How it's done

Joan Gunin, Jennifer Negley, August 27, 2001

For a sharp lesson in brand building, take a look at the Croscill handbook. Better yet, consider the company's array of fall introductions, which in the aggregate offer some highly germane pointers for those who aspire to catapult from producers of product to brand strategists.

Break your own mold. In the midst of this Year of Woe, Croscill has launched three initiatives in bedding that a few years ago would have been so unCroscill-like as to be unthinkable: an open-stock solid-color sheeting program (a JCPenney exclusive for the time being) unveiled in late spring; for fall market, open-stock high-end sheeting in classically neutral tones; and a sumptuously casual-looking line of luxury beds.

The new upscale casual bedding pushes the Croscill image onto a contemporary plane. While less fussy than the company's traditional look, it still fully lives up to Croscill's design credo: "It's in the details." It's also a great example of a company doing what's its best known for in a completely fresh and convincing way.

Go where you must to get the job done. Croscill has imported fabrics for years, but the cut and sew for its bedding has always been done here at home — until now. The new upscale casual bedding line hails from India, where the kind of delicate work needed to execute the designs is best done.

And in other firsts, ceramic bath pieces in the Portmeirion collection will be produced not in China, but in England. Will it add a few cents to the cost? Yes. But the words "Made in England" stamped on the bottom of a soap dish will more powerfully project the Anglocentric cachet of the London-based license.

Top yourself. The opulent, highly detailed look of Croscill bedding has carried the company a long way, and each market its designers attempt to top the reigning bestseller. That's a highly motivating formula for setting benchmarks.

Forge alliances to extend your brand. Croscill's upcoming debut of luxury down duvets and pillows — which will be produced by Down Lite — is just the latest in a series of licensing agreements that over the past 18 months have expanded Croscill's reach beyond its core categories. The Croscill name now graces rugs, framed wall art, slipcovers and synthetic utility bedding. And it's not inconceivable that one day the brand could encompass casual china, glassware or lighting.

It may all seem too far out for any single-product manufacturer to emulate. But remember that Croscill was once a window company that found a way to move into bedding and from there into bath. It's also a company that over the course of five years managed to double in size without making any acquisitions.

And if it keeps up the pace, Croscill could become a billion-dollar brand before the decade's end.

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