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Gilmartin Details New Covington Strategy

Challenge is to Become a One-Stop Global Source With Multi-Tier Focus for Contract Business Growth

Carole Sloan, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, February 6, 2006

New York — The new owners of Covington will focus on decorative jobbers, manufactured products, retail and the hospitality segment of the contract business for growth.

“Our goal is to make this complicated business as simple in execution as it was 10 years ago when I joined Covington,” said Roger Gilmartin, president and ceo of Covington Holdings, and formerly executive vp of Covington Industries. Today, he remarked, “the key issue is the management of the global pipeline. Product is being made in places it never was before, and the challenge is to get merchandise together in one place from us, as a single source using many places to produce fabric.”

Gilmartin, and the Atlanta-based investment partnership SouthPointe Ventures, finalized the acquisition of the company last week from the Gilmore family, which had owned the business since 1940.

As the decorative fabrics industry moved from domestic production to global sourcing, challenges arose in terms of quality, distribution, and logistics, he said. “The key word today is service, service, service — and that means design, quality, value and delivery in the way each customer wants the fabrics and in the time frame.”

A decade ago, Gilmartin related, “We were primarily a print house making designs on six base cloths. Today we have prints on 40 different print base cloths, plus a range of wovens from sheers to velvets, matelasses to moirés to seersuckers. And they're being produced in places never used before.”

While the company ships from country of origin to destinations specified by its customers, it also has duplicate, backup inventories at its warehouse facility in Spartanburg, S.C. “It's the only way you can make the global pipeline work. And it takes a real partnership with your customers,” Gilmartin emphasized.

Looking ahead, he sees opportunities in all channels but said, “Jobber business is growing and has grown; while manufactured product business, including home textiles — exclusive of furniture — is growing again; and we see more opportunity in hospitality.” As for the furniture business, “We are offering more furniture-focused product and we're offering solutions to challenges like unexpected spikes in demand.”

New in the equation is the potential of licensing. Gilmartin said he has been approached to participate in licensing programs using outside designers, as well as licensing opportunities for Covington globally, “which we are pursuing vigorously,” he said.

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