• Cecile Corral

Pillowtex to enter imported bath, accent rug

Looking to boost its top line and provide its retail customers with a broader sampling of coordinated product within its established brand lineup, Pillowtex is adding accent rugs and higher-end imported bath rugs to its offerings for the first time. Launches are slated for this fall for the new bath rugs and next spring for the accent rugs.

Pillowtex expects imported bath rugs and accent rugs together to add between $10 million and $15 million to its total sales over the next year, Gretchen Dale, senior vp of design and new product development, told Home Textiles Today.

"We are looking to offer a real range of coordinated goods for our customers," said Sally Ann Jacobs, floor coverings designer. "If you are buying a Charisma bedding collection, for example, you are already making a big commitment, so why not also have wonderful, beautiful matching floor coverings for your bath and bedside, too. That's what we're working on providing our customers with."

Both the new bath rugs and the accent rugs will coordinate with the company's well-known Cannon, Fieldcrest, Royal Velvet and Charisma branded goods.

"All will coordinate back directly to our brands," Dale said. "None of it will be unbranded."

Because Pillowtex is currently in the process of restructuring its mass-to-mid-tier Cannon brand, the company will not introduce any new goods for Cannon until later in 2003.

But for its remaining brands, Pillowtex is already gearing up to launch new bath rugs and accent rugs to go with popular bedding and bath collections.

For bath rugs, price points will range from $8.99 to $16.99 for Fieldcrest, $14.99 to $24.99 for Royal Velvet and $29.99 to $49.99 for Charisma.

For accent rugs, price points will range from $19.99 to $29.99 for Fieldcrest, $24.99 to $39.99 for Royal Velvet and $79.99 to $199.99 for Charisma.

Distribution of the new products is expected to remain in sync with Pillowtex's current roster of retail partners — mid-tier and some specialty stores for Fieldcrest and department stores; catalogs and high-end specialty retailers for Royal Velvet and Charisma, Dale said.

All the new imported goods — both bath rugs and accent rugs — will be made in factories in Belgium, China, India, Mexico and Portugal.

While the company is optimistic about these new initiatives, Pillowtex came close to taking a more somber turn in 2001. Dale said last year Pillowtex seriously considered shutting down and selling off its Scottsboro, AL, bath rug plant — where it has long produced its line of tufted basic bath rugs — after operating it for about 40 years.

"But we soon realized we do that business really well and that if we tried even harder we could make it even greater," she said.

From there, a group of top executives met for a three-day off-site meeting to brainstorm ways to recover the business and grow it.

Among the first steps toward renewal was to hire a floor coverings designer, which the company had never had, Dale explained.

Enter Jacobs, who left Louisville/Saydah this summer to join Pillowtex.

"It was a great opportunity for me to go back to my roots in the textiles industry," said Jacobs, who started her career in home textiles as a rug designer.

Also in the restructuring plan was the addition of imported bath rugs and the introduction of accent rugs to the company's offerings.

For the time being, the imported bath rugs will be restricted to a "small part of the equation" of Pillowtex's entire bath rug line. But the company expects it to grow gradually.

Because the Scottsboro facility's capabilities are limited, Pillowtex is hoping that the overseas factories it is working with will help enhance the bath rug line with new constructions and designs as well as execute the addition of the accent rug line.

"Our imported bath rugs will come in more constructions of other fibers and feature more patterns in motifs that coordinate back to our jacquard towels," said Jacobs, who added that the initial launch of new bath rugs will take place during the New York Home Textiles Market in October.

The accent rug line will launch in April, also during New York Home Textiles Market, with two sizes, 2' x 3' and 3' x 5', with possibly more sizes to come later.

With the line still under development, details about the accent rug line are limited. But Dale said all the accent rugs will be handcrafted and that constructions will include rubber, cotton, nylon, acrylic, blends. "The whole gamut," she said, "except for woven chenilles because that's what everyone else out there is doing. We're looking to differentiate ourselves."

Cecile CorralCecile Corral | Senior Product Editor, Home & Textiles Today

Cecile B. Corral has been a product editor with Home Textiles Today since late 2000. She covers the area and accent rug, kitchen textiles, table linens, beach towels, decorative bath and decorative pillow categories, as well as some retail subjects.

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