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Springs adds luxe; nabs high end tag from P'tex

Marvin Lazaro -- Home Textiles Today, February 3, 2003

Fort Mill, SC — The luxurious Court of Versailles license, for the past 20 years part of Pillowtex's stable, has signed on with Springs Industries, and will soon be expanded into additional product categories beyond bedding.

Springs plans to introduce its newest license as part of its top-level Wamsutta brand. During the spring New York Home Textiles Market, it will unveil several product extensions all bearing the Court of Versailles name, according to Leslie Gillock, vp of brand management.

With Pillowtex, the venerable brand had only been seen as bedding. "The Court of Versailles license expired Dec. 31, 2002 and, by mutual agreement, was not renewed," said Pillowtex spokeswoman Karen Cobb in a prepared statement. "Court of Versailles was a very small part of our business. We have chosen to concentrate our efforts on our four brands — Cannon, Royal Velvet, Charisma and Fieldcrest."

Springs will leverage its 2002 acquisitions of Beaulieu rugs, Ultima and Burlington home products as well as its broad supply and manufacturing base to extend Court of Versailles by Wamsutta into bath accessories and shower curtains, soft window coverings, machine washable rugs and towels.

"We felt it was necessary and in the best interest of The Versailles Foundation that the license be moved," said Hermine Mariaux, president of Hermine Mariaux Inc., an international licensing and concept marketing firm and agent for Court of Versailles. Mariaux said Pillowtex had always been supportive. However, "We felt there was a point when it became very clear that Pillowtex had decided to concentrate its efforts behind its own house brand [and] that resources for the Court of Versailles would be diminishing." The license under Pillowtex had survived through 20 years and three company acquisitions, a testament, she said, to its longevity and desirability at the consumer level.

According to Mariaux, the Court of Versailles contract with Pillowtex expired on Dec. 31, 2002. A new license was signed with Springs in January.

"It was an opportunity we could not resist," Mariaux said. She added that one of the original intentions of the first license agreement with Pillowtex had been to introduce the Versailles name to the bath, but the program with the Kannapolis, NC-based mill was not strong.

"It's our first time in several product categories," Mariaux said. "I think the consumer really does want cross-coordinated product and better, and leading retailers understand that we are making an effort in that direction."

Plans for the line include a complete redesign, with no carryover of patterns from Pillowtex, and coordination between all product categories. All of the designs are taken and interpreted from those at the Palace of Versailles itself. Several different constructions and looks are planned, but no final decisions have been made.

A shipping date has not yet been determined.

"We want to work with retailers that have put their support behind us," Mariaux said.

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