wrap-up

Just as in other home textiles categories, particularly its sister category table linens, kitchen textiles struggled as a category. With the slowing economy and continued consolidation among retailers — notably for this category, Lechters — it was a tough year for vendors. But unlike other home textiles categories, kitchen textiles suppliers did not heavily resort to importing to keep business up. Barth & Dreyfus continued to pace the competitive segment, although the company's growth remained relatively flat at 2 percent.

Mattress pads

'01 sales ($mil.) '00 sales ($mil.) % Chg. Comments
1. Louisville Bedding, Louisville, KY $108 99 9% Louisville has made significant inroads with product expansion at existing accounts, in addition to gaining new accounts.
2. Pillowtex, Kannapolis, NC 70 70 0 The only category in which Pillowtex managed to hold its ground.
3. Perfect Fit, New York 65 65 0 Retail consolidation kept Perfect Fit from posting stronger gains, but it managed to replace lost business.
4. Pacific Coast Feather, Seattle 21 19 10 PCF posted the strongest gain in the category for the second year in a row, thanks to product additions and new accounts.
5. Hollander Home Fashions, Boca Raton, FL 12 11 9 Hollander gained back some of the share it had lost the previous year by adding accounts.


Wrap-up

As was the case with many basic goods categories, mattress pad makers suffered through a year of punishing auctions and price squeezes. It was one of three categories in which none of the top five vendors lost ground — partly attributable to new product developments and cross licensing, particularly to better goods. The gap between No. 1 and the rest remains pretty large, so the possibility of a big shakeup remains remote. The growing popularity of visco-elastic foam pads may also play a role in the near future.

Sheets & Pillowcases

'01 sales ($mil.) '00 sales ($mil.) % Chg. Comments
( ): Denotes decline
1. Springs Industries, Fort Mill, SC $650 $650 0% Tremendous pressure on price points combined with retail consolidation made simply maintaining sales levels an accomplishment.
2. WestPoint Stevens, New York 600 670 (10) WPS fell to No. 2 in a tough climate but hopes to rebound with new programs from Designers Guild and Disney Home.
3. Dan River, New York $238 220 8 The Martha Stewart Everyday program and the many juvenile licenses have driven Dan River's sales and helped the mill post the only positive gain in the category.
4. Pillowtex, Kannapolis, NC 200 240 (16) The loss of a major account hurt Pillowtex's bottom line and pushed it out of the top three.
5. Thomaston Mills, Thomaston, GA 80 91 (12) The old Thomaston went out of business in fall 2001. With new ownership pursuing institutional only, expect the company to drop from the Top 5 next year.


Wrap-up

In a year where retailers clung to basics and promotions, it's hardly surprising that just one supplier, Dan River, posted a positive growth number in the category. At Springs, an agreement with an overseas sourcer and a new license with Serta may help the mill to reverse its zero-growth trend of the last three years. WestPoint will look to the 2002 rollouts of Designers Guild and Disney Home for the specialty and department store channels. The big question is how the reorganized Pillowtex aims to recapture its momentum.

Shower curtains

'01 sales ($mil.) '00 sales ($mil.) % Chg. Comments
1. Springs Industries, Fort Mill, SC $71 $70 3% New licensing partnerships were forged with folk artist Warren Kimble and home textiles designer and supplier Susan Sargent.
2. Allure Home Creation, Boonton, NJ 69 67 3 Maintained major placement at key accounts with the three top discounters.
3. Ex-Cell Home Fashions, New York 65 61 7 Growth driven by increased focus on its basic line and licensed programs.
4. Maytex Mills, Yonkers, NY 33 26 27 Gained placement at new accounts and expanded placement at key retailers in the mass department and specialty tier in the United States and across all channels in Canada.
5. Creative Bath Products, Central Islip, NY 30 29 2 Stepped up licensed programs with new designs; maintained placement at key accounts.


Wrap-up

While sister categories bath accessories and bath rugs didn't fare well this past year, the shower curtain category enjoyed a fairly healthy 2001 with all of the top five players enjoying an increase — from as low as 2 percent to as high as almost 30 percent. Product bearing licensed designs helped drive business, as did basic solid-color offerings and shower curtains that did not necessarily coordinate with other bath products. Retailers offering the most real estate to the category were mass merchant and mid-tier retailers.

