CHF holds high hopes for Donna

Carole Sloan, December 2, 2002

CHF is looking for the Donna Karan Home business to soon be a substantial contributor to its business.

That said, Frank Foley, CHF Industries' ceo, explained the role the company will play as the new licensee for Donna Karan Home in the immediate future and down the road: to be the critical partner in sourcing, logistics and operational savvy.

The first step is to shore up the service issue to existing accounts — the key department stores across the country — "with goods that are rolling out as we speak," Foley said.

Where the lifestyle designer label faltered, said Patsy Pollack, president of Donna Karan Home, was in service, not design. "And CHF didn't waste any time jump-starting this process. They have assured continuity of existing product from the first day," she said.

Once the logistical and operational issues are resolved, both Foley and Pollack see line extensions, such as a full bath program and window coverings, as logical product intros.

Department stores typically shy away from the window business, but not "when it is done in relation to a lifestyle like Donna Karan. She knows her consumer and has found beautiful product to satisfy her. Our support will make it happen on a broader scale," explained Joan Karron, executive vp, CHF.

Pollack added, "The shortest route to making this happen is lifestyle merchandising; it's not a product category, it's a line extension of the lifestyle, much as when Donna went into home from apparel. And we're encouraging the department stores to extend the lifestyle via new products."

Once the service issues are under control, "we're looking to put more and better product into existing doors," Pollack said. "Then we'd like to add more doors to the companies we are with, then more department stores and better specialty stores — but not big boxes."

For CHF, the Donna Karan Home license "is adding a leg to our business with people who don't need to be watched and replaced. It fits the definition of what CHF does for a living — lots of cut and sew and very different fabrics," Foley added.

"We source a lot of goods new to the bedding business from different areas. And with the many creative ideas coming from from the Donna Karan group, perhaps we have the resources to provide the products," Karron observed. "We source a lot of goods new to the bedding business from different areas," she added.

Foley explained CHF's challenge: "It's a complicated equation. For 80 years we've been a leader in the curtain business. [The new CHF team] got here five years ago, and curtains defined our business. And since curtains are not sold today in department stores, our distribution is limited." During the past five years, however, CHF has become a force in kids bedding, entered the decorative bedding business and expanded its shower curtain business to a full decorative bath unit.

Looking back to the first days, Pollack said, "We have the team in place, the brand is established and from the launch in spring 2001 to spring 2002 we doubled our retail space."

Added Foley, "We don't see spending a great deal of time in design and customer business. We'll provide the service. The skills of Donna Karan Home are design, selling and space management."

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