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  • Cecile Corral

Suppliers hope retailers get the 'basic' idea

With some suppliers looking to round out their collections with opening price point items, and still others looking to appeal to retail demands for lower price points, some manufacturers and importers are going back to basics.

This trend has suppliers taking steps to enhance their current basics lines or create entirely new ones of simple solids and striped products in order to remain competitive.

"The timing seems to be right now for basics," said David North, vp, marketing development at New York-based Ex-Cell Home Fashions. "Basics are key to the core of this business. And now is the most opportunistic time for this type of product."

Ex-Cell has stepped up its basics line for the bath "in a bigger way than ever," said North.

Basic bath products have garnered so much attention that Ex-Cell created an eight-page catalog to help promote the line's shower curtains/liners, hooks, tub mats, tension rods with suction cups and a new category called bath rod finials.

"We've taken a good/better/best approach — only we're calling it a three-tiered approach to basics for the bath," North said. The first level is called Deluxe and includes $3 shower curtains/liners. The second level, titled Best Quality, includes $7 to $8 showers/liners. The top level, Ultimate, includes shower curtains/liners priced at $14 to $15.

Rather than enhancing its basic line with fashion, Ex-Cell offers special features within its basic bath line, such as patented suction cups that adhere the shower curtain/ liner to a tile wall, design patents on metal hooks and "roller glides" that allow the curtain to glide easily along rod.

Arlee, also based here, last month brought back an old favorite, the attached topper round tablecloth, which had been dormant for the better part of eight years, said Bud Frankel, president.

"It always did well before," he said. "We figured it will do well again now."

Stone Brook Linens, based in Edison, NJ, and traditionally a table linen importer, recently added a new category to its offerings — basic solid bath towels, all of which are 100 percent cotton and made in India. "The mill we deal with just started making towels, too, so we decided to try it out and import them," said Anthony Abbadessa, vp, product development. "We're starting with just the basics — nine basic colorways plus four solid formal colors."

The John Ritzenthaler Co., based in West Conshohocken, PA, re-introduced its line of ironing board pads and covers and hampers. The line remains basic but has been dressed in new packaging to help promote it more strongly as another extension of the basic kitchen textile category.

New York-based Town & Country Living decided not to renew its licensing partnership with Rubbermaid, opting instead to create its own private-label line of basic vinyl shower curtains and bath rugs.

"We've made new packaging for it with our 'Bath by Town & Country' label," said Frank Scalice, executive vp, sales and marketing, "to create a line of basic, value-oriented product."

Noting that "opening price points are more important these days," Scalice explained that this new basic line was revamped in time for the October market with a fresh palette — 10 colorways. Price points have been slashed from $9.99 to $6.99 for a vinyl shower curtain and from $19.99 to $14.99 for a basic fabric shower curtain.

Glenoit, Ex-Cell's parent company, also based here, has taken a similar route with its Basics collection of solid kitchen rugs. "Kitchen solids are highly productive for retailers," said Mike McCullough, executive vp, consumer products division. "Last year we took a version of sisal and treated it with polypropylene, and the product leapt."

Banking on that success, for this past October market, Glenoit enhanced the line by adding striped and oversized looks.

Brooklyn, NY-based Hellenic Rug Imports just introduced for the first time a promotional line of $99 rugs — all imported from Brazil, said Steve Mazarakis, president.

Louisville/Saydah, also based in New York, has enhanced its solid anchor pillow, available in 16 colors — "which ties together all of our pillows," explained Sally Ann Jacobs, division creative director — with more designs, including some basic stripes.

Bellmawr, NJ-based bath product manufacturer Ginsey Industries, for the first time in its 48-year history, introduced a basics line of solid white wood toilet seats and solid white bath mats.

"We've taken such a fashion-forward approach in the past that we decided it was a good time to round out our offerings to include basics in order to make ourselves a one-stop shop," said Jeffrey Cohen, vp, sales.

Ginsey's new basic goods line is set at a lower price point than its general line of more fashion-forward bath and limited kitchen products. But, as Cohen explained, Ginsey's move into basic goods had more to do with the company's effort to be all-inclusive with its offerings and less to do with a desire to be more competitive during the economic downturn.

"For us, this basics trend was not so much a statement of the times but more a strategy for us to become a complete supplier to our retail partners," Cohen said. "Basics don't necessarily mean opening price point. Basics are a non-fashion item. They are products that stand the test of time and don't change from season to season, and nothing is more typically basic than a white toilet seat."

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