Sleep pillows

'01 sales ($mil.) '00 sales ($mil.) % Chg. Comments
1. Pillowtex, Kannapolis, NC $150 $160 (6%) The decline here is the smallest hit Pillowtex took throughout the survey.
2. Pacific Coast Feather, Seattle 125 119 5 PCF's steady growth continues, with the expansion of product at existing accounts as well as some new business.
3. Hollander Home Fashions, Boca Raton, FL 101 98 3 The challenge isn't whether Hollander can keep growing its numbers, but whether it can keep Springs at bay.
4. Springs Industries, Fort Mill, SC 94 93 1 Springs' growth is small, but significant as the mill continues to build on its acquisition of AFI in 2000.
5. WestPoint Stevens, New York 60 55 9 Look for WPS to ramp up efforts in this area, as the restructured Basic Bedding Division hits its stride.


Wrap-up

The horse race to watch here is the one at the bottom of the Top 5, where both Springs and WestPoint Stevens are marshalling their forces to boost market share. With AFI now fully incorporated into the company, Springs could make a push into the top three within two years. WPS' Basic Bedding Division combines the strength of its assorted brands — including Ralph Lauren — to present itself as a one-stop shop for the category. In the meantime, Pacific Coast Feather continues its climb and could overtake Pillowtex if the latter falters again this year.

Table linens

'01 sales ($mil.) '00 sales ($mil.) % Chg. Comments
1. Town & Country Living, Lakewood, NJ $86 $90 (4%) Dropped by a major key account that went direct to a factory for promotional product; saw increase in seasonal business; gained business from Ralph Lauren and Kitchen Aid licensed programs.
2. Bardwil Linens, New York 50 50 0 Royal Velvet and Fieldcrest licensed programs continued to be a strong driver of business. Struck licensing deal with Lenox.
2. Elrene Home Fashions, New York 50 39 28 Gained new business with specialty stores; signed new licensing deals with Wolfgang Puck, Warren Kimble and Sue Zipkin.
4. Avon Home, Braintree, MA 45 37 21 Experienced growth in seasonal goods; increased distribution of product; boosted assortments; created new coordinated programs.
5. Ex-Cell Home Fashions, New York 25 23 8.6 Sales driven by Sonoma pattern line extension and Pfaltzgraff license.


Wrap-up

Licensing was the driving force in table linens sales in 2001. Programs bearing familiar designs, such as Town & Country's Ralph Lauren line, Elrene's Warren Kimble products, Ex-Cell's Pfaltzgraff line and Bardwil's Royal Velvet collection, helped generate excitement in one of the industry's most traditional categories — although in the case of the latter not enough to significantly bolster sales. Otherwise, seasonal items also helped drive business gains, especially at major discount retail stores.

Throws

'01 sales ($mil.) '00 sales ($mil.) % Chg. Comments
1. Mohawk Home, Sugar Valley, GA $115 $60 92% Already on a roll, sales virtually doubled after the buyout of Crown Crafts' woven products division made Mohawk the largest supplier of woven jacquards.
2. Manual Woodworkers & Weavers, Henderson, NC 75 75 0 Continued to focus on expanding accessories business, while designer licenses remained key to core jacquard business.
3. Biederlack of America, Cumberland, MD 44 44 0 The sports business stages a major rebound in high-pile jacquard throws. Other big hits included two powerhouse licenses, Harley-Davidson and Nascar.
4. The Northwest Company, New York 33 21 57 Sales surged ahead driven by the hugely successful Nascar license and a rally in sports. Bed throws with coordinating shams were a hit.
5. Brentwood Originals, Carson, CA 23 NA NA This dominant producer of decorative pillows breaks into the Top 5 with its wide distribution in chenille throws.


Wrap-up

Mohawk Home became the nation's dominant player, more than doubling in size after its buyout of Crown Crafts' woven products business. Much smaller, but also coming on strong, is The Northwest Company, which parlayed sports and novelty licenses into a 33 percent increase in sales. Elsewhere business was tougher, with Biederlack of America and Manual Woodworkers & Weavers both running flat — despite racking up gains from new product categories. New to this year's ranking is decorative pillow producer Brentwood Originals, with its widespread placements of chenille throws.

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