Sheridan Australia has impact on U.S.

Carole Sloan, March 12, 2001

NEW YORK -Five months after its management buyout from C. S. Brooks, Sheridan Australia is bringing new looks to its signature design statements to enhance its position in the American market.

The company, which has been noted for its printed cotton bed ensembles with bright colors and high-impact designs, "will not try to be like everyone else, but we will continue our signature looks with higher value added in printing and constructions," said Myron Mann, ceo of the Australian parent of Sheridan here.

Rather than print on flat weave cottons, "We will be featuring seersucker sateens, cotton sateens, diamond dobby weave and satin stripes as base cloths," said Terry Soldati, president of the division, based in New York. In addition there will be embroideries and Sheridan panel looks in wovens and embroideries, she added.

One of Sheridan's advantages over many other companies, Mann explained, "is that we took a lot of the pain of global sourcing early. Six or seven years ago we started outsourcing, and now about 40 percent of our product is outsourced. We're now down from five factories in Australia to one."

Mann continued, "We learned to operate in a free trade environment. It takes a different skill base to maintain quality and service with a lower price base."

What this means for Sheridan, he added, "is that out of all of the changes happening here, the American market is going to look quite different in the next year, and out of this will be opportunities for us, for sure."

The company also is prepared to make acquisitions "where they fit," he emphasized.

For Sheridan in the U. S., the challenges are different from other countries, Mann explained. "Our challenge is to leverage and grow our niche, which is department stores, and push the boundaries a bit in both color and design."

But, Soldati noted, the difference between the American market and the rest of the world where Sheridan sells "is that we're safer here. It takes a while for American home trends to adapt to European apparel fashion."

To accelerate its appeal to American consumers, Soldati said, "we're going to bring the brand to consumers in very concentrated areas. We're going to go out strong. We need to teach consumers that there are very neat products out there."

Part of the challenge is that in this country, Mann observed "I see an extreme divergence: designers and bed-in-a-bag." America, he noted, "always has been a tough market for Sheridan, even though it provides 12 percent of the company's total revenues. It's very regional about people knowing us, and our distribution is limited to department stores. We have very limited distribution in specialty stores. It probably comes back to color and design that is not safe enough for the specialty stores."

Another challenge, said Soldati, "is that our designs don't have 'pack appeal': they need to be displayed."

Another difference in the global distribution of Sheridan product is that outside this country, she said, "the rest of the world's distribution is via concessions. Here we have to be in front of retailers constantly."

Sheridan, Mann explained, considers itself one of the three global brands, including Yves Delorme and Ralph Lauren. "We bought the company to expand its global presence."

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